100 Most Influential African (2012): Religion

100 Most Influential African (2012): Religion
  • PublishedDecember 26, 2012

Desmond Tutu, South Africa

The world’s favourite archbishop/civil rights activist showed once more why he is a force to be reckoned with late last year when a political storm threatened to overshadow what should have been a joyous occasion. Celebrating his 80th birthday, Tutu was scathing in his attack on the governing ANC party over its refusal to grant a visa to his good friend, the Dalai Lama. Though calling the Zuma administration “worse than the apartheid government” was a slight misjudgement, the resulting verbal volley between national government and the bishop proved there is still fire in his belly. Ignore him at your peril. The Mo Ibrahim Foundation gave a special Lifetime Achievement Award to Tutu earlier this year recognising his lifelong commitment to speaking truth to power.

“How can we continue to spend billions on instruments of death and destruction when a small part of that could ensure children everywhere have clean water? You young people are our hope.”


Enoch Adeboye, Nigeria

The General Overseer of Nigeria’s most influential church is accustomed to his dual role as religious leader and political actor, as his church, The Redeemed Christian Church of God, attracts not only millions throughout the country but also some of its most important individuals. President Goodluck Jonathan was a very public attendee just days before a crucial party conference. Other government ministers, governors and public officials are often to be found seated onstage in the VIP section. The church is, Adeboye claims, aiming to “put a church within five minutes of every person on Earth”.

“The war against corruption and financial crimes will begin to produce results when the leaders begin to demonstrate the fear of God. The wealth you accommodate through illegal means…you might not live to enjoy.”


Ronald Mwenda Mutebi, Uganda

Ronald Mwenda Mutebi, or “Ronnie” as he is popularly known, is the Kabaka, or traditional King, of the Buganda nation. The Buganda people are the largest ethnic group in Uganda. There was a great deal of tension in 2009 as the Buganda kingdom confronted central government over several issues, but good sense won the day and those difficulties are deemed behind the country. Scandal rocked the Buganda kingdom earlier this year when it was announced by the kingdom’s prime minister that a son had been born in July 2011 to the Kabaka outside of his marriage.

“Mobilising the communities to voluntarily participate in activities that benefit us as a community was the approach that helped our forefathers to mobilise the population to work towards development.”


T.B. Joshua, Nigeria

T. B. Joshua, the Christian minister, televangelist and faith healer is the founder/leader of The Synagogue, Church of All Nations. Its television station, Emmanuel TV, is available on satellite and on the internet. Joshua is also involved in humanitarian aid to the underprivileged, and received the National Honour of OFR from the Nigerian government for this work. But his church has attracted controversy over claims to heal incurable illnesses such as HIV/Aids and terminal cancers, recommending that “healed” congregants can stop taking life-saving medications. There is also a certain amount of misgivings surrounding Joshua’s prophecies, such as those foretelling the death of African leaders.

“People say all sorts of things against me but God says ‘Touch not my anointed and do him no harm’.”


Otumfuo Osei Tutu II, Asantehene, Ghana

The most high profile of all Ghanaian kings, this Asantehene, a development-oriented king, has been in power since April 1999 and has made a name for being the only monarch in the country who is able to arbitrate between the government and the opposition. The Asantehene’s influence goes beyond his Asante Kingdom, making him widely respected nationwide and beyond. His reign has seen inspirational leadership, peace, and progress, especially in the area of education for which he has established a foundation to assist poor but gifted schoolchildren.

“As a chief, you have to lead in the development of the community and be seen to be gingering up the people for communal projects. If you don’t do that and you sit there for the grandeur of being a chief, you are not providing the right leadership to your people.”


Mensah Otabil, Ghana

Dr Mensah Otabil is a pastor, author and motivational speaker, who founded and now leads the International Central Gospel Church with a network of 450 branches in Ghana, Europe, the US, Canada and across Africa. He also a senior pastor for the Christ Temple and teaches on the persistence and power of prayer. The International Central Gospel Church is an evangelical, charismatic church headquartered in Accra, Ghana. Despite Otabil’s claims that he never allows politics to enter his pulpit, he has entered the fray, commenting on the issue of free education. It is his opinion that as taxpayers, Ghanaians do not receive “free” education but pay for it through their taxes.

“I speak through the core of my being; my messages speak to Christians of all shades, Muslims and people who belong to different belief systems.”


Emmanuel Makandiwa, Zimbabwe

A self-proclaimed prophet, Emmanuel Makandiwa rose from a humble rural background to become one of Zimbabwe’s favourite pastors. His family were also devout; his parents elders of the Apostolic Faith Mission Church. In 1995, he teamed up with a local pastor on a gospel crusade. He travelled to Ghana to meet with his spiritual mentor, Prophet Victor Boateng, who advised him on how to set up his own church, the United Family Interdenominational Ministries. Upon his return from Ghana he assumed the title of “prophet”. Today, he fills the 60,000 capacity National Stadium in Harare every Sunday with congregants, but like many of his peers he is criticised for faith-healing claims.

“I will not give many details, but as prophets we choose what to say and what not to say. For now, all I can say is pray for Zimbabwe.”


Duncan Williams, Ghana

The archbishop is the General Overseer of the Christian Action Faith Ministries, headquartered in Accra with more than 20,000 followers in Ghana and more than 300 affiliate churches around the world. Duncan Williams is also the chairman of the National Association of Charismatic and Christian Churches. His ministry encompasses a weekly television programme, The Voice of Inspiration, which is broadcast and viewed by millions in Africa and Europe. He claims to have international connections that extend to the US White House, but he is generally praised closer to home for his powerful sermons and pan-African views.

“Peace and justice go hand in hand as there can be no peace without justice. Where there is no justice there can be no peace. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

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New African

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