Kenya Outlaws Cult Churches Linked to 'Shakahola Massacre'
12:43 19.08.2023 (Updated: 13:09 19.08.2023)
Earlier, Kenyan President William Ruto vowed to crack down on "unacceptable" religious movements after the shocking police discovery of bodies belonging to a sect whose members starved themselves to death in the Shakahola forest near the coastal town of Malindi.
Kenyan authorities have interdicted five churches, including that of an alleged sect leader accused of compelling more than 400 of his followers to starve themselves to death, local media said, citing a government notice.
Thus, according to the registrar of societies, the license of Good News International Church, led by self-proclaimed "pastor" Paul Mackenzie, was revoked on May 19.
Mackenzie is alleged to have persuaded his followers to fast to death in the Shakahola forest in order to "meet Jesus".
The pastor was arrested on April 14 after authorities toured the notorious forest and launched an investigation into the deaths
of his devotees. The same month, police started exhuming bodies from shallow graves in the remote forest.
Authorities also banned four other churches including the New Life Prayer Centre and Church headed by flamboyant televangelist Ezekiel Odero, who has been linked to Mackenzie.
Odero was taken into custody in connection with Mackenzie's starvation cult in April but was released on bail in May, while last week the court extended Mackenzie's detention for another 47 days pending further investigation. In May, the Kenyan prosecutor's office said that he would be charged with terrorism.
In addition, other institutions affected by the deregistration include Theophilus Church, Helicopter of Christ Church, and Kings Outreach Church.
Back in May, William Ruto formed a government commission
of inquiry into the deaths of more than 200 people in what is referred to as the Shakahola Massacre to identify the persons and organizations most responsible for it, and recommend legal and administrative reforms to prevent similar situations.
According to the local media reports, the death toll from the starvation cult stands at
403 after 12 more bodies were found in Kilifi County in the country's southeast.