Kenyan President Ruto Says Starvation Deaths of Pastor’s Followers Akin to ‘Terrorism’


Kenyan President William Ruto announced action against “terrorist” cults that “use religion” on Monday, following the murders of 58 adherents of a cult in the country’s east, which spurred a debate over security and legislation gaps against such organizations.

On Monday, search activities in the Shakahola forest near the seaside town of Malindi continued, where scores of remains had been recovered from mass graves in recent days.

A total of 58 people are “confirmed dead”, Kenya’s police chief Japhet Koome said on Monday. “This includes bodies exhumed and those who died on the way to the hospital,” he said.

According to court documents obtained by AFP, the victims are members of the Good News International Church, which is run by Paul Mackenzie Nthenge, a “pastor” who preaches fasting to “meet Jesus.” The police initially identified him as Makenzie Nthenge.

He surrendered to authorities and has been detained since 14 April (BIEN 14). He is accused of guiding his followers to their deaths.

“What we have seen in (…) Shakahola is akin to terrorists (sic),” said William Ruto, speaking at a graduation ceremony for prison officers in central Kenya.

“Terrorists use religion to promote their heinous acts. People like Mr Mackenzie use religion to do exactly the same thing,” he continued.

He said he had “asked the responsible agencies to take up the issue and get to the root and the bottom of the activities of religions and people who want to use religion to advance a shady and unacceptable ideology”.

– “Fasting to death” –

Investigators have begun turning over the dirt on more than 300 hectares of forest where followers of the International Church of Good News have been assembling for many days.

There is no information on the condition of the dead or how long they were in the mass graves.

The Kenyan Red Cross reports that “so far 112 people have been reported missing” at its search headquarters there.

Some followers can still be found in the wilderness. According to Japhet Koome, 29 individuals have been rescued.

Hussein Khalid, a member of the Haki Africa organisation who had warned about the actions of the Good News International Church, called for more security forces to “go inside (the forest) and rescue these victims who are fasting to death”.

– Security breaches –

These macabre discoveries raise many questions about the attitude of the authorities, who knew about this “pastor” for several years.

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