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Kenya: More bodies dug up in cult investigation

Police and local residents load the exhumed bodies of victims of a religious cult, in southern Kenya Sunday, April 23, 2023.   -  
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Kenya's Criminal Investigation Department made over the week-end yet another gruesome discovery.

Over 45 corpses have been uncovered across the south eastern County of Kilifi.

Most of the mortal remains found so far, were on a land owned by a self-proclaimed pastor. He was arrested for allegedly telling his followers to fast to death.

A follower was rescued Sunday (Apr. 23) as she would not end her fast.

"This clearly shows that there are many who are still in there, who are continuing with this fast and possibly dying, every second that passes by," the director of rights group Haki Africa warned.

Hussein Khalid added: "It is why we are appealing to the national government to send boots on the ground."

Paul Mackenzie of the Good News International Church has been detained for over a week. According to the Kenya news agency, six of his followers are also detained.

Makenzie’s case will be mentioned in court on May 2nd.

The pastor has been arrested twice before, in 2019 and in March of this year, in relation to the deaths of children. Each time, he was released on bond, and both cases are still proceeding through the court.

Local politicians have urged the court not to release him this time, decrying the spread of cults in the Malindi area.

How did the discoveries start?

A tipoff from members of the public led police to raid the pastor’s property in Malindi, where they had found 15 emaciated people, including the four who later died. The followers said they were starving on the pastor's instructions in order "to meet Jesus."

Police had been told there were dozens of shallow graves spread across Makenzie’s farm and digging started on Friday (Apr. 21).

Hussein Khalid urged for psychosocial counselling for members of the cult.

"These are victims, these are not criminals. We need psychosocial counselling so that they can be deradicalised and understand what is happening," says.

The child protection officer in Malindi sub county, Kilifi county was horrified: "The childhood belongs to the family and the community. And here when they were coming out, they were tied with ropes and forced to fast for up to, until they pass on."

"That is a big blow and a big shock to our country. What cruelty if not this one," Sebastian Muteti concluded.


Inspector General of Police Japhet Koome should visit the Shakahola forest on Monday (Apr. 24) not far from the coastal town of Malindi.

The minister of the Interior, who on Sunday (Apr. 23) described the deaths as a "massacre", is due to visit the site on Tuesday (Apr. 25).

No details are available on the condition of the bodies or how long they have been in the ground.

Police expect to find more bodies as they search the red soil of the Shakahola forest where the cult's followers gathered.

As the tragedy unfolds, some are now questioning the authority’s reactions or lack thereof. 

In 2017, Makenzie was arrested for urging children not to attend school claiming education was not recognized by the Bible. Newspaper Nation reported back then that the so-called pastor and his wife were charged with promoting radicalization.

The pair was also "charged with failing to provide basic education to their children," an article dated 17 October 2017 reads.

The couple reportedly denied "the offences that also included offering basic education in an unregistered school at" their Good News International Church.

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