Kenya cult deaths: 47 dead discovered in’starvation cult’ probe
Kenyan police have exhumed 47 remains near the coastal town of Malindi as part of their investigation into a preacher who allegedly encouraged his followers to starve to death.
Among the dead were the bodies of youngsters. Exhumations, according to police, are still taking place.
The shallow graves are located in Shakahola woodland, where 15 members of the Good News International Church were rescued just a few weeks ago.
Paul Makenzie Nthenge, the church’s leader, is being held in detention before his court appearance.
He was labeled as a “cult leader” by state radio KBC, and 58 graves have so far been identified.
One of the graves is thought to have the remains of five members of the same family – three children and their parents.
Mr Nthenge has denied any wrongdoing, but bail has been denied. He intends on closing his church in 2019.
He allegedly instructed followers to fast in order to “meet Jesus.”
Pathologists will gather DNA samples and run tests to determine whether the individuals died of malnutrition, according to the Kenyan daily The Standard.
On April 15, police detained Mr Nthenge after discovering the bodies of four people accused of starving themselves to death.
“When we are in this forest and come to an area where we see a big and tall cross, we know that means more than five people are buried there,” Victor Kaudo of the Malindi Social Justice Centre told Citizen TV.
Kenya’s interior minister, Kithure Kindiki, said the entire 800-acre woodland had been shut off and designated as a crime scene.
According to The Standard, Mr Nthenge allegedly named three villages Nazareth, Bethlehem, and Judea and baptized followers in ponds before urging them to fast.
Kenya is a devout country, and many have been persuaded into hazardous, unregulated churches or cults in the past.