Nigerians Likely Among As Kenya Church Cult Death Toll Hits 95
Nigerians are feared to be among the dead as the number of victims linked to a suspected starvation cult in Kenya climbed to 95 on Wednesday, Daily Trust gathered.
A taxi driver turned radical pastor of the Good News International Church, Paul Mackenzie Nthenge, has been arrested for encouraging his members to find God through starvation.
The identities of corpses recovered from mass graves in the 325-hectare (800-acre) bush around Shakahola forest near the coastal town of Malindi have not been revealed. However, Report shows that the church is populated by devotees from Kenya, Nigeria, Tanzania and Uganda among other countries.
A Kenya Red Cross official, Hassan Musa, who confirmed that 311 people, including 150 minors, had been reported missing to its support staff in Malindi, hinted that not all the victims were Kenyans.
“We are talking about people mostly from Kenya, but also from Tanzania and Nigeria. Some have been missing for years,” he said.
A missionary, Pastor David Odunayo, said he was not surprised that Nigerians might be among the members of the church, considering the fact that Nigerians are well-travelled. He, however, said fasting should be done according to the scripture.
The provost of Reuben George Theological Seminary, Pastor Gabriel Aina, berated the indoctrination of worshippers by Nthenge, noting that his actions were unbiblical and a fulfilment of the prophecy that many would depart from the faith in the latter days.
“It is the spirit of error. Paul prophesied that in the latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits. The departure does not necessarily mean that they will leave the church but they will be led astray, people would be seduced to do things that are contrary to the words of God,” he said.
Pastor Aina, a minister with the Gospel Faith Mission International, urged worshippers to be like the Berean Christians, whom the bible said, “received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what they were taught was true. People can only be free from errors when they know the truth.”
it was not clear last night if the Federal Government of Nigeria was making efforts to assist affected Nigerians.
Enquiries made from the Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs yielded no positive response as officials confided in the media that they would need time to reach out to relevant departments and the Nigerian High Commission in Kenya.
Morgue overstretched, more deaths feared
The discovery of dozens of bodies buried in Shakahola forest has prompted calls for a crackdown on fringe religious outfits in the largely Christian country.
“We had five exhumations which brings the total number of those who lost their lives to 95,” Rhoda Onyancha, Coast Regional Commissioner, told reporters.
At the state-run Malindi Sub-County Hospital, whose morgue is already stretched well beyond capacity with dozens of bodies, families were desperate to know if their loved ones had been found.
Teenager Issa Ali was taken to Shakahola in 2020 by his mother and told AFP he was beaten by Nthenge when he tried to leave, until his father rescued him.
“The last time I saw my mum was in February,” the soft-spoken 16-year-old said.
“She was so weak the last time I saw her.”
Onyancha said Wednesday that 39 people had been found alive so far in the bush around Shakahola, while 22 people had been arrested.
The majority of the dead were children, according to three sources close to the investigation, highlighting the macabre nature of the cult’s alleged practices which included urging parents to starve their offspring.
Executive director of the rights group Haki Africa, Hussein Khalid, who tipped off the police about Nthenge’s activities, told AFP the pastor’s Good News International Church appeared to require children to starve first, followed by women, and finally men.
He said 50 to 60 percent of the victims were children, whose bodies were found wrapped in cotton shrouds inside shallow pits.
Kenya’s President William Ruto has vowed to take action against rogue pastors like Nthenge “who want to use religion to advance weird, unacceptable ideology”.
Nthenge who is known for his radical doctrine has been arrested in the past.
The televangelist had been arrested in 2017 on charges of “radicalisation” after urging families not to send their children to school, saying education was not recognised by the Bible.
Nthenge was arrested again last month, according to local media, after two children starved to death in the custody of their parents.
He was released on bail of 100,000 Kenyan shillings ($700) before surrendering to police following the Shakahola raid.
Nthenge is due to appear in court on May 2