HomeShakahola MassacrePresident Ruto Likens Controversial Pastor to a Terrorist Using Religion to Advance...

President Ruto Likens Controversial Pastor to a Terrorist Using Religion to Advance “Weird and Unacceptable Ideologies”

  • EDITORIAL BRIEF: Attempts to regulate religion in Kenya have been fiercely opposed in the past as attempts to undermine constitutional guarantees for a division between church and state.

President William Ruto has compared controversial pastor Paul Mackenzie of the Good News International Church to a terrorist who has used religion to advance “weird and unacceptable ideologies” after radicalizing thousands, some of whom starved to death. The President expressed deep concern over the revelations in Kilifi’s Shakahola forest, where over 40 bodies have been exhumed so far, with many more believed to be buried there.

“What we are seeing in Kilifi, in Shakahola, is akin to terrorists. There is no difference between Mackenzie who pretends and postures as a pastor when, in fact, he is a terrible criminal,” Ruto said. Speaking at the pass-out parade of the Kenya Prisons Service cadets, the President called on Kenyans and different agencies in the country to be on the lookout for those who want to abuse the religious sector and those masquerading as religious persons.

“Terrorists use religion to advance their heinous acts. People like Mackenzie are using religion to do the same thing,” he added. A full-scale investigation has been launched into the Good News International Church and its leader since police stormed the forest at Shakahola and discovered the first bodies last week. The Head of State said that he had instructed the agencies responsible to take up the matter and get to the root cause of the activities of the people who want to use religion to mislead Kenyans in the name of religion.

Over the weekend, dozens more corpses were unearthed, and an 800-acre (325-hectare) area of woodland declared a crime scene as authorities seek to understand the true scale of the so-called “Shakahola Forest Massacre.” Inspector General of Police Japhet Koome was expected to visit the site on Monday where teams clad in overalls have been scouring for more burial pits and possible cult survivors.

A number of people have already been rescued and taken to hospital in Malindi on the Indian Ocean coast. A rights group that tipped off police about the movement and its extreme practices said at least one of those rescued had refused to eat despite being in clear physical distress. The Kenya Red Cross said 112 people had been reported missing to its support staff at Malindi.

The cult leader, Makenzie Nthenge, turned himself in to police and was charged last month, according to local media, after two children starved to death in the custody of their parents. He has since been released on bail of 100,000 Kenyan shillings.

The government has flagged the need for tighter control of religious denominations in a country where rogue pastors and fringe movements have been involved in crime. Interior Minister Kithure Kindiki, who has announced he would visit the site on Tuesday, described the case as “the clearest abuse of the constitutionally enshrined human right to freedom of worship.”

“Any religious institution that teaches against seeking medical attention or going to school, those responsible should be prosecuted, and those religious institutions should be closed down because they are working against the collective interest of the people of Kenya,” the president said.

The President went on to say that “people like Mackenzie and all other terrorists and criminals do not belong to any religion they belong to jail, and that is where they should be.” The grim case has gripped national attention, and it is hoped that a full-scale investigation will be able to get to the bottom of the matter and ensure that justice is served.

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