Kenya: ban on churches accused of murdering their starved worshipers

Kenya bans churches accused of murdering their starved worshipers

Kenyan authorities have banned five churches including that of a pastor accused of inciting more than 400 followers to fast to death, according to a government document.

The Registrar of Associations said self-proclaimed pastor Paul Nthenge Mackenzie's Good News International Church license was canceled on 19 May.

The self-proclaimed pastor had urged followers of his movement to fast to death to 'meet Jesus', a case that shook Kenyans after dead bodies were found in Shakahola Forest near the coastal town of Malindi.

So far, 425 bodies have been found in this forest.

Although most of the victims died of starvation, autopsies also revealed that some, including children, were strangled, beaten or suffocated.

Authorities also banned four other churches, including the New Life Prayer Center and Church, run by Mackenzie-linked televangelist Ezekiel Odero.

Odero is being investigated on charges of murder, assisted suicide, radicalization and money laundering.

His arrest in April came after the human remains were found in Shakahola Forest.

Prosecutors linked the two preachers, but Odero was released on bail in May while last week a court extended Mackenzie's detention for another 47 days pending further investigation.

A predominantly Christian country, Kenya faces the uncontrolled proliferation of churches and sects whose unscrupulous leaders border on criminality.

Previous attempts by the government to control these movements have met with fierce opposition, with critical voices denouncing an attack on constitutional guarantees regarding the separation between church and state.

There are 4.000 registered churches in Kenya, a country of 53 million people, according to government figures.

Many, led by charismatic pastors, preach the so-called prosperity gospel, calling on congregants to make substantial donations to their church in exchange for the promise of improving their own financial situation.

The Editorial Board (with AFP)

Image credit: Shutterstock/ Hyotographics

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