Kenya outlaws church linked to Shakahola massacre

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Kenya has outlawed the church linked to the Shakahola cult massacre that claimed more than 430 lives.

In a gazette notice issued on Wednesday, Cabinet Secretary for Internal Affairs and National Administration Kithure Kindiki designated the Kilifi-based Good News International Ministries as an organised criminal group, a fortnight after its leader, controversial preacher Paul Mackenzie with others were charged with engaging in organised criminal activity, radicalisation, murder and terrorism, among other offences.

“In exercise of the powers conferred by section 22(1) of the Prevention of Organised Crimes Act, the Cabinet Secretary for Interior and National Administration declares Good News International Ministries to be an organised criminal group for the Act,” reads the notice.

Organised crime is a category of transnational, national or local groupings of centralised enterprises engaging in illegal activities, usually for profit.

Good News International Ministries joins 28 other listed gangs in the country, including Al Shabaab, Mungiki, Sokoni Youth, Shymbo 12, criminal groups of boda boda transporters, Chinkororo, Gaza, Young Turks, Wakali Kwanza, Wakali Wao, Wakali Kabisa, Sungusungu and others.

Mackenzie has been charged in the Malindi, Shanzu, Mombasa and Tononoka courts with more than 400 different offences, including murder, terrorism and child neglect.

The suspected cult leader was arrested in April 2023 following the discovery of bodies in mass graves in Shakahola, some of which were said to have starved to death, but he denied the claims.

By the time he was charged on January 16, the bodies of 429 people, including children, had been exhumed in the forest in Malindi, Kilifi County.

Signs of starvation
The bodies showed signs of starvation. However, the court was informed that the children may have been strangled.

The Director of Public Prosecutions told the court that Mackenzie allegedly encouraged his congregants to move to the forest and prepare for the coming of Jesus Christ.

On January 25, Mackenzie and 38 other defendants denied charges of child cruelty and child rights violations in the Tononoka courts.

Mackenzie and his co-accused, appearing before Principal Magistrate Nelly Chepchirchir, denied 16 counts, including child torture, allegedly committed on various dates between 2020 and 2023 in the Shakahola forest.

The State also accused Mackenzie and the co-accused of beating children as young as 8 and 14 years old with sticks on their legs, causing them bodily harm.

Bail application
“This is subjecting children to torture, and it is contrary to the law under the Children Act,” read the magistrate.

They were also charged with violating the children’s right to education contrary to Section 30 (1) (2) read with Section 30 (3) of the Basic Education Act 2013.

The case will come up for mention on February 15 when their bail application will be heard.

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