Photo Credit: Photo credit: Lea Scaddan
What We Know About the Mass Kenyan ‘Cult’ Suicides
In what is being considered Kenya’s worst “recorded cases of alleged cult deaths,” Kenyan law enforcement is continuing to uncover bodies following the arrest of Pastor Paul Mackenzie Nthenge.
The leader of the Good News International church, Nthenge is accused of encouraging his followers to commit suicide through starvation. The group was lured to the coastal city of Malindi where Nthenge allegedly to fast until death to meet Jesus, according to The Guardian. The pastor went on to bury the bodies in shallow graves.
So far, the death toll has reached 90 church members. The Kenyan Red Cross speculates at least 213 members are still missing.
Although Nthenge was arrested earlier this month following a police raid, the bodies are continuing to pile up. Interior minister Kithure Kindiki says local law enforcement is doing everything they can to save as many lives as possible.
“The entire 800-acre (320-hectare) parcel of land that is part of the Shakahola ranch is hereby declared a disturbed area and an operation zone,” Kindiki said.
Rescue workers are finding new mass and shallow graves every day marked with a cross. While some of the church members were able to flee before rescue teams arrived, some who were immobile were left behind. As the death toll and missing number rise, Kindiki says this case is shining light on other religious zealots indulging in cult-like and violent behaviors.
“We have cast the net wider to another religious organization here in Kilifi. We have opened a formal inquiry on this religious group and we are getting crucial leads that perhaps [this] is the tip of the iceberg,” he said.
This is not Nthenge’s first run-in with the law. The pastor was arrested in 2019 and in March of this year following the deaths of children on his property. He was released on bond in both instances.
This story is developing.