Fears of mass suicide after pastor Paul Makenzi's doomsday deadline lapses

Suspected cult leader Paul Makenzi at Shanzu Law Courts. [Omondi Onyango, Standard]

Detectives at the Coast are on high alert, fearful that survivors of Shakahola Forest doomsday cult that has claimed 425 lives, might be planning a mass suicide.

The fears are borne of the fact that the suspected cult leader, Paul Makenzi, had declared August as the last month for the followers to fast to meet Jesus before the annihilation of the world.

State prosecutor Alexander Jami said he has applied to the court to transfer the 65 survivors from a rescue centre to a prison for close monitoring.

“In prison, the government will make sure they are forced to eat and treated in case of any ailment to thwart their attempt to take their lives by fasting or committing suicide,” said Jami in an application.

Filed before Shanzu Chief Magistrate Joe Omido on July 24, the application says there was credible intelligence Makenzi’s followers were making a strenuous attempt to commit suicide as the alternative route to go heaven.

“Police have received credible intelligence that the respondents could attempt another departure of their souls to heaven to the extreme belief system by whatever means now that the fasting method may no longer be efficient at an unknown date to be determined by their spiritual leader Makenzi whose edicts and instructions flow from alleged dreams and visions from Jesus and which the police have no control over, including that method of departing their physical existence where discipline and security mechanisms at the present facility are weak,” said Jami.

He said Sajahanadi Rescue Centre at Mtwapa in Kilifi County does not have enough personnel to guarantee security for the cult followers.

Detectives said they draw lessons from the US, Japan, and other parts of the world where cults have devised new methods to commit suicide once their anticipated doomsday fails to happen.


“Of course, we are aware that the resolve of the cult members could be real and may end their lives in August as prophesied by their leader,” said a senior detective in Mombasa.

As of 19 July, the number of bodies retrieved from the Shakahola forest stood at 425. The state believes the victims were lured by Makenzi to starve to death to “meet Jesus”.

Several survivors said the preacher told them that children would be the first ones to die by the end of April, followed by women at the end of June, and men at the end of July. Makenzi and his wife would follow in August.

Some 65 members of the quasi-religious cult were rescued from Shakahola forest where they were fasting to “go and meet Jesus in heaven”.

Makenzi and 30 suspects the state claim were his followers are detained at Shimo La Tewa Prison.

Jami said in the application that the state must preserve healthy lives and ensure their constitutional rights are advanced.

The DPP said Makenzi’s sermons undermine the state in its quest to preserve the lives of its citizens.

“And that is why the court should allow an application to have the 65 followers from Sajahanadi Rescue Centre to be detained at Shimo La Tewa prison,” he told the court.

Jamii, in the application, also revealed that most of the survivors housed at the Sijahanadi centre had given false names to the police investigating the cult’s activities.