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Makenzi's doomsday tapes and his cult's evolution to organised criminal enterprise

Shakahola cult leader Paul Makenzi. He masterminded the deaths of, at least, 300 followers. [File, Standard]

“It would have been much better if you had not heard my words, for this alone would have saved you. But if you heard me, judgment will be upon you,” June 14, 2016, Makaburini, Malindi.

On the day servant Paul Nthenge Makenzi invoked these ominous words, he almost talked himself sore, before a sizable crowd of weary mourners at the Malindi Cemetery.

Besides him was the casket bearing remains of one the earliest victims of his doomsday cult, a middle-aged orthopaedic doctor identified as Lucy.

Lucy had everything going on in her life until 2008 when she joined Good News International church in Furunzi, Malindi and was snared by Makenzi’s sweet tongue.

Despite her educational and professional qualifications, she had fallen for Makenzi’s teachings that education, beauty, medicine, technology, religion and governments were all the devil’s handiwork. She began to waste away.

Mid 2016, she fell ill, some people said it was just tonsils, but cheered on by Makenzi, she rejected medical help leading to her death. For years on, Makenzi had been preaching to them against earthly toils, extolling the celestial joys of a heavenly abode devoid of the evils of science and technology.

Even in her death, Makenzi dressed in sparkling white robes, had come to rub it in. She had done the right thing to reject the medicine, and to opt for eternal life, he said. Lucy was now swimming in the sea of incorporeal happiness, in fellowship with the angels, he added.

“Do not defile your body with medicine, and offer it to the doctors. All doctors who are here, are serving the devil. Do not present yourself to them. Stay in Christ and save yourself,” he says in one of his many videos still on YouTube.

He told the mourners that he too had stopped taking medicine or seeing doctors the moment he got the revelation. He was living by the grace of Jesus Christ. In a shocking display of indifference to the mourning family, Makenzi revealed how he had foreseen Lucy’s death, a month earlier while she was still alive.

And when she fell sick, he visited the bedridden lady and told her she was heaven-bound.

“I saw her being received in great jubilation, in heaven. At that time she was still alive. I began to fast for Lucy’s good health, but I was told she was going. I visited her and told her as much, hapa hakuna kupona,” he said, without a tinge of compunction.

He celebrated Lucy for resisting pressures from her siblings to go to the hospital because “there is no reason to fear death.” He preached on and on, until the mourners led by Lucy’s kin Peter Kanyiri, had enough of it, stormed the dais, and carted away the casket in protest.

He was undeterred, vowing to continue preaching as they buried their kin: “They are as false as their father, Lucifer,” he declared, before breaking off-key in song and dance.

The mourners split into two, those supporting Makenzi dancing by the grave, and those opposed to his preaching spiriting the casket away. When journalists attempted to ask him what had just happened, he dismissed them as Lucifer adherents as well.

A few days later he turned up on his TV Channel, Times TV, where he dismissed media accounts of the burial saga, repeated his messaging and reduced the whole thing to an attempt to smear his name.

Between 2016 and 2023 when he was cornered by the state, Makenzi’s sweet tongue ensnared many a hapless soul. On the ground in crusades, on air through his TV station, and on the internet through his YouTube channel, he spread his false understanding of the scriptures.

Scorned by the mainstream churches and preachers in his area of operation, Makenzi turned to the national broadcaster, Kenya Broadcasting Corporation (KBC) TV, to reach a greater audience, and to trap more vulnerable souls.

The seven-year work of doomsday tapes, now declared criminal enterprise by Interior Cabinet Secretary Kithure Kindiki, is littered all over the internet, available on search. Arranged in volumes, and topics, the doomsday tapes are hosted by “End Times Breaking- Mackenzie” which has 9.27k subscribers.

The “End Times Breaking- Mackenzie” channel is however “not available” but the doomsday tapes it hosted are more than available for both study and brainwashing.

Granted, Makenzi did not hold a gun or a knife on the victims in their refusal to take medicine, take their children to school or be involved in government activities such as Huduma Namba enrollment.

He did not have to, for his tongue was sweet enough. What he failed to do with force, he did with his words. And given the faithful obedience to their “servant,” there was a snowball in hell chance of them rebelling against his teachings. And he knew it.

Therein lay the dilemma the state struggled with for months in an attempt to properly nail him. For nine months, the state dithered in formally prosecuting the preacher, until the Judiciary threatened to release him.

“Have you seen me at the gates of Malindi General Hospital stopping people from accessing services? How can I stop people from sending their children to school? My work ends upon my telling you not to. What you do after that is none of my business,” he told the mourners at Lucy’s burial service.

From early on, Makenzi seems to have known that the state would have the most difficult time taming him. In the year Lucy died, Makenzi began by issuing a notice to all those who stood in the way of his mission.

He dared all to face him head-on in 2016, vowing to burst on them like a river.

“No one can intimidate me, not the Pope, not even the Pope’s grandma,” he said in one of the tapes.

In another preaching staged in Watamu, Makenzi preaches to a band of spellbound congregation, the majority of them women, late into the night, driving raw fear into them. He harps on to the beautiful hereafter where the glory of God reigned supreme.

Dressed in an ill-omened red cassock with a touch of black on the collar, he sings off-key, in between his preaching. He’s defiant as ever, saying when religious leaders see him, “their hearts burn with the rage of the devil.”

“They will have to bust, because I have no reverse. The force with which I come, no bulldozer can withstand,” he said of the cautions issued to him by the mainstream religious leaders in Malindi.

In many of the tapes, Makenzi is seen preaching into the night, exorcising ghosts off his adherents, and fielding questions from the congregation. They prostrated themselves before him as he hurled incantations at them, in the manner of evangelical preachers.

In other tapes, he hosts some of his converts who confess to their evil and bizarre past. Their single narratives are too weird to be believed, but Makenzi the rogue shepherd knew these tales would be swallowed hook, line and sinker by his complacent flock.

In 2018, Makenzi scaled up his narrative to require his faithful to leave their vocations altogether and follow him. This is what was going to separate the wheat from the chaff, he said.

In one of the YouTube videos of that year, seven young school girls dressed in matching orange t-shirts recite a choral verse on how Biblical figures dropped their daily chores for Christ's mission.

They end their presentation with an exhortation: “Je mteule, utawacha ajira yako umfuate Yesu?”

By this time, Makenzi had come to the idea that nobody could stop him. He had been arrested courtesy of various authorities among them the Kenya Film and Classification Board, and released.

He scaled up his rhetoric, declaring that the road to heaven was not a “bread and blue band” affair, and that the faithful had to make painful sacrifices including separating from their families and dropping their jobs.

“Doctors are just mere witch-doctors. They are the same. Education is evil. You have been burdened for much too long with this education thing. Football is satanic,” he told the faithful in his church in March 2018.

The tapes on YouTube are carefully and roguery scripted, and videos are integrated in between them, to reinforce the teachings. When he speaks against medicine, videos of unknown researchers vouching for it emerge.

In one of the recorded preaching against education, he plays a Bob Marley song where he sings that “the Babylon system is the vampire, sucking the children day by day, deceiving the people continually, graduating thieves and murderers.”

His team of researchers, it seemed, combed the internet for any messaging which supported or seemed to support his teachings. They would then lift them up and integrate them to his videos before releasing them to the masses.

In 2019, Makenzi sought to build strategic and international alliances for his doomsday cult.

Except for his broken English and beguiling Swahili which confined him to Kenya, he would have gone international.

In one of the recordings of that year, Makenzi was overly delighted to host an unkempt Caucasian man in a checked shirt, who shared in his doomsday predisposition. He claimed he had just met him but the man easily betrayed those sentiments when he alluded that they had been communicating.

“Do not let fear rule you. Let the spirit take over your life. Be like birds, they don’t work, but God feeds them,” the Caucasian man preached, expressing opposition to the then-ongoing enrollment of Huduma Namba.

It is on this day he hosted the Caucasian man, when he ominously revealed what was to come. He claimed God had revealed to him that he would make Furunzi, the headquarters of his doomsday cult, famous.

The onset of Coronavirus in 2020 was godsend for Makenzi. Not only was the world coming to terms with a raging pandemic but also locusts had invaded parts of Africa, causing immense devastation.

Makenzi preached that Coronavirus and the locust menace were God’s work to punish an unrepentant world. Powered by these events, he spread out his wings from the Coastal towns of Malindi, Mombasa, Kwale and Kilifi to the hinterland of Kenya.

Mid-February, 2020 he staged a three-day crusade in Luanda market, in Vihiga. In the video which is still on YouTube, he preaches against education, medicine, government, and religion.

In Luanda, he mocked the small traders of the town, saying they enslaved all their lives for so little. They would not have to suffer so much under the sun, if only they joined his cult.

“We will not sell tomatoes all day long, or wake up at the crack of dawn to sell wares at the market, but when we leave here we will slap ugali and rice like nobody’s business. Our only business is to sell Jesus Christ, yet we are richer than them,” he told the gathering, laughing deliriously.

He claimed something huge was about to hit the world, pleading with the people of Luanda to drop their earthly chores and follow him. His planned doomsday excursions to Arusha in Tanzania, and Kampala in Uganda, were however stopped by the lockdown.

After the Coronavirus eased, Makenzi emerged stronger and engaged his final gear, Shakahola gear, which brought him to international ignominy in April last year. Bodies of hundreds of his faithful were recovered and buried in shallow graves of his headquarters in the wild.

Many more were rescued while fasting to death, and violently resisted attempts to save them in a vivid testimony to Makenzi’s permanent imprint on their conscience.

Last week’s official declaration of Makenzi’s church as a “criminal organization” by the Interior CS Kindiki effectively placed his enterprise in the same category as the Al Shabaab terror group.

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