On April 13th Kenyan authorities discovered a mass grave in the Shakahola forest, close to the Indian Ocean coast. Since the initial discovery, authorities have led a months long exhumation project which has seen the death toll rise from under 100, to now over 400 with the total presently sitting at 403. And yet, the search is not over as Kenyan police continue their hunt for more graves.
The cult was led by Kenyan self-proclaimed pastor Paul Nthenge Mackenzie, who had told his following of the ‘Good News International Church’ that should they starve themselves to death, they would be able to meet Christ in heaven. Upon the initial discovery of the graves Mackenzie, his wife, and 16 men were taken into custody. The graves were discovered on Mackenzie’s property. The 16 men are accused of enforcing through violence that nobody break their fast, and that nobody leave the compound. Mackenzie’s wife was released earlier in July on a bond, but Mackenzie himself and the 16 others are still in custody.
Most of those found have died from starvation, however some of the bodies found, including those of children, had died from strangulation, beatings, and suffocation.
Mackenzie faces charges of either terrorism or genocide related charges
The cult has highlighted the significant problem that Kenya has of homegrown churches. While this is assuredly an extreme case, it is not the first time homegrown religious-elements have dabbled in criminality as the state struggles to properly regulate them.