Senate team wants cult leader Makenzi's teachings deleted from internet

Exhumed bodies at the Shakahola forest. Controversial preacher Paul Makenzi is accused of subjecting his followers to a marathon fasting ritual to prepare them to "meet Jesus Christ" during which most of them died of starvation. [Nehemiah Okwembah, Standard].

The Ad hoc senate committee on the proliferation of religious organisations in the country has asked the Communications Authority of Kenya (CA) to delete the teachings of cult leader Paul Makenzi from the internet.

The committee, chaired by Tana River Senator Danson Mungatana, is investigating mass killings in the Shakahola forest that have been linked to the controversial preacher, Makenzi, of Good News International Church.

At least 235 bodies have so far been recovered in shallow graves in the forest, in Kilifi County. The number is likely to go up as detectives continue the search for more bodies with several families still reporting missing relatives.

Mungatana, who spoke in Kilifi when the committee visited on Friday, said the teachings will continue to cause harm to society if they remain on the internet.

‘’The longer the teachings remain in circulation, through social media platforms, the more many people will be radicalized. We need to stop this from happening,’’ Mungatana said.

He said the committee will also meet with CA to discuss the possibility of a review of laws on the issuance of licenses for TV stations to ensure no broadcaster is used to further criminal activities.

The committee will also visit Shakahola forest, and meet families of victims of Makenzi’s teachings. They will also visit Pastor Ezekiel Odero’s New Life Prayer Centre and Church, in Mavueni, Kilifi County.

Tana River senator Danson Mungatana chairs the Senate committee investigating the proliferation of religious organisations in the country. [Boniface Okendo, Standard] 

“The committee owes it to the 53 million Kenyans to ensure that no one will ever again be denied an opportunity to drink water or eat food in the name of religion,” Mungatana said.

The committee will also meet with local religious organizations to discuss measures that can be taken to avert religious extremism. Some of the organizations are the National Council of Churches of Kenya, the Hindu Council of Kenya, SUPKEM, and the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops, among others.

The team is expected to visit Shakahola grave site on Saturday and thereafter meet villagers.

‘’We are going to receive recommendations from the religious organizations. We want to listen to everyone before a decision is made,’’ Mungatana said.

Kilifi Governor Gideon Mung'aro has told the residents to freely share any information with the committee.

‘’I ask the residents to feel free to share information so we can get to the bottom of what really happened,’’ Mung’aro said.

The committee is also investigating the role played by Makenzi, his pastoral team and the Kilifi County security committee in aiding and abetting the deaths of the church’s followers.

Among the issues the committee will seek to establish from the officers include the registration status of religious organizations and the mitigation measures taken, and regulations, if any, to manage and control religious entities.

The committee will also make any other recommendation that will prevent religious organizations from extreme indoctrination of their followers including radicalization, and spiritual and financial exploitation.

Mungatana’s committee was established on May 3 after senators adopted the motion brought to the House by Majority Whip and Kakamega senator Boni Khalwale.

The committee was given 90 days to establish circumstances that led to the deaths of Makenzi’s followers.

The committee will also investigate the role played by Makenzie, his pastoral team in the deaths of the church's followers.