Kamwana, Elliot Kenan
c. 1870 to 1956
Wacitawala (Watch Tower)
African independent preacher and initiator of the Wacitawala (Watch Tower) churches in central Africa.
Kamwana was a Lake Malawi Tonga. Though not yet baptized, he was a leader in a mass conversion movement in northern Malawi in the 1890s. Frustrated by the Livingstonia ministries' suspicion of this revival, in 1900 he went to Blantyre, where he was baptized by Joseph Booth as a Seventh-day Baptist in 1902. Going to South Africa to work, in 1907 he spent six months in Cape Town with Booth, being trained as a preacher for Charles Taze Russell's Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society. In September 1908 he was back in Malawi and began preaching a fiery millennial message of the expected return of Jesus in 1914. Within a year he had baptized nearly 10,000 people and alarmed the British authorities. The British exiled him but allowed him to return in 1914. The next year he was exiled again, this time to the Seychelles, although he had deliberately distanced himself from the Chilembwe uprising. He returned in 1937 to find not only that many small Wacitawala congregations were flourishing in Malawi but also that the movement had spread across central Africa. Under Kamwana Wacitawala became a widely dispersed African indigenous church (separate from Russellite Watch Tower Society), whose congregations have a large degree of autonomy. From 1937 until his death Kamwana lived quietly as a Wacitawala pastor.
Andrew C. Ross
David Barrett, Schism and Renewal in Africa (1968); George Shepperson and Thomas Price, The Independent African (1958).