In a riveting saga that has left the nation reeling, Kenya grapples with the harrowing aftermath of a chilling cult mass starvation. The spotlight shines brightly on Paul Mackenzie, a self-proclaimed pastor, now standing at the centre of a sensational trial that has captured the collective attention of a stunned populace. Mackenzie's name emerged as a dark spectre in the investigation and was arrested alongside thirty-one others.
Under the facade of the Good Will International Church, Paul Mackenzie was running a doomsday cult. A self-proclaimed pastor, he would continue to prophesize about the end of the world. He would go on to forbid his followers from sending their children to schools, and hospitals for treatment, calling the institutions satanic.
In 2022, he began preaching to his followers that starvation was their way to salvation. He wanted his church to starve en masse. His plan unfolded in three chilling stages: first, targeting the children, then the women and young men, and finally, the remaining men.
Mackenzie was originally a taxi driver in Mombasa. He founded the Good News International Church in 2003. He then moved to the village of Migingo in Malindi and expanded the church there. What was once a tiny church grew rapidly because Mackenzie convinced his followers he could communicate with God.
In 2019, he approached Shakahola village elder Changawa Mangi to buy land. He told him it was for a farm, and Mangi welcomed him to the village. Many village residents noticed that Mackenzie would host large groups of people. They found out much later that he was using his land to host his congregation, but they were not bothered by it. The church-goers would use the village market to boost business in the area, and the villagers merely viewed it as peaceful co-existence.
Eventually, the warning signs of something more sinister appeared. Villagers noticed that church-goers stopped going to the shops. Notably, three teenage boys approached Mangi at his house. They were emaciated. Mangi fed them and noted that one had a running stomach, and his stool resembled soil. Mangi notified government officials, but their reactions were slow. Some villagers took matters into their own hands and decided to storm Mackenzie’s compound with motorbikes. They were met with hostility, and two of the motorbikes were set on fire by Mackenzie’s guards. Rumours and complaints of suspicious activity in the area were gaining more traction, leading the police to finally take action.
In April 2023, police raided Mackenzie’s compound and arrested him and his accomplices. The initial search led to the discovery of 39 bodies. Over months of numerous excavations, 400 bodies were exhumed, with approximately 191 of them being children.
Behind the facade of spiritual guidance lurked the twisted mind of a cult leader, manipulating his followers with promises of divine deliverance through starvation. Mackenzie reportedly told his followers their fast would only count if they all did it together. He ordered them to destroy all their government-issued documentation and isolate themselves from the outside world. Investigators said that Mackenzie used Will Branham’s End of Days theology to convince his followers to starve themselves. Mackenzie hired multiple guards to kill followers who did not want to continue the fast once it started. He also killed those who took too long to die.
After the police raid, many survivors surrendered immediately. Although, it was believed that many were still hiding on the land covering the tracks for their leader.
Mackenzie, and now 95 others, stand on trial for the charges of terrorism, manslaughter, child cruelty and torture. He has been in custody since April 2023, as investigators and prosecutors comb the forest for more evidence of his crimes. The Malindi High Court convicted him for the murders of 191 children. However, there is still a lengthy legal battle ahead. Prosecutors are struggling to find evidence for the other crimes he has been charged with due to body decomposition. A considerable part of their argument hinges on survivor testimony.
A tale that stands out is that of a woman, Neema (pseudonym). Neema joined Mackenzie’s church in 2019 and followed him to Shakahola in 2022. At first, the survivors were allowed to leave Mackenzie’s land as they wished, but in late 2022, followers were held captive. Neema was two months pregnant when she entered Mackenzie’s farm for the last time. She recalls the preaching halting, as Mackenzie said it was time to meet Jesus. She stated that the guards, whom Mackenzie hired to monitor people on the farm, were vigilant. They did not hesitate to abuse their power, resorting to violence with many church-goers. Neema reported being sexually assaulted by them on several occasions.
One day, after deciding she had had enough, Neema and her friends devised an escape plan. When the guards were distracted, they closed the door of their hut, made a hole in their rear wall, and ran. They were weak but pushed forward, and were rescued by a motorist, who found them on the side of the road. Neema’s tale and other survivors' stories can help build the case against Mackenzie, punishing him and his accomplices for their crimes.
The tale of Paul Mackenzie's doomsday cult stands as a stark warning, a reminder of the insidious nature of false prophets and the catastrophic consequences of blind devotion. Kenya, reeling from the horror of the revelation, grapples with the lingering spectre of Mackenzie's atrocities, vowing never to forget the innocent lives lost to his malevolent actions.
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2 weeks, 1 day ago by aarushi1810
My heart goes out to the survivors and the families of those lost to this horrific ordeal. I hope that justice prevails and that we are able to prevent such horrific events in the future.
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