Kenya starvation cult leader used gangs to kill followers who took too long to die - minister

Friday May 26 2023
Kithure Kindiki

Kenya's Interior Cabinet Secretary Prof Kithure Kindiki before the Senate Ad hoc Committee on the Proliferation of Religious Organisations which is investigating the Shakahola deaths. PHOTO | DENNIS ONSONGO | NMG


Paul Nthenge Mackenzie, a taxi driver-turned-preacher, used armed gangs with blunt objects to kill some of his followers who took too long to die and those who changed their minds during a fast to death “to meet Jesus”, Kenya’s Interior minister said on Friday.

Kithure Kindiki, the Cabinet Secretary for Interior, told a Senate ad hoc committee on the proliferation of religious organisations that the armed gangs built structures next to the burial sites where they had a menu of well-balanced diets while they watched over followers starving to death.

Read: Kenya begins crackdown on rogue preachers

The discovery of mass graves last month has stunned the country in what has been dubbed the "Shakahola forest massacre".

Police believe most of the bodies belong to followers of Mackenzie who is accused of inciting them to starve to death "to meet Jesus."


While starvation appears to be the main cause of death, some of the victims -- including children -- were strangled, beaten, or suffocated, according to the chief government pathologist Johansen Oduor.

Court documents filed earlier this month said that some of the corpses had their organs removed, with police alleging that the suspects were engaged in forced harvesting of body parts.

"Post-mortem reports have established missing organs in some of the bodies of victims who have been exhumed," chief inspector Martin Munene said in an affidavit filed to a Nairobi court.

It is "believed that trade on human body organs has been well coordinated involving several players," he said, giving no details about the suspected trafficking.