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Paul Mackenzie: Kenyan Cult Leader Charged With 191 Murders2 min read

Paul Mackenzie: Kenyan Cult Leader Charged With 191 Murders<span class="wtr-time-wrap after-title"><span class="wtr-time-number">2</span> min read</span>


A cult leader in Kenya has been charged with murder after more than 400 bodies were found buried in shallow graves in a remote forest in the east of the country.

Survivors and victims’ families have said Paul Mackenzie urged followers to fast in order to “go see Jesus”.

He and 29 others pleaded not guilty in a court in the coastal town of Malindi.

Mackenzie has already been charged with committing acts of terror, child cruelty and torture, which he denied.

Police and prosecutors allege that apart from starvation, some victims may have been strangled, suffocated or beaten to death using blunt objects.

The 30 accused have been charged with murdering 191 people.

“I’m still scared of him,” one survivor told the BBC when asked what she would say to Mackenzie if she ever met him.

“I don’t want to ever meet him,” said the 29-year-old mother of four.

Neema – not her real name – had been a follower of the Good News International Church in Malindi until it was closed down in 2019.

When she heard that its leader had moved to Shakahola, the forest about 70km (43 miles) west of the town, together with other members of the church, she followed him there in 2022.

Shakahola is sparsely populated and now under 24-hour police guard. The authorities have declared it a crime scene and access is forbidden.

Initially, the worshippers would travel there and return home. But from late 2022, the followers claim, they were not allowed to leave.

Neema was two months pregnant with her fourth child when she went to the forest for the last time. She said she was held against her will there and women were repeatedly raped by the guards.

“The preaching stopped,” she said. “They said we’re now done with teachings we only wait to meet Jesus.”

At first, those in the forest would be given half a cup of tea and a slice of bread in the morning.

That was it for the day.

But after some time, Neema said they were told there would be no more food or water.