Kenyan authorities have charged a pastor, Paul Mackenzie, and 29 of his associates with murder of over 400 people, including 191 children.
According to the authorities, Mackenzie is a cult leader.
He was indicted in the murder of more than 400 bodies, including 191 children.
They were found buried in shallow graves in a remote forest in the coastal town of Malindi, east of the country.
He is the founder of the Good News International Church, which reportedly forced its followers to fast and starve themselves to death in order to “go see Jesus”.
What are Mackenzie’s charges?
Kenyan authorities also accused Mackenzie of committing acts of terror, child cruelty and torture.
He pleaded not guilty to all the charges he faces.
Currently, he is in police custody, as the exhumation of bodies continues.
Meanwhile, one of the suspects has been adjudged mentally unfit to stand trial by the authorities.
According to available information, Mackenzie ordered his followers to starve themselves and their children to death.
The aim is that they could go to heaven before the world ended.
His church members live mainly in several secluded settlements in an 800-acre area within the Shakahola forest.
There, over 400 bodies were eventually exhumed.
The graves were discovered by a human rights organisation called Haki Africa following a tip off by some locals.
The organisation then took the authorities to the grave sites, which were hidden inside a remote forest.
The graves were dug in shallow pits and covered with leaves and branches.
The authorities are still investigating the case and trying to identify the victims.
On his part, Mackenzie was arrested in April, 2023.
He was charged with terrorism-related crimes, manslaughter and torture.
Prosecutors handling the matter also narrated how he forbade his members from sending their children to school and from going to hospital when they fall ill.
According to Mackenzie, such institutions are “Satanic”.
The incidence has been adjudged as “one of the world’s worst cult-related disasters in recent history”.
In the meantime, Mackenzie had been convicted in December, 2023, of producing and distributing films without a licence.
He is currently serving a 12 months jail sentence for the crime.
Cultism menace in Kenya
Kenya has been bedeviled with other cases of cults and sects that have been accused of various crimes.
Some of such cults include the Finger of God Church.
The government banned the Church in 2018 for allegedly engaging in radicalisation, money laundering, and human trafficking.
Another one is the Mungiki sect which was outlawed in 2002.
Mungiki was accused of involvement in violent activities, such as extortion, murder, and mutilation.
Yet another cult was the Lost Israelites community.
It was raided by the police in 2014 for reportedly practising female genital mutilation, child marriage, and polygamy.
TM learnt that Kenya has been batting challenges of regulating and monitoring religious groups that may pose a threat to public safety and order.