Paul Mackenzie, the leader of the Good News International Church in southeast Kenya, ordered his followers to starve themselves and their children to death, promising that they would meet Jesus in heaven on April 15. According to the relatives of his adherents and a senior police investigator, Mackenzie told them that Satan would rule for 1,000 years and that the world as they knew it would end on that date.
The cult lived in makeshift homes of polythene sheeting and thatch in a remote forest camp that he divided into areas with biblical names such as Jerusalem and Judea. Mackenzie planned the mass starvation of cult members in three phases, beginning with children, then women and young men, and finally the remaining men and himself. He was arrested and is in police custody, but has yet to be required to enter a plea to any charge related to the mass graves.
The death toll stands at 109 so far, with 101 found in mass graves and eight people found alive who later died. The tragedy has taken on a political dimension, with Kenyan President William Ruto saying the government will form a judicial commission of inquiry to establish why Mackenzie’s alleged activities had not been detected earlier. The cult leader cut off his followers from their families and society through his extreme teachings, forbidding them from sending their children to school and from going to the hospital when they were ill, branding such institutions as Satanic.
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