It all began in 2003. Evangelical pastor Paul Mackenzie joined forces with a woman named Ruth Kahindi to create their own church. But Kahindi had no idea what that would lead to. Now, 20 years later, over 300 dead bodies have been exhumed, and more than 600 people are still reported missing, all because of Mackenzie’s “church," which seems much more like a cult.
As families worry about the whereabouts of their loved ones and other families mourn their losses, we can’t help but wonder where Mackenzie is now. Is he being punished for his crimes, or is he on the run?
Now, Paul Mackenzie is in police custody in Kenya.
Despite the over 300 bodies found, the Kenyan doomsday cult leader, Paul Mackenzie, maintains his innocence. The red flags began a few years into the creation of Mackenzie and Kahindi’s Good News International Church. Kahindi told Daily Nation, “He started preaching things that we did not agree with, telling the congregants not to take their children to school or to go to the hospital when they were sick. I tried to talk him out of it, but unfortunately, I did not succeed.”
While this happened, Mackenzie’s wife passed away, and he went into his total modern-day persona. He encouraged his followers to quit their jobs, pull their kids out of school, and starve themselves and their children to prepare for the world's end. He said they would get into heaven quicker by starving themselves because heaven will fill up, and the gates will close. It may sound like a stretch to us but many of these people have been following and trusting Mackenzie for decades.
In 2019, he closed the church and encouraged his followers to go with him to the Shakahola Forest in Eastern Kenya, which he called “The Holy Land.” He first told them that its magic would shield them from the apocalypse but later said doomsday would come sooner than expected in April 2023 instead of August 2023.
But when a family member grew suspicious of Mackenzie when he was worried about his nephews, officials investigated and found two of the man’s nephews deceased, and a third nephew nearly starved to death. Mackenzie was taken into police custody, but when he claimed he was no longer a pastor and shirked any responsibility for their deaths, he was released on $109 bail. Yes, only $109!
Paul Mackenzie led a Kenya doomsday cult to a fate of mass murder-suicide, not dissimilar to Jonestown.
To this day, the Jonestown mass suicide is still the largest known mass murder-suicide in history. It took place in 1978 in Jonestown, Guyana when Jim Jones essentially forced his followers to take their own lives (and, in some cases, the lives of others) in the event that would result in 918 deaths. But now, the Kenya doomsday cult could give Jonestown a run for its money.
With over 300 bodies already found in shallow mass graves in the Shakahola Forest and over 600 people reported missing, Mackenzie could be responsible for almost 1,000 deaths. Thankfully, after more suspicious family members came forward, another police raid found much more than they expected. Mackenzie turned himself in to the police on April 14.
Even still, Mackenzie maintains his innocence. He hasn’t yet been forced to plead, but when he does, we wouldn’t be surprised if he pleaded not guilty. And despite what he preaches, Mackenzie has no problem eating. His lawyer George Kariuki told CNN, “He eats and drinks. He is healthy. I have met him personally. There have been rumors that he has refused to eat, and that is not true.”
If his followers ever questioned why he ate, he would tell them that he needed the energy to spread the gospel and that he would follow them into heaven last. But it seems his widespread indoctrination will have consequences. He’s now being held without bail and could face murder and terrorism charges.
Some might wonder why he would convince people to starve themselves, and one theory is that it was for organ harvesting. Most exhumed bodies have been found without organs, and there is a high demand for organs on the black market. The other alternative is that Mackenzie really believes what he preaches, although his lack of starvation makes that unlikely.