The remains of over 80 people, including children, have been discovered in Kenya’s Shakahola Forest as the police continue to investigate the leader of a Christian cult who allegedly told his followers that they would go to heaven if they starved themselves to death.
Following reports from locals and activists after a number of people had gone missing around the town of Malindi, Kenya, police raided the Good News International Church two weeks ago. Multiple followers of the church were found emaciated and unable to walk or talk. Eight of the victims who were found alive have since died.
Deceased parishioners were discovered in shallow graves in the Shakahola forest, and the incident has been dubbed the “Shakahola Forest Massacre.” The church’s followers were allegedly taught by pastor Paul Mackenzie Nthenge that salvation could be achieved through extreme fasting practises and were reportedly encouraged to starve themselves to meet Jesus.
The Kenyan police have sealed and declared the Shakahola forest a crime scene and continue to investigate a 325-hectare area of the forest as multiple shallow graves have not yet been examined by forensic experts. Nthenge, a taxi driver turned pastor, relocated to the area in 2022 and had been arrested twice before the Shakahola massacre. The pastor was first arrested in 2019 and again in March of this year in relation to the deaths of children but was released on bond each time.
Nthenge is currently in police custody and due in court on May 2. Local officials have urged the court not to release the suspected cult leader during this current investigation.