Hundreds of people have died in Kenya after a pastor ordered his followers to starve themselves to death to meet Jesus before the end of the world.
The death toll linked to the cult led by Paul Mackenzie has passed 300 and is expected to increase as more mass graves are exhumed in Shakahola forest, where they lived in isolation.
More than 600 people are still missing and 65 rescued followers were charged with attempted suicide after refusing to eat at a rescue centre.
Mackenzie, who called himself the “prophet of God”, is the leader of the Good News international church, which he founded in 2018.
He is accused of brainwashing his followers into believing that the world would end soon and that they should sacrifice for God like Jesus did.
He also allegedly banned them from seeking medical care, sending their children to school or contacting their relatives.
Mackenzie handed himself to police in April and is expected back in court this week. He was previously charged with the murder of two children by starvation and suffocation, but was released on bail.
He then returned to the forest and moved forward his predicted date for the end of the world from August to 15 April.
The authorities have launched a massive operation to recover the bodies of the victims and find the missing people.
The interior minister, Kindiki Kithure, said more mass graves were earmarked for exhumation and suggested Mackenzie might be charged with terrorism or genocide-related offenses.
He said: “We are dealing with a very serious matter here. This is not just a case of murder, this is a case of genocide.”
The coastal regional commissioner, Rhoda Onyancha, said: “We are still searching for more bodies. We have information that there are more mass graves in the area.”
The Kenyan president, William Ruto, has likened Mackenzie to a terrorist and vowed to bring him to justice.
He said: “This is a terrorist group that has been killing people for years. We will not allow them to continue with their heinous acts.”
– Kenya cult death toll passes 300, with more exhumations planned, The Guardian, 13 Jun 2023
– Over 300 bodies recovered from mass grave site connected to Kenyan death cult leader, MSN, 13 Jun 2023
– Kenyan starvation cult death toll surpasses 300, with hundreds still missing, New York Daily News, 14 Jun 2023
– Kenya cult death toll now at more than 300 as more exhumations planned, US News, 13 Jun 2023