Kenyans are known to be religious people, as evidenced by the number of religious institutions across the country.
Interesting story of Nairobi's Kosovo, plot with 66 churches
The 66 churches are crammed in a plot of land which is about 2 acres small.
A two-acre plot in Uthiru, right at the border of Kiambu and Nairobi counties, stands out for housing a total of 66 churches.
From afar the structures look like a shanty settlement, conspicuously lying next to one of the country's major highways in traffic and service, Waiyaki Way.
Only upon closer inspection does one realise Kosovo is anything but ordinary. More intriguing is the fact that the churches have arrived at a system that supports their co-existence.
Bishop Joseph Amiani of the Repentance Pentecostal Church, one of the churches in the religious glebe, explains the history of Kosovo and how the churches have operated harmoniously for seven years.
“The name Kosovo is associated with an unsafe area, like a place of war. A while back this was not a safe place, it was known for thieves, conflict, drug abuse and insecurity,” he stated.
How Kosovo church district in Uthiru came to be
A market named New Uthiru Market had initially been established to utilise the plot, but the market structures were turned into taprooms and traders fled over safety concerns for their customers.
Traders who had already put up structures abandoned them and residents started subdividing the land and settling. Unprecedented, a majority of those who settled into Kosovo were known offenders, transforming the once fresh-produce market into a crime metropolis.
Some structures were also turned into churches which later redeemed Kosovo and transformed the lives of most of the residents.
Smack in the middle of the plot lies a road that serves to divide the residential structures from the church structures. The road also serves as the boundary between Kiambu and Nairobi.
Bishop Amiani narrates that the road also introduces administrative differences for the dwellers and churches in Kosovo.
"This land is what the government refers to as 'common use' land. It is property of the State. It's shared between Nairobi and Kiambu so, for example, if you go across the road you are in Uthiru and shops will indicate that to you. That's Kiambu county. In addition, if you commit a crime on the Nairobi side of the road, you will be booked at Kabete Police Station, they are the ones who have jurisdiction," he elaborated. The clergyman indicated that licenses are processed by Nairobi City County.
As of January 2022, the peculiar plot of land had more than a third of the churches conducting regular worship services, with residents travelling across Nairobi to attend.
“I come from Githurai where there are many churches as well but I found solace here. Through this church, I have been blessed and I have found favour,” said one of the worshipers at Repentance Pentecostal Church.
“I have been worshiping in this church for nearly 4 years now. I come from Huruma,” stated another.
Locals have taken to referring to the church district as 'Makanisani', a Swahili word translated to mean 'the place with many churches'.
Who attends the church in Kosovo's Makanisani area?
Bishop Amiani explains that some of the worshippers get job opportunities that require them to relocate, but they still make it to attend services.
"The phenomenon of congregants coming in from far-flung areas can also be explained by the doctrine a person was raised with. My church, for example, is Pentecostal and we exercise faith in a very specific manner so it becomes hard for a member to find the same kind of community elsewhere when they already have a place that conducts services the way they are used to," he explained.
For a new church to be established in the area, clergy are asked to select a structure that has been left by another church and all the activities are overseen by a Board which is led by Bishop Amiani.
“We don’t pay anyone, we file tax returns annually. All churches in Kenya file returns but it is a small amount of money. For a congregation of between 50 to 100, we pay around Sh100. There is no church that pays more than Sh400 unless those that run businesses,” he said.
Bishop Amiani also explained that the churches operate in a systematic way that ensures that they don’t interfere with each other.
For example, the Repentance Pentecostal Church (his church) directly borders 4 other churches and their podiums are placed strategically facing away from one another.
“Sometimes you find that we are all preaching but there is no interference, mind you we use public address systems… We've found that everyone in the different churches pays attention to their respective services,” he said, insisting there were no instances of one service disrupting another.
The desire of all the churches is to use Makanisani as a foundation before buying land and relocating to give room for growth and inclusion of other upcoming churches.
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