22-05-2023 by Freddie del Curatolo
The most regrettable cult and death affair ever in Kenya, the so-called 'Shakaola massacre' in the hinterland of Malindi, reached the tragic number of 237 dead yesterday, with the discovery of two more adult skeletons in the forest adjacent to the land owned by the controversial preacher Paul Mackenzie Nthenge, still under arrest in the coastal town.
It had all started two months ago, with the complaint of some witnesses in the village sixty kilometres from Malindi, on the road to the Tsavo East National Park, a road that was paved four years ago and is very popular with international tourism. Few could have suspected that right on the edge of that single road leading to one of the country's natural paradises, where all the equatorial wildlife can be admired in the boundless savannah, an incredible tragedy was unfolding.
The first discovery of a family, buried in a mass grave about a metre and a half deep, triggered investigations that immediately led to an initial arrest of the self-styled pastor Paul Mackenzie Nthenge, founder ten years ago of the 'International Church of the Good News', a shed in Malindi where he gathered the faithful, who came to his cult by watching his sermons on a YouTube channel and streaming television.
Before long, new followers of Mackenzie's church were arriving from all corners of the country, preaching hours of prayer a day and absolute fasting during sessions.
The preacher was at the centre of police investigations a first time, after a complaint from parents' associations claiming that their children were being urged by Mackenzie not to attend classes, choosing nonstop prayer.
The preacher was never intimidated and, on the strength of his popularity, continued undaunted with his extreme worship. According to the accusation that now nails him, Mackenzie would slowly get material goods from his worshippers, who, according to him, had to 'strip' themselves of everything in order to embrace prayer.
The discovery of the first bodies sheds light on the chilling discovery of the mad preacher's new 'dispositions': the faithful, gathered on his property in Shakaola, far from prying eyes, were advised to fast to the bitter end in order to 'see Jesus in paradise'.
According to Mackenzie, before the end of 2023 some kind of religious mutation would arrive on Earth whereby Satan would take control of the living and the only way to be saved would be to ascend to heaven, after having cleansed one's body, to sit on the right side of the Creed.
From the first findings at the end of March, as the preacher was released on bail by the Malindi police, it was mid-April when eight more bodies were found buried together, including four children.
At that point Mackenzie is arrested with no possibility of temporary release and the government from Nairobi decides to send an intensive investigation task force to the site. The head of the national police and later the Minister of Home Affairs, Kithure Kindiki, also appear on the scene.
The operations are led by the regional commissioner of the coast, Rhoda Onyancha, while the Kilifi county police chiefs are transferred elsewhere, guilty of ignoring the seriousness of the situation. Presumably, by guarding the preacher from the first reports, they would have saved many more than the 90 people found alive (some in very serious condition have been hospitalised in Malindi) so far.
Serious searches over the past month have unearthed 237 followers of the sect, while the Red Cross estimates that a total of 610 people are missing. If they all died of fasting, it would be the largest mass suicide on the entire African continent.
Meanwhile, the Mombasa police have put a pastor far better known and influential than Mackenzie under surveillance. His name is Ezekiel Odera and near Kilifi he is creating a huge religious centre, which looks almost like a citadel of worship, with hotels, conference centres and other 'facilities'.
According to the prosecution, Odera had contacts with the Shakaola preacher and even sent him worshippers. There would be bank transactions to prove it.
For all the discussions on how in Kenya these charismatic 'men of faith' manage to convince people from different social and cultural backgrounds to give up their lives to blindly follow their lead, it would take pages and pages. But considering that even in a country that has older and deeper cultural roots and is not tied to Protestantism, as well as distrustful of cults and sects, the phenomena of gurus and visionaries of Madonnas are emerging, one would think that the collapse of values in this era, combined with the bombardment of information, psychosis, allologians and false prophets, has really upset millions of weak or otherwise easily influenced minds.
In addition to the disturbing aspect of the deaths, some even by strangulation, especially those of children, the issue of the thousands of 'churches' that have sprung up simply and spontaneously has been violently uncovered in Kenya. All it takes is a licence, like a normal 'club' or association, to become preachers and be able to gather hundreds of believers, with the possibility of beguiling them, having their finances and property transferred to them and managing their capital, enriching themselves and increasing the value of their sect. Odera's funds, scattered in various bank accounts, would amount to around EUR 5 million.
Even President William Ruto, known to be an observant Catholic, intervened in the affair, apologising to his compatriots for having initially underestimated the whole affair.
Now Shakaola is like a military battlefield, no one is allowed to enter and operations are carried out with the utmost care and secrecy. Every day the regional commissioner gives the 'bulletin' of the findings to the media, and unfortunately the death toll keeps rising.
On Saturday, the Minister of the Interior declared that the search for the bodies of the followers of the 'fasting sect' will be extended as far as Tsavo East National Park, while autopsies on the bodies of the victims continue. The more than fifty mass graves discovered in the Shakaola forest may not be the only ones, but in the Tsavo, where hyenas and vultures are just waiting to completely despoil corpses already reduced to skin and bones, there may be further, horrific, surprises.
The number of bodies buried in the land owned by Malindi 'pastor' Paul Mackenzie, who was arrested...
by Freddie del Curatolo
He does not call himself "Father Mackenzie," like the character in the very famous Beatles song "Eleanor...
by Freddie del Curatolo
Rain falls almost incessantly on Malindi. It is a blessed rain, long overdue for months for those who...
by Freddie del Curatolo
There are thefts and robberies that end badly, but that attempted Sunday night in the ...
It is an unceremonious Easter this year in Kenya and East Africa.
by Freddie del Curatolo
One of the African branches of the Catholic Church born in the heart of Kenya has turned 100 years old. The...