Kenyan prosecutors have announced a series of charges for Kenyan starvation cult leader Paul Nthenge Mackenzie. Mackenzie, the self-proclaimed pastor of the ‘Good News International Church’, is being charged with murder, facilitating the commission of a terrorist act, assault and subjecting a child to torture. 95 other suspects are being charged along with him.
The charges come after a Kenyan court on January 11th gave a two week deadline for state prosecutors to charge him. Senior Magistrate Yusuf Abdallah Shikanda said that the state had two weeks to charge Mackenzie, or “the court will consider releasing the respondents from custody on terms that will be determined by the court”, adding that “it has been a long journey that must come to an end, at least for this phase”.
The ‘Good News International Church’ was a religious cult headed by Mackenzie in which he convinced many of his followers to starve themselves to death, after convincing them they would meet Christ in heaven if they did so. Kenyan authorities arrested him in April of 2023 after discovering mass graves on his property in the Shakahola forest. In total, following months long excavations, 429 bodies had been found. While most of those found died of starvation, a number were found to have died of strangulation, suffocation, and beatings. A number of children were found among those exhumed from the forest.
Prosecutors have continually requested extensions to Mackenzie’s detention as they gathered evidence. Not only did exhuming the bodies take several months, but prosecutors also said that processing victims DNA was taking a long time, due to how much some of the bodies had decomposed.
Mackenzie has denied any wrongdoing, stating that since his ‘church’ closed in 2019, he could not be responsible for the deaths.
Of the 95 being charged, 64 of them had initially been treated as victims. However, investigators have since opted to bring charges against them after finding that most of them had children which had died, and were buried among those in the forest. A number also provided fake identities to the police, and had failed to account for their children.