Christian Leaders in Kenya Condemn “starvation” Cult as Dozens of Bodies Exhumed in Forest

73 Bodies found during Kenya religious cult investigation. Credit: Rex/Shutterstock

Christian leaders in Kenya have, in separate statements, condemned activities of a suspected “starvation” cult unearthed in dozens of deaths, with 73 bodies so far exhumed from shallow mass graves in Shakahola forest, some 70 kilometers from Malindi town in Kenya’s coastal County of Kilifi.

One, “pastor” Paul Mackenzie Nthenge, allegedly convinced his followers that starving themselves to death would hasten their departure from this life in order to “meet Jesus”, according to media reports about the Kenyan preacher who was earlier linked to children’s death.

Since April 21, Kenyan State officers have been exhuming bodies from a forest farm linked to the Christian cult leader, Mackenzie, who is behind the “Good News International Church”, including five bodies “freshly wrapped in one bed sheet” exhumed on April 22, and seven bodies in a single grave on April 24, the day a suspected mastermind allied to Mackenzie was found and arrested.

In an interview with Kenya’s Citizen TV broadcast on Sunday, April 23, Archbishop Anthony Muheria of the Catholic Archdiocese of Nyeri reacted to the reports of the “starvation” cult, cautioning against religion that fosters “radical extremism”.

“Religion cannot be and should not be the cause of people losing life,” Archbishop Muheria said, and cautioned against “radical extremism, that people have to do exceptional things in order to gain blessings from God”.


In the same April 23 Citizen TV news broadcast, the Assistant Provost and Worship Pillar Minister at the Anglican’s All Saints Cathedral in Nairobi advocated for accountability.

Rev. Evans Omollo said, “Let us not hide under this cover of freedom of expression, religion, and worship provided for in our constitution. We must hold pastors accountable.”

In a Monday, April 24 message, the leadership of the Presbyterian Church of East Africa (P.C.E.A) faulted the preaching of Mackenzie.

“A real church cannot teach her faithful to starve to death,” the PCEA Men’s Fellowship National Director, Rev. Henry Kaira, said, and added, “We call upon all Christians to know that God calls us not only to serve Him with our hearts but also with our minds.”

The PCEA leaders cautioned followers of Christ against naivety, Rev. Kaira saying, “Let us not just walk blindly in our faith as Christians.”

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Political leaders in Kenya have issued statements on the reported massacre in the Shakahola forest, some of them reportedly posing questions around the country’s security, gathering of intelligence, as well as community policing. 

"How did such a heinous crime, organized and executed over a considerable period of time, escape the radar of our intelligence system?” Kenya’s Senate Speaker, Amazon Kingi posed, adding, “How did evil of such an astounding magnitude take place without being detected?”

The Senate Speaker who is the immediate former Governor of Kilifi County further posed, “How did this ‘pastor’ gather so many people, indoctrinated, brainwashed and starved them to death in the name of fasting and then buried them in a forest without being detected?"

According to Mr. Kingi, the "harshest punishment possible must be meted to those responsible for the deaths of these innocent souls".

On his part, the Speaker of Kenya’s National Assembly faulted security agents in the area of the massacre, and called for accountability, saying, “people cannot die like that when there are officers paid to offer security."


Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary of Interior and Administration of National Government, Prof. Kithure Kindiki, has described the ongoing exhumation as a revelation of a “massacre” that demonstrates abuse of the right to freedom of worship enshrined in Kenya’s Constitution of 2010.

“The unfolding Shakahola Forest Massacre is the clearest abuse of the constitutionally enshrined human right to freedom of worship. Prima facie, large- scale crimes under Kenyan law as well as international law have been committed,” Prof. Kindiki says in a Sunday, April 23 tweet.

He adds in reference to section 32 of the Kenyan Constitution, “While the State remains respectful of religious freedom, this horrendous blight on our (conscience) must lead not only to the most severe punishment of the perpetrator(s) of the atrocity on so many innocent souls, but tighter regulation (including self- regulation) of every church, mosque, temple or synagogue going forward.” 

The CS who is scheduled to visit Shakahola Tuesday, April 25 says he has engaged a “multi-agency security team … to unearth the truth and prevent further loss of lives”.

“Enough security officers have been deployed and the entire 800-acre forest is sealed off and declared a scene of the crime,” Prof. Kindiki has said. 

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Kenya’s President William Samoei Ruto has vowed to crackdown on “weird unacceptable ideology” in the country, and described Mackenzie as “a terrible criminal” who belongs in jail.

"Mr. Mackenzie, who acts as a pastor, is in fact a terrible criminal. Terrorists use religion to advance their heinous acts. People like Mackenzie are using religion to do exactly the same thing," President Ruto said in a Monday, April 24 speech, adding that the Kenyan Christian cult leader and others like him “do not belong to any religion. They belong in prison”.

He added, “We must, as a nation, continuously look out for those who want to abuse, even the religious sector. People are masquerading as religious people, yet what they do is contrary to the teachings and beliefs of religion, whether they are Christian, Muslim or any other religion.”

"I want to say that I have instructed the agencies responsible to take up the matter and to get to the root course and to the bottom of the people who want to use religion to advance weird unacceptable ideology in the Republic of Kenya that is coursing unnecessary loss of lives," President Ruto further said April 24.

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