A high-ranking official has reported that the number of deaths in an investigation associated with a Kenyan cult that practiced starvation to “encounter Jesus Christ” has surpassed 300, with the discovery of 19 new bodies on Tuesday.
Authorities believe that most of the bodies found in a forest near the town of Malindi, situated along the Indian Ocean, belong to followers of Paul Nthenge Mackenzie. Mackenzie, a former taxi driver who turned into a preacher, has been in police custody since April 14. He is set to face charges of “terrorism” in this case, which has had a profound impact on the East African nation.
Coast Regional Commissioner Rhoda Onyancha stated, “The death toll has now reached 303 following the exhumation of the 19 bodies.” The 50-year-old founder of the Good News International Church surrendered himself on April 14 after the police received a tip-off and initially entered Shakahola forest.
Although starvation appears to be the primary cause of death, some victims, including children, were found to have been strangled, beaten, or suffocated, according to the chief government pathologist Johansen Oduor.
There have been concerns raised regarding how Mackenzie, a father of seven, managed to evade law enforcement despite his history of extremism and previous legal cases. This horrific series of events has shocked the people of Kenya and prompted President William Ruto to establish a commission of inquiry into the deaths, as well as a task force to review regulations governing religious organizations.
Another pastor who was accused of having connections to Mackenzie and the bodies found in the forest has been released on bail after a court hearing. Ezekiel Odero, a prominent and wealthy televangelist, is currently under investigation for various charges, including murder, assisting suicide, abduction, radicalization, crimes against humanity, child abuse, fraud, and money laundering.