Of Makenzi's doomsday teachings, and contradictions

Doomsday cult leader Paul Nthenge Makenzi at a Malindi court. [Nehemiah Okwembah, Standard]

In “The Tempest”, one of William Shakespeare’s sunset works, Gonzalo conjures up an isle where he’s the king, and where all things in common nature produce without sweat or endeavour.

In his commonwealth, there is no use of metal, corn, wine, oil and there is no occupation for all men are idle and women too- but innocent and pure. No tilling, no letters, no law, no service of any sorts.

“Sword, pike, knife, gun or need of any engine would I not have; but nature should bring forth of its own kind all foison, all abundance to feed my innocent people,” he said.

His friends were so confounded by the contradiction of terms in this kingdom that one of them, Antonio, remarked that “the latter end of his commonwealth forgets the beginning.”

In the latter-day tragicomedy saga unravelling in Kenya, Shakahola’s paradise of death in Kilifi, mirrors this literary myth, weaved together in parts by doomsday cult leader Paul Nthenge Makenzi.

The setting is an 800-acre ranch where Makenzi retreated after the completion of his spiritual mission, with a band of zealots in tow. Whereas he claimed he retreated there to farm, and required of media to refer to him as a farmer, there was hardly any noticeable effort at serious farming of ranch proportions when police descended on it.

Instead, the ranch was littered with death and starvation. Makenzi’s sovereigns were dropping dead at various corners of the ranch, separated from the world but closer to their maker.

The only digging that took place in that desolate place appeared to have been the many graves discovered by the security agencies. And even those too, were shallow.

But while Shakahola was the setting of Makenzi’s ultimate con game, his doctrinal incoherence was unmistakable from early on. A peak into his teachings down through the years is a study in contradictions.

Like many of his evangelical comrades, he was puffed up all through his teachings- everything centred on him, and his exclusive interaction with the holy spirit. While he communed directly with God, his followers only looked up to him to know what God wanted of them.

“When God first called me, I was in the middle of a three-day fast. And I was wide awake. He said to me; wake up now, I am with you,” Makenzi told his followers on May 12, 2019.

Like Gonzalo’s, the latter end of Makenzi’s testimony forgot the beginning, that he was wide awake.

At the time, Makenzi was preaching at his makeshift church in Furunzi, in Malindi town. On that particular apparition, Makenzi ominously revealed that God had assured him he would make Furunzi famous.

“He asked me where I was; what is the name of this place. I answered Furunzi. And he said; this place I will make it what I made Bethlehem. All nations will know Furunzi,” he told congregants.

For years, Furunzi was the bedrock of Makenzi’s radicalised teachings which turned faithful against the government, against formal schooling, human rights, international systems, regional integration, indulgence in sports, vaccinations, welfare contributions, against science and generally against forms of modernism.

Huduma Card was the mark of the beast, governments were agents of the anti-Christ, Constitutions were devilish, the push for human rights was the handiwork of the beast and education was useless in so far as it drove pupils away from Christ.

Yet, Makenzi continued to regale in same modernity he preached against, riding in cars, receiving offerings with the same marks he opposed, using mobile phones, speaking through a microphone and transmitting his doomsday messaging through the airwaves, and the internet.

Huduma Card sample. [Sammy Omingo, Standard]

But Makenzi had not dropped from the skies. He grew up, schooled and lived in Kwale and Kilifi. He had preached in local churches but blossomed in 2010 when a needlessly divisive political process put the wind in his sails.

In that year, the country went for a national referendum to decide the fate of a draft constitution. By and large, the political class was united in preparation for the draft, including through the Naivasha talks where all contentious clauses were thrashed out.

In the tail-end however, and for political expediency, a few politicians led by current President William Ruto bolted, and closed ranks with the church to oppose the draft constitution over among other things, un-Christian provisions.

Makenzi was among the cohort of evangelical preachers who, powered by the exigencies of this moment, moved around the country to preach against the draft. 

“Is of no importance to support the referendum and vote yes…. that is akin to embracing the devil. I would rather stay and wait on Jesus Christ to come down. I’d rather die in the Lord than bow to earthly rulers,” he preached in the countdown to the 2010 referendum.

He predicted that the Yes side would win the referendum, and proceed to establish satanic rule in Kenya. And true to his prophesy, the No side was vanquished and a new Constitution was promulgated.

While Ruto and his fellow politicians moved on, his comrades in the church, among them Makenzi did not move on. They hang on to their extremist views on the Constitution, and expanded it to deligitimise the government and its forms.

“They have now brought scanners to screen us, in the name of fighting terrorism. I know terrorists is none other than us. It is us who will be called terrorists fairly soon, because we are opposed to government and United Nations,” he predicted, at the time.

Makenzi also used the aftermath of referendum to single out the US, claiming it forced the Constitution on Kenya to further its anti-Christ policies. In the post-referendum years, Makenzi raised the stake and focused much more on doomsday teachings, believing that a satanic order had been established.

His preaching was recorded and shared on the internet, attracting attention of fellow doomsday preachers across the world. At the height of Jubilee government’s “digital drive” of cashless society, or Huduma Namba, Makenzi blossomed.

The network he had built came to his aid. He at one time brought to his church a Caucasian counterpart who gave a world perspective to his doomsday teachings.

“Look at the birds,” the mzungu said, “they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable?” he said, quoting the Book of Matthew.

In an open service, and doling out choice Bible verses, the mzungu made a case for all to leave their earthly possessions to follow Christ. He said they must be willing to be persecuted just like their leader- Makenzi had been arrested earlier that year- if they were true disciples of Christ.

“Are you ready to die for Jesus? It’s a big thing to do, to die for him!” he roared as the congregants roared back in a resounding yes.

Detectives exhume bodies in shallow graves at Paul Mackenzie's 800-acre land in Shakahola, Kilifi County, on April 25, 2023. [Kevin Macharia/Interior]

But it is the hypocrisy of it all that astounds. At his seminars which usually ran for days, Makenzi would display around the halls huge banners emblazoned with doomsday messages and illustrations. His audience, usually comprised more of school going children, came with writing pads and books, ready to learn from the master.

As he frothed at the mouth, dancing to his apocalyptic tunes and teachings, they took down notes. The very education he was denying them, he was now dishing it in his own terms, own form and way. Everybody else was wrong, and only he was right.

At one such seminar staged at Pettles Academy in Ukunda on November 25, 2018, Makenzi is seen relishing at the success of his brainwashing ventures, when he takes time to field questions from congregants.

The first person to rise up recounts a vision he had the previous night where children were more attentive to the preaching than adults. The vision is music to the ears of Makenzi who urges him on. The man ends up asking about consumption of grade chicken which Makenzi roundly condemns as not only a sin but a health risk.

Another young man rises and offers a justification on the uselessness of formal education, another music to the ears of Makenzi. He signs out by asking about whether it was right for faithful to use powdered milk, to which Makenzi retorts: “Have you ever seen a cow producing powder for milk?

Another one asks about marriage vows and he equally dismisses them as useless. Yet another asks about what to do with his education certificates now that there is unanimity among them that “education is not part of God’s plan for humanity.”

“When you carry those certificates on a job hunt mission, you are essentially carrying gods to speak for you. You are essentially placing your trust on papers, and that’s idol worship. And if we agree its false gods, then you know what to do with them since you are not a child,” he declares.

From the pattern of their preambles and questions, one can make a fairly reasonable guess that everything, including the choice of questions, is a choreographed affair. 

In another preaching in a hall, Makenzi derides those who speak good English, in a manner suggesting that they have “arrived in heaven.” He says they are foolish because the spirit of the anti-Christ is inherent in them.

“The day I dropped the little pride I had in my modest education, that is the day I met Jesus. The more you advance in education, the more the teachings of Christ are erased from your mind,” he told a jubilant congregation.

At the time Barack Obama was the world’s foremost politician as the President of the US. Makenzi told the congregants that he was opposed to Obama’s teaching that education was a basic right of every child. According to him, the real right to every child in the universe is knowledge of Jesus.

“I know the government is not happy with me. I know the president is not happy with me, and the MP and all the nations indeed, but I will say this in the open, that I detest the education of this world and all its ways,” he said as his followers stomped the ground.

Makenzi had another particular dislike for the son of Kogelo. He thought he was the ultimate anti-Christ. He couldn’t fathom the effect Obama’s charisma had on Americans and the world. In video footage on Youtube, Makenzi’s channel claimed the name Obama is found in the Bible, Revelation 13:1

Former President Barack Obama speaks during the Obama Foundation Summit at the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago. [AP photo]

“Then I saw a beast come out of the sea with ten horns and seven heads, on its horns were ten diadems, and on its heads blasphemous names,” the verse says.

But Makenzi claimed the name was encoded, and one needed a “Bible Code”, a computer programme, to decode Obama’s reference in the verse. Never mind, he had already forbid his followers from pursuing or taking the benefit of education.

Makenzi was so obsessed with the mark of the beast he composed songs on it, and appears on videos in oversize clad, hopelessly dancing to it. He warned of false prophets, but he was clearly one of them.

In October 2014, Makenzi showed another side to his good self, promoting dialogue between Christians and Muslims in Malindi. He staged a dialogue debate at his church featuring local Muslim preachers and his own Christian colleagues, to debate the question whether Jesus Christ was indeed God.

They told him, at the inception of the debate, that the correct religion under the sun is Islam. Makenzi immediately conceded, accepting that Islam was indeed a religion, just like other religions in the world. This was much unlike the Makenzi people knew, one who opposed to the core any teachings which did centre on Christ.

In another seminar in Tononoka in 2019, Makenzi unwittingly gave himself away on the matter of medicine. He told worshippers that the year before, he had been afflicted by an unending cough which gave him sleepless and sweaty nights and days.

He said one night as he struggled with his ailment, God appeared to him and directed him to his tonsils and he woke up his mother who assured him they had not been removed when he was a child. He claimed he looked at himself in the mirror and indeed they were the source of his problem.

“My brother took me to hospital, and they were removed. I did not do any scans or X-Ray. The holy spirit had scanned me. As soon as they were out, I was ok and I have not had that problem again,” he said.

There was Makenzi, announcing he had sought medical help in hospital when he preached against modern medicine.

Sometimes in November 2019, Makenzi announced that he was closing down his ministry because his work on earth was done. He had been speaking only that which God told him to speak, and since there were no more messages coming from him, he was calling it quits. He claimed the closure was ordered by God who told him that his days on the pulpit were finished. He claimed people would no longer see him since “the light that shone over Kenya will now be put off.”

Yet long after that, Makenzi continued to preach on television and in various parts of the country. He continued to re-mix his old tapes and share on the internet. Clearly, he was not done yet.... until Shakahola happened.