Cult leader charged with murdering 191 children

JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA – Self-styled pastor and cult leader Paul Nthenge Mackenzie, alongside 29 others, was charged by a Kenyan court on Tuesday under allegations related to the murder of 191 children. The victims’ bodies had previously been exhumed from a series of mass graves in a forest area.

According to the prosecution, Mackenzie had been propagating doomsday theories asserting that starvation held the key to salvation and reunion with Jesus Christ. All defendants, including Mackenzie, have denied having played a part in the death of the more than 400 followers found in mass graves in the Shakahola Forest.

The defendants sauntered in, handcuffed in small groups, into the courtroom. They showed signs of relaxation in the crowded room amid flashes of cameras capturing their faces.

Conducting the Good News International Ministry, Mackenzie used his teachings to convince his followers about the supposed merits of starvation and categorized members into subgroups identified by biblical names.

The law enforcement’s investigative efforts have led to the discovery of numerous graves, with the anticipation of finding more in Shakahola Forest. Based on the forensic evidence collected, pathologists suggest that many victims died from starvation, but a few seemed to have sustained strangulation injuries.

Before the charges were formally announced, court-ordered mental health evaluations for Mackenzie and his co-accused. One of the 31 suspects was ruled out of the trial due to mental incapacity.

Forensic specialists are currently on the ground in the Shakahola Forest, hoping to discover more remains or clues about missing followers. Mackenzie’s past activities reveal that he was a taxi driver before starting the Good News International Ministry.

Surviving group members have documented Mackenzie’s accurate prophetic abilities, including his prediction about the advent of “a great virus” shortly before the COVID-19 pandemic hit Kenya. His prophecies helped cultivate a considerable follower base, especially during the troubling times of the coronavirus pandemic.

The tragic incident at the Shakahola Forest unfolded when Mackenzie coerced his followers to partake in a period of extreme hunger in preparation for the end of the world, which he claimed was imminent. Mental health experts project a challenging deprogramming journey for the survivors who are yet to abandon the damaging mindsets instilled by Mackenzie.