As the death toll in the Shakahola starvation cult continues to rise, Interior Cabinet Secretary Kithure Kindiki has called the tragedy a turning point for Kenya in dealing with security issues related to religious extremism. With the discovery of seven additional bodies, including a child, in a forest near Shakahola on Tuesday afternoon, the total number of fatalities has reached 90.
On the same day, 17 bodies were exhumed from the area surrounding the cult compound. Kindiki condemned the cult leaders, stating that they manipulated their followers’ religious faith to inflict suffering and death. He vowed that those responsible for the harrowing loss of life would be brought to justice.
Kindiki, accompanied by detectives and government officials, visited the Shakahola village farm in Kilifi County on Tuesday, April 25, 2023. As the investigation into the cult led by Paul Mackenzie continues, Kindiki revealed that authorities are also probing another religious group within Kilifi County that may be exploiting the faith of Kenyan citizens.
“We have opened a formal inquiry on this religious group and we are getting crucial leads that perhaps what was being done by Mackenzie is a tip of the iceberg,” Kindiki said.
On Tuesday morning, police discovered ten more bodies, all believed to be members of the cult who had been encouraged to starve themselves to death in the belief that they would ascend to heaven. The total number of deaths attributed to the Good News International Church, led by Paul Mackenzie, now stands at 89. This figure includes eight victims who perished after being rescued in a police raid that exposed the grim reality of the cult’s activities.
Two severely malnourished women were also rescued by police on Tuesday and rushed to Malindi Hospital for treatment. The ten bodies discovered that morning were found in various locations, with five in a single grave and the remaining five at separate sites.
Since last week, homicide detectives have been scouring the 800-acre property belonging to Mackenzie in search of more graves. The cult leader was arrested on April 14 after a tip-off about the existence of shallow graves containing the remains of his followers. Mackenzie appeared in court before Malindi Chief Magistrate Elizabeth Usui on April 17, alongside 13 other individuals. While the prosecution sought a 30-day detention, the court granted police 14 days. The case is set to be mentioned on May 2.