Kenyan cult leader charged with terrorism, deaths of 191 people

Kenya has not been able to keep cults and unscrupulous churches in check

Kenya Cult Deaths Preacher Paul Mackenzie, right, leader of the religious commune based in Malindis Shakahola forest, appears at Malindi Law Courts, Malindi town, Kenyan Coast Tuesday, May 2, 2023 | AP

Self-proclaimed Kenyan cult leader Paul Nthenge Mackenzie has been charged with the deaths of 191 people by a Kenyan court. The leader of the cult, that promoted starvation as a means to get closer to Jesus, with terrorism, manslaughter as well as child torture and cruelty. He is a self-proclaimed pastor.

According to an AFP report, Mackenzie and 29 other suspects pleaded not guilty to the charges. About a week ago, a Kenyan court described Good News International Ministries founded by Mackenzie as "an organised criminal group (which) engaged in organised criminal activities".

Kenya, a largely Christian nation, has not been able to keep cults and unscrupulous churches that dabble in criminal activity in check. How Mackenzie managed to evade law enforcement despite previous cases, is being questioned.

The majority of the 429 victims died of starvation. Others appeared to have been strangled, suffocated or beaten to death-- these included children. In 2017, Mackenzie was acquitted of charges of radicalisation for illegally providing school teaching after rejecting the formal educational system that he claimed was not in line with the Bible. In 2019, he was accused of links to the death of two children who were reportedly starved, suffocated and then buried in a shallow grave in Shakahola. He hasn't been tried for these charges yet.

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