Inside exploits of Kilifi's man of God under probe over boys' deaths

Pastor Paul Nthenge Mackenzie in court. [Nehemiah Okwembah, Standard]

Pastor Paul Nthenge Mackenzie was arrested on Wednesday in connection with the starvation deaths of two boys in Magarini, Kilifi county. His rise began shortly after the opening of his church in 2003.

On Friday, March 24, Mackenzie said he was unaware of the events that led to the deaths of the two boys, saying he was the target of hostile propaganda from some of his former colleagues.

He said he closed his Malindi church in 2019 after completing his mission. However, according to police and former church members, some of his followers followed him to Chakama, where he owns a farm and a camp.

"The boys died in their parents' house in Chakama, Magarini constituency, about six kilometres from my farm. I'm not sure why the police arrested me," Mackenzie said.

In 2003, Mackenzie established the Good News International Church in Malindi. He became famous overnight due to his sermons, which always put him in the crosshairs of the authorities.

In 2017, state agencies arrested Mackenzie and his wife, Joyce Mwikamba, and charged them with incitement and indoctrination of children in Malindi, Kilifi county.

According to the police, Mackenzie's sermons against modernism, including education, spread like wildfire throughout Kilifi county, resulting in massive school dropouts in the area.

The church's website states that his followers have grown in number since its inception, and he now commands a congregation of more than 1,000 in the Malindi church and more than 3,000 across all branches.

"God's teachings, preaching, and prophecy on end times commonly referred to as eschatology is aired through the gospel programme 'End Time Messages' viewed on decoders," the website says.

The two pleaded not guilty to charges of indoctrinating children and promoting radicalisation. He was arrested again in 2019 after launching crusades against Huduma Namba.

State agencies raided his church in Malindi's Furunzi neighbourhood and confiscated what they called deceptive videos against Huduma Namba listing.

Detectives who raided the church said they found videos dubbed "End Times," which linked the Huduma Namba to the 666 mark of the beast.

The number 666 is used to represent the devil, antichrist, or evil in general in the Book of Revelations. It is revealed in 13:18 in the King James Version of the Bible.

Days later, he was charged with disobeying the law, religious incitement, and indoctrination of children to drop out of school because "it is satanic" in a Malindi court.

His sermons, however, enraged the highest office in the land, with President Uhuru Kenyatta publicly rebuking him, saying he was abusing his position as a cleric to mislead worshippers.

"I respect preachers because I am a Christian. I was surprised, however, to hear some of them claim that the Huduma Namba is the devil's number," Uhuru said.

Mackenzie was released in 2019 on Sh1 million bond with the option of Sh500,000 bail. The case is still being heard in a Malindi court.

Aside from anti-education and Huduma Namba sermons, the pastor encourages his followers to quit their jobs and devote their time to prayer and fasting because the end time is near.

Mackenzie said on Friday that he closed his church in 2019 after "completing my work of prophecy to the world," and that the Huduma Namba was still a mark of the beast.

"I wish to be referred to as Mr Mackenzie and not Pastor Mackenzie because I completed God's work. I insist that the Huduma Namba is satanic," he said on Friday.

Mackenzie added that he closed his ministry together with the Good News International Church digital TV in 2019 and had nothing to do with the death of the two children.

"I no longer run a church. I delivered the message that God sent me to deliver," he said.

Mackenzie said he will cooperate with the police investigation into the death of the two boys whose father resigned from the General Service Unit (GSU) after joining the church.

"It is propaganda against me. I forgive all those who have linked me to these deaths," said Mackenzie.

Meanwhile, the person who brought to light the case of the two boys was attacked and injured on Thursday by some villagers in Shakahola.

Police in Malindi said the two boys died of starvation after being told to fast for 40 days to avoid the "imminent painful death of children around the world."

Humphrey Ngonyo, the whistleblower, said he was a former member of Nthenge's church in Malindi, but "I saw light and quit."

"The deceased boys are my nephews. Their father was a GSU officer, but he resigned after joining the church," said Ngonyo, who also accused police of laxity.

He said after learning that parents were starving their children, he informed the Chakama location's chief, but administration officials did nothing.

"When I learned that children were being starved to death, I informed the chief of Chakama, but little was done. I then went to the Lango Baya police station and we rescued one child," Ngonyo said.

He was brutally assaulted, however, on Thursday while accompanying human rights activists to the farm.

He said a crowd of youth and church faithful attacked him for reporting the matter to the police. The two children who starved to death were hurriedly buried, with relative Lewis Goya Siria questioning why the pathologists didn't visit the scene.

"The bodies were to be exhumed today but I am wondering why the government did not turn up despite a court order," he said.

The 47-year-old pastor appeared before Malindi Resident Magistrate Olga Onalo on Thursday after the investigating officer requested time to conclude investigations.

Those who died, the court heard, were buried at the farm and their shallow graves flattened to conceal evidence.

Mackenzie's lawyer Elisha Komora said the investigating officers had failed to link his client to the deaths.

Yesterday Malindi sub-county police boss John Kemboi said more children may have been forced to fast as the church had a near-fanatical following in the Magarini constituency.

"We are planning on the day we will go to exhume the bodies of the boys. We first need to ascertain whether there are more deaths but we are sure more children were starved," said Kemboi.

He said the third boy who was rescued after going for 20 days without food is in stable condition. "We will arrest the parents for starving the children," Kemboi said.

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