The leader of a starvation cult in Kenya has been formally charged with terrorism in connection to the deaths of over 400 of his followers, as announced by a Kenyan court on Thursday.
Self-proclaimed pastor Paul Nthenge Mackenzie, along with 94 other individuals, entered a plea of “not guilty” to charges of radicalization. Additionally, Mackenzie faced charges of “organized criminal activity,” as outlined in documents from the Mombasa court.
Mackenzie is accused of inciting his followers to starve to death with the belief of meeting Jesus, a shocking case that gained international attention. His arrest in April followed the discovery of bodies in the Shakahola forest near the Indian Ocean, where autopsies revealed that a majority of the 429 victims had succumbed to hunger. Disturbingly, some victims, including children, showed signs of having been strangled, beaten, or suffocated.
The pre-trial detention of Mackenzie, a former taxi driver, was repeatedly extended as the prosecution continued its investigation. However, a court issued a warning last week, indicating that Mackenzie would be released unless formal charges were filed within 14 days.
The gruesome incident, known as the “Shakahola Forest Massacre,” prompted the government to emphasize the necessity of enhanced oversight over fringe denominations.