Death Toll In Kenya Cult Starvation Exceeds 200

| How Africa News
Dug Holes Are Seen After Exhuming Bodies at the Mass grave Site in Shakahola Outside the Coastal Town of Malindi on April 25 2023 photo by Yasuyoshi Chiba Afp


Search teams discovered 22 more dead from a coastal forest on Saturday, bringing the total number of fatalities in an inquiry connected to a Kenyan cult that practiced starvation to 201, a government official said.

The majority of the bodies discovered in a jungle close to the town of Malindi on the Indian Ocean, according to police, are those of Paul Nthenge Mackenzie’s followers. The former cab driver and evangelist is suspected of encouraging his followers to starve to death “to meet Jesus.”

26 persons have been detained in connection with the killings, including Mackenzie and a “enforcer gang” entrusted with making sure nobody broke their fast or survived the forested hideout, according to Coast Regional Commissioner Rhoda Onyancha, who released the most recent statistics.

She stated that in order to refocus their efforts, investigators would stop exhumations for two days. Exhumations would then begin on Tuesday.

Mackenzie has not yet been compelled to make a plea, but on Wednesday, a court ordered that he remain in custody for another three weeks while authorities continue their investigations into what has been nicknamed the “Shakahola Forest Massacre.”

The 50-year-old founder of the Good News International Church turned himself in on April 14 after police acting on a tip-off first entered Shakahola forest.

While starvation appears to be the main cause of death, some of the victims — including children — were strangled, beaten or suffocated, according to chief government pathologist Johansen Oduor.

Court documents filed on Monday said some of the corpses had their organs removed, with police alleging the suspects were engaged in forced harvesting of body parts.

But Interior Minister Kithure Kindiki urged caution, telling reporters on Tuesday that “it is a theory we are investigating”.

Onyancha said that over 600 people have been reported missing, including from villages around the forest.

Calls for Regulation 

There have been concerns about how Mackenzie, a father of seven, avoided being apprehended despite having a history of extremism and prior legal troubles.

The shocking story has shocked Kenyans and prompted President William Ruto to form a task force to review laws controlling religious organizations as well as a commission to investigate the killings.

At a court hearing last week, a second clergyman accused of connections to Mackenzie and the remains discovered in the forest was granted bail and freed.

The wealthy and well-known televangelist Ezekiel Odero is under investigation for a number of crimes, including murder, aiding suicide, kidnapping, radicalization, crimes against humanity, child abuse, fraud, and money laundering.

Authorities claim to have solid evidence connecting the murders of several “innocent and vulnerable followers” of Odero’s New Life Prayer Centre and Church to the bodies exhumed at Shakahola.

Odero has testified in court that Mackenzie’s beliefs are wrong and that he wants to “strongly disassociate” himself from him.

In the past, attempts to control religion in the nation with a majority of Christians have been vehemently resisted as attempts to erode constitutional protections for the separation of church and state.

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