HomeShakahola MassacreFrom Prosperity Gospel to Starvation Deaths: The Dark Side of Kenya's Independent...

From Prosperity Gospel to Starvation Deaths: The Dark Side of Kenya’s Independent Churches

In 2019, Kenyan pastor Paul Mackenzie Nthenge announced the closure of his Good News International Church, claiming that Jesus had told him that the work given to him had come to an end. However, instead of shutting down his church, he led his followers deep into the Shakahola forest, where he convinced them to starve to death in order to meet God.

The discovery of mass graves, with crucifixes on top, containing the remains of children and adults who had starved to death, has shaken Kenya to its core. There are more than 4,000 registered churches in the country, with some preaching the so-called prosperity gospel, while others operate with much darker consequences.

All tend to be dominated by leaders who exercise virtually unlimited control over members’ lives, twisting the Bible to promote their authority. A lack of theological education appears to have little effect on the Kenyan flock, with Stephen Akaranga, a professor of religion at the University of Nairobi, acknowledging that in recent years, such churches have mushroomed across rural Kenya, “where people have little information about schooling”.

A toxic cocktail of poverty, poor education, and easy access to entertaining online sermons has helped these cults thrive in Kenya, with devastating effects. In 2018, it was reported that a family had lost seven children within four years because their organisation did not believe in using hospitals and modern medicine.

In recent years, the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) has warned citizens to watch out for cults targeting university students. One cult called Young Blud Saints is known to target vulnerable individuals and expects members to sacrifice what they love most to prove loyalty to the organisation.

Despite repeatedly attracting police attention, Kenyan cults have managed to evade the law. Mackenzie fell foul of the law in 2017, after he was accused of urging children not to attend school, claiming the Bible did not recognise education. He was arrested again last month after two children starved to death in the custody of their parents.

The grisly findings in what has been dubbed the “Shakahola Forest Massacre” case and the mounting death toll — currently at 90 — have prompted calls to regulate religion in Kenya. President William Ruto has pledged a crackdown on “unacceptable” religious movements, comparing their leaders to terrorists, a position echoed by Interior Minister Kithure Kindiki.

Even clerics have flagged the need for regulation, with Calisto Odede, presiding bishop of the Pentecostal denomination, Christ Is The Answer Ministries, stating that “We need to be able to vet the messages we are hearing from some preachers.”

Efforts at regulation will likely run into stiff resistance. Independent churches have become very powerful in Kenya and have even played a role in national politics. They are known to provide support to their followers and offer services such as education, healthcare, and financial aid. These churches have become so powerful that they can sway election outcomes.

It is also important to note that not all independent churches engage in cult-like behaviour. Nonetheless, the government is under pressure to act, with Hussein Khalid, executive director of the rights group Haki Africa, stating that “Nothing prepares you for shallow mass graves of children.”

- Advertisement -spot_img
- Advertisement -spot_img
Stay Connected
[td_block_social_counter facebook="" manual_count_facebook="585000" manual_count_twitter="989" twitter="" manual_count_youtube="270000" style="style3 td-social-colored" f_counters_font_family="450" f_network_font_family="450" f_network_font_weight="700" f_btn_font_family="450" f_btn_font_weight="700" tdc_css="eyJhbGwiOnsibWFyZ2luLWJvdHRvbSI6IjMwIiwiZGlzcGxheSI6IiJ9fQ==" youtube=""]
Must Read
- Advertisement -spot_img
Related News


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

What Around You? Share the News