Death Cult: 400 Die Of Starvation To “Meet Jesus” In Mass Suicide

Death toll rises to 400 in Kenyan cult tragedy led by Pastor Mackenzie, accused of ordering starvation to 'meet Jesus'. Survivors charged with attempted suicide. Forest of mass suicide to be transformed into memorial site amidst controversy.

Harnur Watta
New Update
The death toll associated with a Kenyan cult leader, Paul Nthenge Mackenzie, accused of orchestrating a macabre scheme that involved his followers starving themselves to "meet Jesus," has exceeded a staggering 400 people. 

This week, investigators made a grim discovery as they exhumed an additional 12 bodies from mass graves in the southeastern region of the country. In their relentless pursuit of justice, authorities expanded their search efforts to cover a wider area in the region last week.

Adding another layer of horror to this grim narrative, approximately 65 emaciated survivors, rescued from Mackenzie's clutches, found themselves charged with attempted suicide on Monday as they adamantly refused to eat while in custody at a rescue centre, marking the latest twist in what has become one of the most devastating cult-related tragedies in recent history.

Disturbingly, there are still 613 people reported missing in connection to the cult, according to local officials. However, amidst the darkness, there is a glimmer of hope as 95 individuals have been successfully rescued.

Who is Paul Nthenge Mackenzie - Architect of Death or Savior Gone Astray? 

Before becoming the self-proclaimed leader of the Good News International Church, Mackenzie worked as a taxi driver. It is alleged that he founded the church and established his congregation while promoting the Shakahola Forest as a sanctuary. Authorities have accused him of compelling his followers to starve themselves, promising them entry into heaven before his predicted doomsday.

Image credits: RTHK News
Image credits: RTHK News

Local news reports shed light on Mackenzie's history of brushes with the law. Between 1997 and 2003, he was arrested on four occasions but acquitted due to a lack of evidence. One notable incident involved Mackenzie urging children to abstain from attending school, citing biblical disapproval of education. 

Additionally, he maintained a YouTube channel where he encouraged his followers to reject modern aspects of life, such as wearing wigs or using digital payment services. In both 2019 and March 2023, he was arrested twice under suspicion of being involved in the deaths of children but was released on bond.

The Covid epidemic heightened the appeal of Mackenzie's property offer in Shakahola Forest and, for many, corroborated his long-held belief that the world was ending. Katana, his former deputy preacher, purchased an acre for 3,000 Kenyan shillings – a low price but nonetheless a boon for Mackenzie, who did not legally own the land he was selling, as he told the New York Times. Mackenzie, who had become increasingly concerned with the impending apocalypse, delivered "new instructions" to the hundreds of individuals who had moved to Shakahola, which he had divided into districts with biblical names like Jericho and Jerusalem.

Mackenzie, portraying himself as a Christ-like figure, lived in a part he called Galilee, named after the region of Palestine where Jesus spent the majority of his time.

In his defence, Mackenzie has informed investigators that he never issued any direct orders to his followers to refrain from eating. Instead, he claims to have preached about the prophesied agonies of the End Times as detailed in the Book of Revelation, the final chapter of the New Testament.

Despite his explanations, Mackenzie was arrested in April, temporarily released, and swiftly rearrested. He is presently under investigation for charges including murder, terrorism, and other crimes as some victims are believed to have perished from asphyxiation and strangulation. 


Children First: Pastor's Deliberate Plan for Mass Suicide

However, according to Katana, the instructions included a deliberate plan for mass suicide by malnutrition. The first to succumb would be children, who were "too fast in the sun so they would die faster," Katana recalled the pastor saying. Women would get their turn in March and April, followed by men.

Image credits: Reddit

According to Katana, Mackenzie stated that he would stay alive in order to assist his followers "meet Jesus" through starving, but that after that mission was over, he, too, would starve himself to death ahead of what he claimed was the impending end of the world.

Mr Katana stated that he had broken up with Mr Mackenzie by this point and was not in Shakahola when the suicide programme began, but heard about it from believers who were. He reported to the police that "kids are dying" in the bush.

"They never took any action until it was too late," he explained.


The consequences of this tragedy continue to unfold. Victor Kaudo, a rights activist, expressed concern over the alarming level of freedom granted to preachers like Mackenzie. Visiting Shakahola in March, Kaudo encountered emaciated believers on the brink of death, who cursed him as an “enemy of Jesus” when he tried to offer them sustenance. 

Shakahola Forest to Become Memorial Site for Victims

The Kenyan government has declared its intention to convert Shakahola Forest into a memorial site, paying tribute to those who lost their lives due to Mackenzie's influence. Cabinet Secretary of Interior and Administration, Kithure Kindiki, emphasised the need for dignity in commemorating the souls lost in this tragic event, rejecting any future human activities, such as farming or ranching, within the forest's confines.

Image credits: The New York Times
Image credits: The New York Times

Nevertheless, critics have denounced the government's response to the catastrophe, particularly the decision to prosecute survivors for attempted suicide. Roseline Odede, the chairperson of the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights, asserted that such charges were inappropriate and would only further traumatise survivors who desperately require empathy, intense psycho-social assistance, rehabilitation, and community support. As a result, some survivors have resorted to hiding in the forest out of fear of facing criminal charges.

The investigation into this harrowing ordeal continues as authorities announced plans to unearth more graves in the Shakahola Forest, where the initial victims were discovered on April 13. 

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Cult Kenya Mass Suicide Good News International Church