Paul Mackenzie (Kenya Cult Pastor)

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Paul Nthenge Mackenzie
Paul Mackenzie
Paul Mackenzie
ResidenceShakahola Village, Kilifi County
OrganizationGood News Intenational
Known forLeading a religious cult
Home townMalindi
TelevisionTimes TV
Criminal chargeManslaughter, conspiracy to murder, suicide pacts, aiding suicide, abduction, and assault
Criminal statusArrested
Spouse(s)Joyce Mwikamba (deceased 2017), Rhoda Mumbua Maweu
  • Anastacia Mwele (mother)
RelativesRobert Mbatha (brother), Domitila Kadogoo (sister)

Pastor Paul Mackenzie is a Kenyan religious leader most known for having convinced more than 200 followers to fast themselves to death, believing that they would have a chance to get to heaven before the end of the world. He founded and leads the Good News International Church. He said he believed he had spiritual and prophetic powers and claimed to have seen apparitions of Jesus.[1]

Mackenzie's cult has come to be known as the Malindi Cult. Malindi is a coastal town in Kenya near a forest called Shakahola in Kilifi county where Mackenzie has a farm. He used the farm as the burial ground for victims of the cult leading to the deaths being referred to as the Shakahola Forest Massacre.

According to reports, his cult was based on the teachings of the "Message" church founded by late US evangelical and cult leader William Marion Branham. Using Branham's teachings Mackenzie led his followers to believe that starving to death would help them escape the end of the world so they could be with Jesus.

Mackenzie reportedly created a starvation fasting schedule in which children and single people would starve first, followed by women and then men, and "Mackenzie and his family would go last".[2]

Investigators found scores of survivors in the bush, some refusing the food and water offered by the emergency services and others fleeing from rescuers.[2]


Paul Mackenzie was born fifth in 1973 in a family of 10 children, 7 boys, and 3 girls. Paul Mackenzie went to Mwalewa Primary School and Lukore secondary school.

He lived with an older brother in Mombasa for a while before relocating to Malindi where he became a taxi driver.

He married his first wife there and they had two children. The woman later died. Mackenzie then married Joyce and they had four children. The taxi work began in 1997 to around 2000. By then, Paul was a member of Malindi Fellowship Baptist church.[3]

His father died in 2009.

Good News International Church

Mackenzie is reported to have founded his Good News International Church in Malindi in 2003. In 2015 he moved his church to Migingo village in Malindi. In 2016 he acquired a TV station.[4] Mackenzie launched a YouTube channel in 2017, warning followers against "demonic" practices like wearing wigs and using mobile money in videos posted to the social media platform.[5]

In 2017 the Kenya Films and Classification Board (KFCB) banned Mackenzie's TV station for carrying radical "horrifying" content.[6]

The Cult

In early October 2017, police in Malindi arrested and detained Mackenzie, his wife, and 19 other followers as they investigated "wide and complex" offenses involving "indoctrinating children with extreme religious teachings."

Later that month, Mackenzie the 19 followers were released, but Mackenzie and his wife were charged with promoting radicalisation and failing to provide basic education to their three children. They were also charged with operating an unregistered school at their church location. The police rescued 93 children from the church premises. [7] Mackenzie was acquitted.[2]

Mackenzie's second wife, Joyce died in 2017. Mackenzie married Rhoda Mumbua Maweu soon after the death of his second wife.[8]

In 2018, Mackenzie was arrested, questioned, and released after residents complained of his anti-education teachings.[4]. That same year a Malindi MP Aisha Jumwa protested against Mackenzie and his church’s actions, saying the cult leader was giving bribes to security agencies to prevent the closure of the church and his prosecution after allegedly being arrested thrice and then released.[9]

Mackenzie moved his church to Shakahola with a few of his members who needed to start a new life. He closed his Good News International Church in Malindi in August 2019.[10]In Shakahola his homestead was on a 10-acre parcel in an area he christened "Bethlehem".[11]

Shakahola Forest Massacre

The murdered children

On 22 March 2023, police arrested Mackenzie for causing the death of two children, Seth Hinzano and Evabra Dito, at Shakahola village. The parents of the two children had allegedly forced them to fast and had eventually suffocated them to death believing that they were sparing them a difficult life to come from world-ending disasters. The children were buried in shallow graves at the farm. The mother's father commented to reporters:

. "Two of my grandchildren have already been buried, and the one who has been left was already preparing him to die and rest. Their pastor told them that there are disasters that are coming soon and they should not be given food until they die. My grandchildren died in those weird circumstances and now we are happy detectives have arrested the pastor," [12]

Mackenzie was released on bail. He commented on the arrest:

“I am shocked about the accusations placed before me. I closed my Good News International church in Malindi in August 2019 and it’s important for people to accept that. I even sold the equipment there and the chairs as well. If a person used to worship with me then, they should do it on their own now and not by my name. Follow Christ and not pastor Mackenzie”[10]

A Malindi court ordered was given to exhume the bodies of the two children, but exhumations were not done for a period of 2 weeks due to the absence of a government pathologist.

A raid on Shakahola

On 13 April, police raided a house at Mackenzie's Shakahola farm where a prayer session was being held. 15 people were found and of these 2 were already dead, 2 more died later before they could be treated and 11 were rescued and taken to hospital. Said the police:

"We have received reports of ignorant citizens starving to death under the pretext of meeting Jesus after being brainwashed by a suspect, Makenzie Nthenge, a pastor of Good News International Church.[13]

Of those rescued, 2 women refused food and medical assistance saying they were ready to die for their faith. Another man who accepted assistance said he would continue to follow Paul Mackenzie. [1]

Police revealed they were investigating reports that there could be a mass grave in the area where the villagers were worshipping.

“It is said there are graves of Mackenzie believers believed to be in the forest, while more believers claim to hide in the forest to continue fasting until they die. We have taken steps to conduct an operation to determine

the truth of the allegations,"[1]

Mackenzie re-arrested

On 17 April a Malindi court canceled the Sh10,000 bail issued to Mackenzie in March. He was arrested together with 13 others and charged with manslaughter, conspiracy to murder, suicide pacts, aiding suicide, abduction, and assault. The others arrested were Robert Kahindi Katana, Alfred Asena, Sanga Stephen Muye, Gedion Mbithi Kioko, Joseph Kenga Mbogoli, Stephen Ominde Lwangu, Collins Kabae, Felix Wandera, David Ambaya, Mercy Auko, Jane Nyaboke, Paul Karisa and Allan Robiko[14]

Mackenzie and some of his followers in court. Credit: Nation Media

Massgrave mapping and discovery of bodies

On 19 April forensic experts, three pathologists, and crime scene analysts started mapping potential graves of victims at Shakahola village with the assistance of witnesses. About 19 sites thought to be mass graves were mapped for excavation.[15]

By 21 April, 32 grave sites had been identified. On 21 April 7 bodies were exhumed, with homicide detectives revealing the body count could be much bigger. [16]

Shakahola forest massacres bodies exhumed. Credit: Nation Media

On Saturday 22 April, the death toll stood at 17. At one abandoned house near a mass grave, the police found a note titled 'The mark of the Beast End Time Messages'.[16]

On Sunday 23 April, 18 more bodies were exhumed, bringing the death toll to 39. Interior Cabinet Secretary Kithure Kindiki has said he will visit Shakahola Village on Tuesday even as he called on the Coast Regional Commissioner and security chiefs to reinforce the team currently carrying out exhumation at Mackenzie’s land.

In a statement, Kenya's Interior Cabinet Secretary Kithure Kindiki said the deaths were “the clearest abuse of the constitutionally enshrined human right to freedom of worship.”[9]

On 24 April, Kenya President Ruto commented:

"What we are seeing in Kalifi, in Shakahola is akin to terrorists. There's no difference between Mr. Mackenzie who pretends and postures as a pastor when in fact he's a terrible criminal."


President Ruto also said there was the possibility of Mackenzie facing terror charges.

On 24 April, the death toll reached 65. On the same day, police found and arrested a man who identified himself as Pastor Zablon wa Yesu. He was found reading a Bible in the village. The man was not fasting and police said he was a potential co-mastermind of the cult deaths.

On 25 April, the death toll rose to 90.

On 26 April, the death toll was 98.

On 27 April the body count reached 109.

Shakahola forsst massacre mass grave site

Excavations were temporarily suspended due to heavy rain.

At the end of April, Mackenziee's mother, Anastacia Mwele Mackenzie, said her son was innocent of the deaths.

“I am surprised by the accusations leveled against my fifth born. Why am I not starving like his mother? Why am I not dead? If he killed those people, let me not wake up tomorrow. Let me go to hell. Anyway, that is the way of the world. It chooses what it wants from you and mercilessly discards the rest. My son remains innocent.”[3]

At the end of April 2023, another pastor Ezekiel Ombok Odero who led a different church, New Life Prayer Centre and Church was arrested under suspicion on of crimes including murder, aiding suicide, abduction, radicalisation, crimes against humanity, child cruelty, fraud, and money laundering. Prosecutors linked Odero to Mackenize, describing the two as individuals who share a history of business investment, particularly the Timees TV station previously used to pass radicalised messages to their followers. Police established that some of the bodies exhumed at Shakahola were people that that died at Odero's church, who were then transported to Shakahola for burial.[18]

Autopsies conducted on some of the bodies in early May revealed they had died of starvation. The results also revealed some people, mostly children, but adults as well had also been suffocated.[19]

On 2 May police arrested Mackenzie's wife, Rhoda Mumbua Maweu.[8]

On 5 May, President William Ruto formed a Commission of Inquiry to investigate the Shakahola cult deaths.

On 9 May it was revealed in court documents that documents filed in court that some victims may have had their organs harvested before they were buried in mass graves.[20]

On 9 May the death toll reached 133.

On 10 May the death toll reached 145. The government revoked the registration of Mackenzie and Odero's churches. Kenya has about 40,000 registered religious organisations.

On 11 May, the death toll reached 150.

On 13 May, the death toll surpassed 200.[21]

On 15 May 2023, President William Ruto asked for forgiveness for the Shakahola mass murders, acknowledging laxity and complacency by some government agencies.

On 16 May, the death toll reached 211.

On 17 May, the death toll reached 227.

On 18 May, the death toll reached 235.

On 22 May, the death toll reached 240. On the same day, the High Court suspended operations of the Shakahola Commission for seven days pending a detailed ruling. This was a result of an application by a coalition led by opposition leader Raila Odinga to stop the commission from sitting.


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Alex Kalama & Farhiya Hussein Fasting to ‘meet Jesus’: Kilifi sect survivors ready to perish in faith, Nation Media, Published: 15 Apr 2023, Accessed: 22 May 2023
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 AFP, Shakahola cult: Mackenzie and his family were to fast last, ex-follower says, Nation Media, Published:29 Apr 2023, Accessed:22 May 2023
  3. 3.0 3.1 Kennedy Kimanthi, Mackenzie’s mother: If he is a killer, then let me die, Nation Media, Published:29 Apr 2023, Accessed:22 May 2023
  4. 4.0 4.1 Pastor Paul Mackenzie's Journey, Citizen TV Kenya, Published: 24 April 2023, Accessed:22 May 2023
  5. How did this happen? Paul Mackenzie was always hiding in plain sight, Nation Media, Published:25 April 2023, Accessed:22 May 2023
  6. Ezekiel Mutua: We flagged Mackenzie's content years ago, Standard Media, Published:25 April 2023, Accessed:22 May 2023
  7. Pastor Makenzi charged with radicalisation, Nation Media, Published:17 Oct 2017, Accessed: 23 May 2023
  8. 8.0 8.1 Police arrest Paul Mackenzie's wife amid probe into Shakahola cult, Nation, Published: 02 May 2023, Accessed:22 May 2023
  9. 9.0 9.1 Kilifi cult probe: Horror as 18 more bodies found bringing death toll to 39, Nation Media, Published: 23 April 2023, Accessed:22 May 2023
  10. 10.0 10.1 Farhiya Hussein & Alex Kalama, Unmasking Paul Mackenzie, the preacher linked to children’s death, Nation Media, Published:25 Mar 2023, Accessed:22 May 2023
  11. Farhiya Hussein & Alex Kalama, Inside Kilifi's 'Bethlehem' where cult members starved to death 'in the name of God', Nation Media, Published:19 Apr 2023, Accessed:22 May 2023
  12. Mother from hell: Woman starved, suffocated to death own children to ‘please God’, Nation Media, Published:23 Mar, Accessed: 22 May 2023
  13. Alex Kalama & Farhiya Hussein, Cult or church? Four dead, 10 rescued as Kilifi ‘prayer session’ turns tragic, Nation Media, Published:14 Apr 2023, Accessed:22 May 2023
  14. Alex Kalama & Farhiya Hussein, Kilifi pastor, accomplices detained for 14 days over cult deaths, Nation Media, Published: 18 April 2023, Accessed:22 May 2023
  15. Mass graves, starving faithful at Pastor Mackenzie’s church, Nation Media, Published:21 Apr 2023, Accessed:22 May 2023
  16. 16.0 16.1 Detectives uncover horror of cult’s secret graves in Kilifi, Nation Media, Published:22 Apr 2023, Accessed:22 May 2023
  17. Ruto speaks on Shakahola cult: 'Paul Mackenzie belongs in jail', Nation on YouTube, Published: 24 April 2023, Accessed:22 May 2023
  18. Pastor Ezekiel Odero suspected of links to Shakahola deaths: Police, Nation, Published: 29 Apr 20123, Accessed:22 May 2023
  19. Wachira Mwangi & Alex Kalama, Post-mortem shows Shakahola adult cult victim ‘was suffocated’, Nation, Published:23 May 2023, Accessed:22 May 2023
  20. Brian Ocharo, ‘Some of the Shakahola cult victims had their organs missing’, Nation, Published:9 May 2023, Accessed:22 May 2023
  21. Shakahola cult: Number of exhumed bodies crosses 200 mark, Nation, Published: 09 May 2023, Accessed:22 May 2023

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