Shakahola cult: 'No braiding hair, going to hospital' - Former Mackenzie follower speaks on turning point

Shakahola cult: 'No braiding hair, going to hospital' - Former Mackenzie follower speaks on turning point

Good News International church leader Paul Mackenzie during a past court appearance. PHOTO | COURTESY

His forehead beaded with sweat, Titus Katana has been digging for days to find the remains of victims of a Kenyan starvation cult that once counted him as a follower.

The discovery of mass graves in Shakahola forest near the coastal town of Malindi last week shocked Kenyans, with the government warning that the death toll -- currently at 109 -- could rise even further.

"We used to worship together," Katana said as he recalled his years in the Good News International Church founded by self-styled pastor Paul Mackenzie Nthenge, who allegedly told his flock to starve to death to find God. 

Katana said he knew Mackenzie well and even preached sermons alongside him at one point.

But, he said, he then left the church due to differences over new restrictions pushed by the former taxi driver-turned-pastor. 

"It came to a point where too many laws were introduced in that church -- asking women not to braid their hair, (saying) people should not go to hospital, people should not go to school," the 39-year-old said.

"All those were way too much for me, thus I had no option but to separate and find another church."

Mackenzie's screeds even attracted the attention of police, who arrested him in 2017 on charges of "radicalisation" after he urged children not to attend school, claiming that it was against the Bible.

He was acquitted but arrested again in 2019 over charges that included the possession of films intended to incite Christians against Hindus, Buddhists and Muslims.

The case is still being heard.


Kilifi County Good News International Church Shakahola Forest Paul Mackenzie

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