A macabre cult in Shakahola, Kilifi County, has left dozens of people missing, including a Nairobi-based General Service Unit (GSU) officer, his wife, and his mother. The officer, Isaac Ngala, 36, his wife Emily Wanje, 35, and his mother joined the cult between 2019 and 2020, according to close family members.
The bodies of two of Mr Ngala’s children have already been exhumed and identified by the family. The ongoing investigation has also seen more than 90 bodies exhumed, including the children of cult members. The couple’s third child, Ephraim Gandi, was rescued earlier in the week.
Ms Wanje completed her Diploma in Community Development from the Technical University of Kenya in 2014, after which she married her GSU lover. One year into their marriage, she secured employment as an Early Childhood Development and Education (ECDE) teacher at a local school in Malindi, Kilifi County, where she worked until she went missing in 2020. Mr Ngala was lured to join the controversial Pastor Paul Mackenzie’s Good News International Church after leaving his employment when their second-born child was six months old. A year later, in 2020, Mr Ngala convinced his wife to resign from her work and join him at the church so that they could serve God together.
“In fact, he used to tell her, working was ungodly!” said Emily’s sister, Winnie Wanje. The couple left their Malindi home for Lamu County in 2020, saying they had secured a two-acre parcel of land that they needed to develop. The family later learned that it was donated to them by Pastor Paul Mackenzie. The couple, along with Emily’s mother-in-law, are among many people missing, and their mobile phones have been switched off.
The family grew suspicious about the church when schools resumed after they were closed down due to Covid-19, as Emily refused to send her eldest son back to school, saying their church was against it. According to Winnie, on March 15, Emily’s father-in-law, who was also a member of the church, managed to escape from Shakahola and informed the family about the happenings in the Good News International Church.
Together with other villagers, the family organized a rescue mission in the forest, but the three were not found. They managed to rescue her eight-year-old nephew, who was in critical condition. It is the minor who informed them that his two siblings had died from starvation. “After recovery, the boy told us that his brothers had died three days before his rescue and that they were even buried.
He revealed to us that he had fasted for seven days without eating anything, and the parents escaped together with the rest. We did not want to exhume the bodies without following the due process. We reported the matter to the police, and it is what led to the busting of the now Shakahola massacre,” Winnie said.
The cult’s activities have caused shock and horror throughout Kenya. The police are currently conducting investigations, and several members have been arrested. The incident highlights the dangers of cults and the importance of staying alert and seeking help if something doesn’t seem right. It is also a reminder of the devastating impact that misguided beliefs can have on families and communities.