President Ruto says Pastor Mackenzie's teachings are akin to terrorism

President William Ruto when he presided over the 26th cadet pass out in Ruiru on Monday, April 24. [Ruto/Twitter]

President William Ruto has castigated controversial Pastor Paul Mackenzie over the deaths of several people believed to be his followers. At least 47 bodies have been exhumed and 58 mass graves identified at Shakahola Forest in Malindi, Kilifi County.

Presiding over the 26th cadet pass out in Ruiru on Monday, April 24, President Ruto said he had ordered that the case be handled with speed.

“I have instructed the agencies responsible to take up the matter and to get to the bottom of the activities of people who want to use religion to advance a weird, unacceptable ideology that is causing unnecessary loss of life,” Ruto said.

The president cautioned that any religious group or leader that preaches contrary to constitutional rights by teaching against seeking medical attention or going to school should be prosecuted and their institutions closed down.

“What we are seeing in Kilifi, Shakahola is akin to terrorism. There is no difference between Mr Mackenzie who pretends and postures as a pastor when in fact he is a terrible criminal. People like him and all other criminals do not belong to any religion but belong to jail,” said President Ruto.

An 800-acre area at Shakahola Forest has been sealed off as a crime scene following the discovery of 58 graves believed to be of members of Good News International Church which is led by Pastor Paul Mackenzie.

On Sunday, Interior CS Kithure Kindiki insisted that places of worship need to be regulated.

"While the State remains respectful of religious freedom, this horrendous blight on our conscience must lead not only to the most severe punishment of the perpetrator(s) of the atrocity on so many innocent souls but tighter regulation (including self-regulation) of every church, mosque, temple or synagogue going forward," said Kindiki.

‘Starving to meet Jesus’

The self-styled spiritual leader, who was once a controversial televangelist, has been on the detectives’ radar for allegedly preaching a dangerous doctrine that encourages his followers to starve themselves to death in order to reach heaven faster.

Last week, four people were found starved to death after the pastor allegedly instructed them to fast, supposedly to save them from an imminent “painful death in the world”.

The four, worshippers of Pastor Paul Mackenzie’s Good News International Church, died after going for days without food and water at Shakahola village in Magarini Constituency.

Mackenzie’s followers say they have been told to fast to avoid “apocalyptic damnation”.

He, however, maintains that the allegations against him are false while insisting that he closed his church in 2019.

In March, Pastor Mackenzie was arrested for the deaths of two boys who died of starvation.

The Pastor was granted a Sh10,000 bail by Judge Olga Onalo of Malindi High Court, pending investigation.

After his release, the controversial pastor, again, claimed that he had permanently closed his church and was no longer involved in evangelism.