But now the Catholic priest’s urine-inspired advocacy has kicked up a controversy in the Kenyan region of Meru, with a medical doctor falling short of calling his pursuit a crackpot’s pastime and his church distancing itself from the bizarre therapy.
But the doctor and the church might as well keep their opinions to themselves.
Every Wednesday morning, a group consisting of mainly members of the Charismatic Union throngs Fr Riwa’s Kieru Prayer House for a praise-and-worship interdenominational mass during which they blend faith healing with healthy doses of fresh morning urine.
Fr Riwa has been holding meetings throughout Tigania West District popularising urine therapy, claiming that it cures all ailments, including HIV and Aids.
The cleric has also opened an institution where villagers can troop in and be taught on the ideal urine to take… and the quantity. Fully equipped with modern computers installed with fast Internet access, the ‘University of the People’, as he calls the prayer house, is stocked with various books on urine therapy where villagers are allowed to browse and study on the said cure free of charge.
Fr Riwa says he learnt of the therapy from a Chinese priest 10 years ago while on a tour of the Asian country, but only took it seriously five months ago after “researching and testing it”. In his words, a glass of his own urine every morning healed his backache and has helped him manage his weight and stay calm.
“I did not tell anyone (of the therapy) for about 100 days as I engaged in further research,” he told us at his Nchiru home, where he runs the St Francis Children’s Village that cares for orphaned and vulnerable girls and street boys.
His mother, Francesca Riwa, who lives in the outskirts of Moshi, Tanzania, was among his first patients.
“She had gone to Loliondo and yet was not healed of her arthritis,” he says. “She is now well after taking the therapy.”
Loliondo became famous courtesy of another ‘miracle cure-all’ popularised by Tanzanian pastor Babu Ambilikile Mwasapile, who dominated headlines last year as miles-long convoys headed to his rural village laden with hundreds, even thousands of sick people in desperate need of his one-size-fit-all herbal cure.
Several books, including Your Own Perfect Medicine by Martha Christy, Water Of Life by John Armstrong and The Most Powerful Holistic Therapy by Martin Lara, lie on the tables in Fr Riwa’s library, giving his visitors the academic side of his beliefs. But not every drop of urine is medicinal, he explains, advising that one has to understand the therapy before taking the first sip.
“It is recommended that you take the first urine when you wake up,” says the 54-year-old cleric who was ordained on October 1, 1983.
“You should allow the first few drops to go through the urethra to clean it up, then tap the middle urine and drain the last few drops as it could contain some impurities. You must have had at least four hours of rest for the urine to be of medicinal value.”
He also recommends a balanced diet with plenty of vegetables and fruits for the urine to have a good effect.
A stickler for good diet and regular exercise, Fr Riwa’s diet must include ‘terere’ (amaranth). He does not take red meat, alcohol or tobacco.
His day begins at 4.30am with a four-kilometre jog before taking a mug of porridge whose contents are about 40 per cent amaranth and 60 per cent millet.
The 700 students at the institution must also take a two-kilometre morning jog — and some optional urine.
“I believe in four pillars; prayers, study, sports and work. One must take control of their body. A good diet is paramount, thus one must eat well. It is recommended that if one is taking urine therapy, they should avoid red meat and instead eat white meat with plenty of vegetables and fruits,” says Fr Riwa while taking us round an expansive farm under amaranth and other vegetables.
The priest, however, cautions that urine therapy is not an alternative to conventional medicine, especially when one needs specialised treatment such as surgery.
“I believe in conventional medicine. If one is involved in a car accident, I would not recommend that one takes urine. Same as X-ray when one has a fracture. Urine therapy should be taken with a lot of care because if one has complicated illness like diabetes, HIV or cancer, it is good to consult a physician” he advises.
So where is proof of the efficacy of urine medication? Look no further than the treatment of the wound after female circumcision, says Fr Riwa. This, he says, demonstrates that urine has some antiseptic qualities.
“Communities that circumcise their girls use urine to clean the wound since it has urea and uric acid, which helps heal the gash. Urine is the most pure fluid from the body. It is ultra-filtered in the kidney and only gets dirty in the urethra. That is why I urge people to let the first few drops fall to clear it. Urine is rich in minerals and enzymes. If your body is missing some minerals, it will re-absorb it from the urine,” goes his freakish science.
Naturally, this off-the-wall indulgence by the man whose business card describes him as the Diocese of Meru Director of Medical Services has rubbed the Bishop of Meru, Salesius Mugambi, the wrong way.
Bishop Mugambi has publicly denounced the priest’s urine therapy, saying Fr Riwa’s unconventional therapy “does not Many view Bishop Mugambi’s caution as having been informed by the fact that the church is afraid of lawsuits that could originate from a botched pee therapy since it is being administered by a priest while on official duty.
“The faithful wanted the bishop to categorically state the church’s stand because some people have been embarrassed by the priest’s paramedical pursuits. Some priests are also uneasy since Fr Riwa sits in the (See’s) medical board,” say a faithful who did not wish to be named discussing church matters. But Fr Riwa has been preaching his unique therapy together with the bishop’s principal deputy, Vicar General Basilio Njagi.
The Meru Level 5 Hospital medical superintendent Ben Gatino thinks this urine business is simply laughable.
“If the urine did not help the body while it was being extracted from the blood, then how is it beneficial after it has been eliminated from the body?” he asks.
Because of these criticisms, scores of people from Fr Riwa’s prayer unit have rushed to his defense, testifying how they have been healed of various illnesses.
At the church yard off the Kianjai-Ruiri road last week, scores of worshippers were arriving on foot, boda bodas and matatus for the therapy, saying they had heard lengthy testimonies from “beneficiaries” of the remedy.
John Kirema, a former tour operator from Miathene, says it healed his backache, foot odour, and amoebic dysentery.
“I took urine for 10 days and now the problem is gone. I don’t have to use expensive medicine any more. I can now lift something heavy without a problem,” he said.
Kirema is now one of Fr Riwa’s foot soldiers and has been holding sessions with villagers at different places.
“My phone is always engaged. Initially, I had given out my number and asked people to beep me after which I would call them back,” he says. “But nowadays I have to hold physical meetings to save on cost of airtime. I also use this prayer forum to talk to the faithful who come here to pray and lay their problems to God.”
Elizabeth Karimi, 29, claims she has been healed of a persistent kidney problem which had forced her to drop out of school.
“I kept on experiencing seizures and was frequently in and out of hospitals. I had to drop out of Makuri Girls’ High School and could not go beyond Form Three due to ill health. I could not perform easy chores without getting tired and was quickly losing weight. I was spending at least Sh2,000 on treatment per week and I was desperate,” she said at the sidelines of the prayer meeting.
Ms Karimi claims she administered the therapy for 21 days and has never gone back to hospital.
“I heard about the therapy and was desperate. Now I can perform easy tasks,” she says.
Fredrick Mwendwa, the administrator at the children’s village, testifies that he was the first patient to take up the therapy and was healed of amoebic dysentery.
So is drinking urine a form of faith-healing? “Not really,” says Fr Riwa, but stresses that “it is real”.