Footage of a pastor caught with a young woman in a hotel room has caused controversy in Kenya. But who was behind the video, and many others just like it?
The film looks like an episode of Cheaters, the American TV programme in which a television crew tracks down unfaithful partners and catches them red-handed – with the cameras rolling of course.
It was broadcast on a news programme in Kenya, and appears to show Anglican pastor Charles Githinji half dressed in a hotel room with a pretty young woman. Another man, claiming to be the woman’s husband, bursts into the room with a television crew in tow. The sheepish pastor scrambles for his clothes, but not before being quizzed by the people behind the camera. A version uploaded to YouTube has been watched 250,000 times, and Kenyans began tweeting about the story using the hashtag #PantsDown. The phrase has appeared more than 2,500 times in the last few days, though not every instance was related to the pastor’s story.
It was not an isolated incident. Similar videos on YouTube – all of which appear to expose Kenyan pastors in similar situations – have racked up hundreds of thousands of views.
In Githinji’s case, some are convinced that a team of people colluded in an attempt to entrap the pastor, and make money from the footage. “It was stage managed,” says Jackson Njeru, a prominent Kenyan blogger who created the controversial Facebook page Deadbeat Kenya. “When I watched the video, something was not adding up. The lady was smiling. She was laughing,” he tells BBC Trending. He believes the woman, her “husband” and the television crew were working in collaboration – one of a number of groups that deliberately target pastors and other powerful individuals.
Ruth Nesoba, a BBC journalist based in Kenya, says “apparently what is emerging is a clique of freelance cameramen who are going round looking for these kind of stories.” News outlets pay good money for the footage, she adds, as the stories attract wide audiences.
It isn’t yet clear whether Githinji’s encounter with the woman arose organically, or he was targeted in a sting operation. Either way, Nesoba thinks that for many Kenyans, it isn’t the most important question. “People are asking: ‘Whether he was lured or not, what is a pastor doing in bed with his pants down with a woman who is not his wife?’ ”
The Anglican Church in Kenya has now launched an official investigation.