An alarming death toll has been reported in South-eastern Kenya where at least 21 corpses and 58 suspected graves have been found.
Reports have it that the death toll is connected to a suicide advice from a so-called pastor to members of his church, asking them to starve themselves and kill their children in order to “meet Jesus.”
Police confirmed on Saturday that at least 21 bodies have been retrieved so far from shallow graves in the Shakahola forest near Malindi, a coastal town about 100 kilometers North-east of Mombasa, with the majority believed to be children.
In one grave, investigators found the bodies of three children with their father on one side and their mother on the other side. Another grave contained the bodies of a woman and a girl, both facing each other. All appeared to have died in recent weeks.
At least 58 suspected graves on the grounds of the Good News International Church have been discovered by the Police, raising fears that the death toll will rise significantly. One Kenyan media outlet reported that more than a 100 people may have been buried in the graves.
A police source spoke to news media about the matter, saying, “We have not even scratched the surface which gives a clear indication that we are likely to get more bodies by the end of this exercise.”
15 members of the church were previously rescued but only 11 of them made it alive to the hospital. If the four who died were added to the 21, that would make the total number of confirmed deaths 25.
It was also reported that other members of the church scampered and fled upon seeing the police, and they are still at large.
The Kenyan Police started investigations on the matter after report of two boys killed by starved and suffocated by their parents based on a misguided advice concerning how to ‘meet Jesus.’ The Police also received intel that a certain Pastor Paul Mackenzie Nthenge was advising his followers on such barbarism.
“We went for an operation in Shakahola after receiving information that there is a person who is radicalizing people – or rather brainwashing people – that they should starve their children to death so that they can see God in the future,” said police investigator Charles Kamau, following the pastors arrest.
Mackenzie and six of his followers remain in police custody, but the cult leader is now on a hunger strike himself. “He has not taken even a glass of water,” according to a police source.
Mackenzie, who previously told a reporter that “education is evil,” was also arrested in 2017 after police raided his church and rescued more than 90 children, some of whom described his teachings as satanic while others defended him with quotes from the Bible. Mackenzie was later released and moved his church to Shakahola.