How two boys starved to death on pastor's word

Pastor Paul Makenzi of Good News International Church during his arrest on Wednesday. [Marion Kithi, Standard]

Two boys starved to death in Kilifi County after a pastor allegedly instructed their parents to lock them in a room to fast, supposedly saving them from an "imminent painful death of children in the world."

Malindi sub-County police boss John Kemboi, who confirmed the deaths of the two boys, said they rescued a third boy who was severely malnourished after going without food and water for 20 days.

The police report states that Pastor Paul Makenzi of Good News International Shakahola in Magarini urged his congregation to fast and die before a deadly disease struck the world.

Makenzi told his worshipers there would be "gnashing of teeth and weeping" as he warned them of a painful death process. He claimed those who survived would regret not dying sooner, according to the police.

According to Mr Kemboi, the congregation began fasting earlier this month, with parents locking their children in a room to prevent them from eating.

Villagers who were interviewed said the pastor claimed he would intercede with God for those who had fasted and prayed but not died by the time calamity struck.

The police boss said that Makenzi was arrested yesterday at his church, where he was found encouraging his congregation to continue fasting despite the children's deaths.

"He told us that God had directed him to save mankind from the looming pain," said Kemboi. "We have already confirmed that two children died and were buried last week. But we understand that more have died under similar circumstances, so an investigation is ongoing."

The children's parents, Isaac Ngala and Emily Kaunga, are also listed as suspects. Kemboi said the children died a painful death and the parents did not intervene.

"It wasn't a fast; it was neglect. The law makes it clear that you have to provide food to children. When you lock your children in the house and the parents are the only ones who can leave, it stops being a fast and becomes starvation and neglect," he said.

Investigating officer Joseph Yator confirmed that a seven-year-old boy was rescued, though extremely emaciated.

According to Francis Wanje, the grandfather of the deceased boys, the pastor ordered a religious fast lasting up to 40 days for the children. Wanje reported the incident to the police after his grandsons' deaths. One boy was buried on Wednesday last week and the other died two days later.

The Malindi Court on Thursday ordered the exhumation of the minors' bodies for forensic analysis.

"The government pathologist and officers from the Directorate of Criminal Investigation in Malindi will supervise the exhumation exercise, and the sub-county police commander and area OCS will provide security. Exhumed bodies will be examined, and DNA and toxicological samples taken," said Mr Yator.