Though I definitely saw the storm it caused, I missed the actual TV broadcast where pastor Patrick Kimera discussed his living arrangements. Thus I had no idea what to expect. The man who gave me directions on the phone sounded a bit like my father does, so the image I had of him was similar to my father’s, dark and hulking. A man with three wives has to be hulking right?
Wrong! The man who meets me at the gate is just a bit dark, more portly than hulking, and only of average height. It is hard to tell whether he is in his 40s or 50s. Kimera could fit anywhere, with his hairless head and shiny skin. He extends his arm awkwardly and says, “You are welcome”. Same deep voice but with a hint of uncertainty as if he had not exactly thought through this first part of our meeting.
Once inside in his lair cum study cum office, he is more relaxed and starts by profusely apologising about the unfinished building. I had not noticed it as I was too busy checking out the room which seems to have books on every other space the moss-coloured sofas have not taken.
“I have suffered because of this polygamy. I have been in and out of court since 2001 with some of my former church members over this property so I could not really develop it,” he says. The property is the plot on which the End Times Message Gospel church and the half-finished house stands. The church located in Kivumbi Zone, Wakaliga collapsed in 1998, killing several members.
“It was a tragedy. I have dedicated many years and resources into the rebuilding this church, not because I am a very rich man but because of my love for God,” says Kimera. He puts the papers aside and solemnly says he is not surprised by persecution. He claims to have read many books detailing the tribulations of polygamists in the church.
He has his figures and names of famed Christian polygamists from the Bible, in history, and some still alive in countries like Congo. For that last group he even has pictures, ones he proudly shows off. “They do it very well. See how they all look happy? It is just like in the Bible, very nice,” he says, almost rapturously as he riffles through the wedding pictures which feature one groom clad in white flanked by his brides.
How Kimera got saved
While many may have heard of the pastor with many wives, not many have heard of his End Times Gospel Message church, but Kimera is not a Johnny-come-lately in the gospel world. “I got born again in 1981 at Simeon Kayiwa’s church. I had gone to be prayed for because I had got wind that I was a wanted man,” he says.
Getting involved with the church removed Kimera from his political activities which had seen him detained in Luzira for five months as well as playing a role in the downfall of Amin. It also opened his eyes to a whole new world of truths and set him on a path that would define the rest of his life.
It appears he spent the early years of his new-found faith helping to grow fledgling churches. He founded the church he still leads today and where he hosts me, in 1988. Before we bought this place we met in a garage in Nateete,” he says.
By then he had met and married his first wife Margaret with whom he lived a monogamous life until 2001. “I love and respect her, I found her in 1984,” says Kimera.
The transition to polygamy with a growing church to explain it to was helped along a little, by another preacher who had gained popularity in the 50s and 60s and is seen as extremely anointed and controversial in equal measure. William Marrion Branham. Kimera is full of praise for Branham who was known for his extreme views on modest dressing for women and immorality.
“I had received his word, read his work and was impressed. I decided to model my church and teachings on his. His message on marriage and divorce was the first time a preacher helped me understand why I still loved one wife and wanted another one,” he says.
Born in 1955 in Mikunyu Koochi village in Rakai District, Kimera was raised in a polygamous household.
“My father married six wives. He stayed with three in the same house and we were all very happy. As children, we loved and respected all the mothers and each other to the point where you could never claim only one was your mother,” recalls Kimera. Though he spent some time with other relatives, he recalls those days in his father’s household with fondness. “The family became one, to date,” he says. He shares that his grandfather also had nine wives whom he kept in one household.
Journey to polygamy
But despite the background and Branham’s teaching, the pastor still didn’t make the leap into polygamy immediately.
It was in 2001 when he moved from theory to practice. According to him, he and his wife had a small disagreement. “It was a scuffle really, she wanted to travel for some time and I told her if she left me alone, I would marry another wife. His first wife in a burst of defiance told him to go ahead and left the country.
Pastor Kimera kept his promise but not before sharing with the church his intentions. “I preached the marriage and divorce message and they clapped and cheered when I told them I would marry another wife,” he says. Kimera met Christine, then a university student and proudly introduced her to his members thinking they would cheer him on. They did not. They left in droves and Kimera found himself with only a handful of church members. Some of those who left went to court in an attempt to get their pastor to vacate the church property hence the long drawn lawsuit.
While his first wife stayed away for three years indignant at him marrying a second and then a third, she eventually came back to the fold.
“She apologised and said I was right, and also refuted allegations that I had divorced her to marry other wives,” he says.
So far, the 58-year-old has married five wives, the youngest being, 27-year-old Jennifer. The difference between his wives’ ages means his youngest child who is four now, is younger than his eldest grandchild who is seven. He is hesitant to say how many children he has in total, pleading cultural norms. We do not count children.
“Children are children, just know they are not few,” he says cryptically. However he is quick to point out that he is not out to breed and fill the earth and that he stops at one or two children per wife.
The pastor of many wives says he divorced one wife due to infidelity, one of the few allowed grounds for divorce in the Bible. “Of the four I have, only three are active,” he says cheekily. His eldest wife who was on a visit to the US at the time of our interview is relieved of some wifely duties which the other three all below 35 pick up. “Margaret is my wife, but she is almost my age, she will cook for me, spend time with me but I do not disturb her very much,” says the pastor.
How he manages four wives
In his words there is no acid throwing at his home. They all know of the others’ presence. I always inform the others when I intend to take another wife,” he says. He promises to gather all his wives who live in different houses and invite me to see how they get along. Polygamy according to the pastor is not a punishment as people see it. “It was meant to help women. Marriage is polygamous. Monogamy has failed even in the western world, which is why people are killing spouses, and homes are broken,” he says.
Kimera claims to love all his wives equally, saying, the Bible warns against forgetting your first wife. “It extols us to continue providing for her if you were doing so in the beginning, to love your wives equally,” he says. From his experience, each woman has a special way of pleasing her master and he as the master in his household has learnt to appreciate the differences. “They are trained different, have different personalities,” he says.
With all the wives, he has a customary marriage which always involves a small ceremony in church.
“A lavish ceremony is alright if one is able, but it is not necessary. The only thing that matters is the vow ceremony. I had a simple ceremony with each before a few people and God, it is recognised under state law,” he explains. Kimera believes once the vow is made before God between a man and woman, the deal is sealed.
“Even the one I divorced is technically still my wife as long as she is still alive.”
I am most curious about the living arrangement, how Kimera is able to divide his time between the different homes. He thinks nothing of it saying casually, “I manage, I respond to the one who needs me, and the wives know it. I am there for whoever needs me, even if it is in the middle of the night, I will go. I just let the one I am with know I am needed elsewhere.” Sometimes this avid reader needs his space, and then he withdraws to one of the homes where he can be alone, summoning one wife to take care of him from time to time.
Providing for all his family is not something he worries about either, assuring me that nowadays women earn more than I think and most often more than men, and that some may not require anything but counsel from him.
“The problem for most women today is not food or where to sleep, the problem is real men. And God is a great God, he provides for his own,” he says.
Earlier he had painstakingly explained how polygamy is made by God to help women, to give all women a husband which fills a need in all women after the fall of man. He also has several ideas on how polygamy would help curb sexually transmitted diseases, if all the wives stayed faithful and the men only stayed true to their wives.
Today, the pastor and his controversial views on marriage leads only a small gathering made up of a few families, from a vibrant church that saw the church compound turned into a parking yard. It is glaringly empty when the few congregants meet on Sunday.
But Kimera is not bothered at all, saying, “Revival does not mean many people taking up a call, just a few committed ones.” According to him, the Born Again movement in the 80s was made up of only a few barefoot evangelists. See where it is now. “More eyes are opening to the fact that God ordained polygamy for man.”
Pastor doesn’t mind marrying another
He is not about to stop either marrying or preaching the polygamy gospel. “Why should I? Fathers are jostling to give me their daughters,” he says. He plans to shelter his brides under one roof too, to foster oneness like his father did.
Kimera does not mind those who see him as misguided, he has the Bible of which he has over five versions including one translated from original Hebrew text.
He has history books, science and many other texts which prove polygamy is natural to man, that God allowed it and gave it to man and that many things were either deliberately altered or omitted to make polygamy look unchristian. He also has that boldness that saw him come out and vouch for something many in his faith are totally against.
On giving up either the gospel or the polygamy, the pastor says he will never do so to any.
“I have been in the church for 30 years. I have done it because of my love for God. As for polygamy, I have fought a lot for it.I cannot leave it!” he says resolutely, adding that he is only worried that “the world has rejected what God told them to do.”