Fathima Azmiya Badurdeen & David G. Bromley

Good News International Ministries


1973/1976:  Paul Nthenge Mackenzie was born.

1999-2000s:  Mackenzie worked as a taxi driver.

1999-2000:  Mackenzie reported receiving a calling from God in which he was instructed to preach.

2003:    Mackenzie founded the House of the Lord (later registered as the Good News International Church) in Malindi with Ruth Kahindi.

2003:  Mackenzie was married for the first time to Agnes (“Mama Dan).

2009/2010:  “Mama Dan” died.

2009/2010:  Mackenzie’s father died.

2010:  Mackenzie’s sermons received considerable visibility as they were viewed as radical and contentious.

2010 (September):  Good News International Church was registered and issued a  certificate.

2011:  Mackenzie married his second wife, Joyce Mwikamba.

2015:  Mackenzie’s TV station and YouTube channel launched successfully.

2017:  Mackenzie’s second wife died after a period of ill health.

2017 (October):  Police took custody of ninety-three children in the group and charged Mackenzie with “promoting radicalization.”  

2018:  One of Makenzie’s churches in Magarini, Kilifi County was destroyed by local residents.

2019:  Mackenzie was arrested on the grounds of possession and distribution of films to the public without due authorization by Kenya Film Classification Board (KFCB).

2019:  Mackenzie officially closed his church after reporting that he heard that the voice of Christ told him his work was complete.

2019:  Mackenzie and a few hundred followers left Malindi and established an enclave in sparsely populated Shakahola Forest.

2020 (March):  COVID-19 was first reported in Kenya.

2020 (October):  An extended period without rainfall began creating the worst drought conditions in forty years.

2023 (March 16-17):  It was revealed that two bodies of children were buried by their parents Isaac Ngala, Emily Kaunga, and Paul Mackenzie.

2023 (April 15):  Mackenzie was arrested after the exhuming of ninety bodies in Shakahola Forest.

2023 (April 27):  Pastor Ezekial Odero, the head of the New Life Prayer and Centre, was arrested in Malindi as a result of his alleged links to Mackenzie’s movement.

2023 (April 28):  A total of 109 bodies were exhumed from Shakahola Forest, and twenty-two associated with Mackenzie’s movement were arrested.

2023 (May 1):    Paul Mackenzie’s wife, Rhoda Mumbua Maweu, was arrested by the police for her crucial role in recruitment and financial decisions in Mackenzie’s church operations.

2023 (May 4):    Pastor Ezekiel Odero was released on a cash bail.

2023 (June 19):  Suspect Joseph Juma Buyuka died in custody during a ten-day hunger strike.

2023 (July):  The Kenyan government de-registered five religious organizations, including Paul Mackenzie’s Good News International Ministries.

2023 (September 18):  Authorities in Keyna extended the detention of Paul Mackenzie 180 days, through February 2024 so that all of the remains recovered to date can be medically processed.

2023 (October):  The number of recorded deaths associated with the Shakahola site surpassed 450.

2023 (November):  Mackenzie was found guilty on showing films on his television station
without the approval of the Kenya Film Classification Board.

2024 (January 31):  The Cabinet Secretary for Interior and National Administration declared Good News International Ministries to be an organized criminal group.


The revolution in the structure and place of religion in Kenya, of which the Good News Ministries is part, is one element in the larger transformations of the world order. The groups involved in this reordering defy easy summary as “The qualities displayed by revitalized faiths are thus a complex configuration of old and new, uniform and diverse, the global and thoroughly domesticated” (Comaroff 2015:231). As she has described this transformative process (2015:232):

There has also been a widespread popular impetus, in the early 21st Century world, toward redefining the role of religion in the civic order; a widespread effort to recover a sense of authenticity and sovereign authority in the world. All this implies thoroughgoing structural transformation. Indeed, there is much to suggest that the character of contemporary faith is integral to a reorganization of core components of capitalist modernity as a social formation, a world-wide process that has specific implications for postcolonial Africa. This shift has involved an intensification of some signature features of modern society, and an eclipse of others, a process made manifest in the changing ethos and institutional form of liberal democracies across the world. These changes vary in local manifestation, and so, too, does the nature and impact of religious revitalization.

Both Evangelicalism and Pentecostalism have spread rapidly in Kenya since the nation formally gained independence from Britain in 1963. It has been estimated that over ninety percent of the Kenyan population is Christian (Report of the Ad Hoc Committee 2023) and about half of the population is evangelical, including Kenya’s president and his wife. As many as 15,000,000-20,000,000 Kenyans may be Pentecostals. Pentecostalism began to impact Kenya in the 1960s with visits by famous American evangelists, including Oral Roberts and Billy Graham. Pentecostal missionaries arrived in the mid-1960s and established denominational representation, such as the Kenya Assemblies of God (Joshua 2019). In addition to the denominationally affiliated churches, a wave of African Indigenous Churches (which contained elements of their denominational traditions and distinctively African elements as well) also appeared and grew rapidly (Comaroff 2015; Odey 2020; Andrew 2023). Their identities indicate their independence and Pentecostal leanings: Mombasa Pentecostal Churches (MPC), Deliverance Church of Kenya (DCK), Jesus Is Alive Ministries (JIAM-Nairobi), Jesus Celebration Centre (JCC-Mombasa), Neno Evangelism Ministries, The Happy Churches, Faith Evangelistic Ministries, Jubilee Christian Centre (JCC-Nairobi), Christ is the Answer Ministries (CITAM-Nairobi), and the Winners Chapel International Ministries (Gathogo 2022).

The proximate base of support for these new, independent groups in Kenya has been attributed to both erosion of traditional cultural moorings and inept government (which, of course, link back to changes in the global social order). Kagema and Maina (2014:36-37) observe that

In the traditional Kenyan society life was basically communal.” However, as traditional communal culture is dissolving, new movements are creating a new notion to its members by instilling a feeling of being away from the harsh and brutalizing realities in life. The NCMs are creating a sense of importance in their member’s lives. These movements are coming up with new values of self-perceptions, self-growth and self-development upon the members by developing goals in life. They always try to interpret any social, economic and political turmoil or deprivation in a positive manner thus creating hope upon the members. This explains why poor Kenyans are flocking in these NCMs in large numbers.

Aniche (2018:236–55) has argued that new groups, which are independent and tend to be led by “Big Men,” can be understood as the product of ineffective national government:

As the African governments fail to address cutting-edge issues facing their respective societies, the African-Pentecostal’s Big Persons emerge with a promise for a better day. In other words, the failure of the political establishments in the socio-existential realm triggers this shifting of landscapes to an extent. This means that the Church now becomes an alternative government by default, a government that compliments the failures of the central government.

Their messages tended to be apocalyptic and to promote “evangelizations to the furthest corners of the earth, in order to give the Just one last chance to make themselves known” (Gez, Droz, and Maupeu 2021:108). Some of these movements have ventured into physically risky practices, but violence has largely been precipitated by terrorist groups, such as Al-Shabaab (Elle 2023; Report of the Ad Hoc Committee 2023:17-18). Other established religions, particularly Catholicism and Islam, have been regarded as false or Satanic. In some cases religious group leaders have become directly involved in political activity and sought governmental office. Good News Ministries, founded by Paul Mackenzie, is one of those new, independent groups.

Paul Mackenzie [Image at right] was born in Lunga Lunga, Kwale County in 1976 into a Baptist practicing famiy (Report of the Ad Hoc Committee 2023:44; Kiser 2024). His father, Kitivo Makenzi Kisini, was a contractor and, later, a protestant preacher (Standard Media 2023). His mother was Anastacia Mwele. The family was part of the Kamba ethnic community (Kiser 2024). The family faced financial challenges as Paul was the fourth/fifth child in a family of ten.

Mackenzie attended Mwalewa School for his primary studies and then Lukore Secondary School. After completing primary and high school education, he joined a local Bible college where he studied theology. After completing secondary school, Mackenzie moved to live with his firstborn brother in Likoni, Mombasa. Mackenzie had learned to drive and, with the assistance of his sister, who owned an automobile, had been able to start a taxi business in Malindi. He drove a taxi in Malindi between 1995 and 2011. He settled in Malindi and, by 1999, was a resident there. Malindi is a tourist-oriented coastal city northeast of Mobassa with a substantial Italian population and a resident population of just over 100,000. Mackenzie started attending church sermons on weekends as he continued his taxi business. He married his first wife, Agnes (known as Mama Dan), in 2003 and the couple had two children, a son (Daniel) and a daughter (Virginia). Both his father and his first wife died in 2009/2010. In 2012 he married his second wife, Joyce Mwikamba, with whom he had three/four children. In 2017, his second wife died after a period of ill health. He subsequently married Rhoda Mambua Maweu, and the couple has had one child (Atetwe 2023).

For a time, Mackenzie attended a Catholic and Baptist churches before moving on to the African Brotherhood Church (Standard Team 2023). During 1999-2000, Mackenzie reported receiving a calling from God and was instructed to preach (Nation 2023). That year he began preaching sermons for the Baptist affiliated Malindi Fellowship (which later distanced from him) and then, with his wife and Ms. Ruth Kahindi, founded a conventional church, “House of the Lord” (Hussein 2023a). Mackenzie had met Kahindi earlier when both attended a Baptist Church (Mwanesi 2023). The House of the Lord was soon renamed and registered as Good News International Church, a non-profit and non-political organization. Initially, the sermons were considered inspirational, and Makenzie told his followers said God told him that the village where Good News was located would become as famous as Bethlehem. Mackenzie subsequently set up several branch congregations in Nairobi City and along the Kenyan coast (Hussein and Kalama 2023). Taken together, his church network congregation grew to several thousand.

Mackenzie’s rapid rise to prominence was not extraordinary in this environment. As, Kagema, Dickson and Millicent Maina (2014:45) observe, unsophisticated and entrepreneurial individuals have rapidly ascended to leadership positions in new groups:

Many of the famous and rich NCMs preachers in Kenya are known to be from a very poor background. However they always argue that God has uplifted then from nothing to ‘great men and women of God’. For instance, during his preaching, Pastor Maina Ng’ang’a of NEM often testifies how at one time he was a cart pusher, a gangster and the many times he had been jailed. He also testifies that he is a class three dropout but the glory of God has covered him that nobody notices. Bishop Margaret Wanjiru of JAM also testifies how she used to be a simple hotelier and the many times they slept hungry with her other siblings. She now claims that God has uplifted her to a great height to serve Him. Many other preachers of the NCMs in Kenya have taken this trend as they try their luck. In many times such preachers always get followers.

In late 2010, however, Mackenzie’s sermons began to receive considerable scrutiny and criticism. The sermons became fiery, contentious, and laced with End Times apocalyptic messages (Okwembah 2023; Mackenzie and Feleke 2023). Despite his controversiality, Mackenzie’s popularity increased when he launched a TV station and YouTube channel, enabling him to reach a wider audience beyond Kenya (Maombo 2023).

However, just a few years after Mackenzie’s popularity was peaking, in 2017 his ministry began a downward spiral as he faced a succession of investigations, arrests and prosecutions. [See, Issues/Challenges] Most significantly, Mackenzie was arrested but released on four times for his controversial sermons, but acquitted after every time due to lack of evidence.  However, in one such incident in October 2017, police took custody of ninety-three children in the group and charged Mackenzie with “promoting radicalization.” 2019 was a pivotal year as Mackenzie announced in one of his YouTube sermons that Christ had informed him that the End Times messages he had been preaching at Christ’s instruction had come to an end. As Mackenzie recounted: “I followed the voice that told me that I had finished the work” (Reuters 2023). Mackenzie then announced closure of his church, sale of the property to Ezekiel Odero of the New Life International Ministry, and a move to the area just outside of Malindi known as Shakahola Forest with a small number of followers to restart his mission (Report of the the Ad Hoc Committee 2023:48).

This was a transformative moment in the group’s history, symbolized by the End Time pronouncement and the withdrawal from conventional society into a remote and secluded existence. It is clear that the group radicalized during this time. There was another dramatic change in 2023 when authorities discovered that two children had died from what appeared to be starvation, and the dramatic investigations, exhumations, and prosecutions began. [See, Issues/Challenges]


Mackenzie’s message was essentially a bricolage of elements drawn from his personal history and his surrounding environment. These included apocalyptic endtime, genealogical polarization, contemporary conspiracy theory, and accelerationist components. Most of the elements of his teachings (and derivative rituals) can be found in many groups through history (apocalypticism, endtime prophecy, withdrawal from conventional society, exclusive path to salvation, spiritual healing practices, avoidance of established medical treatment, exorcism, fasting, personal and group sacrificial acts, ingestion of dangerous substances). In addition, Mackenzie has incorporated elements of the “deep state” conspiracy theories to symbolize impending evil. Most distinctively, he has linked extreme, protracted fasting, which resulted in mass deaths within the group, as a necessary accelerant to bring on promise Endtime events.  Essentially, Mackenzie has taught followers that the world around them is very dangerous indeed, that the Endtime is upon them, that his ministry is the only path to safety, and that a great sacrifice is required to accelerate the arrival of the Endtime.

Mackenzie’s teachings were significantly influenced by a fringe Christian doctrine proposed by William Branham, who emerged as a significant figure in the New Order of the Latter Rain movement that appeared after World War II, drew on several major revival events. and was quite influential through the 1960s. The movement was subsequently rejected by mainstream Christian denominational groups and mainstream Pentecostal groups. However, Branham’s doctrines did influence the founders of some new religious movements, such as Peoples Temple (Collins 2023; Collins and Duyzer 2019). There is some evidence that Mackenzie obtained some of Branham’s broadcasts through Voice of God Recordings, based in Jefferson, Indiana, and rehearsed them in his own voice as part of his ministry (Kiser 2024).

One important element of Branham’s thought was what has variously been termed “two-seedline” or “serpent seed” theory. There have been numerous, nuanced strands of this doctrine across its circuitous history, with various assertions of even which historical groups constitute the actual “seeds.” The generic two-seedline doctrine offers a putative biblically based account of the Garden of Eden in which Eve consummated a sexual relationship with the serpent, and the offspring of this relationship was Cain. Eve subsequently bore Adam’s child. The result of these two sexual unions was the creation of two opposed seedlines that are understood to have been in conflict throughout human history. This interpretation stands in opposition to mainstream Christian doctrine that everyone were born with original sin, but everyone can become children of God through conversion to Christianity.

Mackenzie was influenced by some elements of the New Latter Rain tradition and some that were more directly drawn from Branham’s thought. Mackenzie’s central teachings evolved around his apocalyptic “end time” messages, which he promoted on his YouTube channel, that “the end is not near anymore; THE END IS HERE!” (End Times Breaking, 2019a). A banner on the channel proclaimed “We are about to win the battle… let no-one turn back… the journey is about to be accomplished” (Mwai, Barrow and Njoroge 2023). Mackenzie appears to have also picked up on other doctrinal material scattered through Branham’s doctrines. Most significantly, Branham delivered a sermon toward the end of his life in which he warned listeners that “no one wants to die” but that some among them would have to “die in martyrdom” (Hardy 2023). There was an accelerationist element as well in the “atomic power” doctrine (adopted from Franklin Hall’s book Atomic Power with God, Thru Fasting and Prayer, 1946) that spiritual progress could be achieved through forty days of fasting and prayer. The sacrifice theme became central to Good News Ministries once the group had isolated in Sakahola Forest. The Endtime was expected in August 2023 (Report of the Ad Hoc Committee 2023:48; Standard Team 2023).


Mackenzie adopted ritual practices characteristic of some new Pentecostal groups in and around Kenya. A central theme in his “word-based teachings, preaching, and prophecy” was apocalyptic “end time” messages, which he spread on his YouTube channel, saying that “the end is not near anymore; THE END IS HERE!” (End Times Breaking, 2019a; (Good News Ministry website n.d.). Most of his impassioned sermons included his making prophetic announcements by himself or members of his church, and videos from older sermons often showed how his prophecies were fulfilled, sometimes in less than one day (End Times Breaking, Mackenzie 2020a). Mackenzie also often performed healings, including exorcisms, in which “followers – often women – writhe around on the ground while he ‘torments’ the demonic forces within them” (Mwai, Barrow and Njoroge 2023).

Children, whom he referred to as “End Time Kids,” frequently appeared on the TV channel, reciting verses from the Bible or talking about the doctrines they had learned (End Times Breaking, 2019b). Once Mackenzie had moved to Sakahola Forest, announced the Endtime was imminent, and began preparing for the sacrificial starvations, he determined that the ordering of the deaths would be children, followed by women, followed by men, followed by himself (Higgins 2023). The Report of the Ad Hoc Committee (2023:50) described the process in the following way:

Based on witness accounts and their own investigation, the KNCHR submitted that Paul Makenzie had recruited a group of armed militia (both men and women known as “enforcers”) who were to supervise and enforce the starvation and eventual death of the followers. The “enforcers” dug shallow graves where they buried those who had succumbed to starvation. Those who defied the directive to fast or attempted to escape were either strangled or clobbered to death by the “enforcers”.

Subsequent exhumations and autopsies confirmed causes of death: “The autopsies revealed that the majority of victims died of starvation, while some had signs of manual strangulation and blunt trauma injuries” (Report of the Ad Hoc Committee 2023:55).


Good News International, like a number of other emerging religious groups in Kenya, challenges a range of institutions and practices in their host societies. As Comaroff (2015:227) observes, these movements

do not merely question, from below, the tenets of liberal modernist knowing and being. They aim, also, to counter the social organization synonymous with the modernist world-view canonized, above all, in the liberal nation-state, with its secular civic sphere clearly separated from the realm of sectarian culture and private belief. In late modern times, born again faiths have tended to strive – albeit in distinctive ways – to reshape this sociology of modernity; to challenge the authority and neutrality of state law, and the secularism of the market. Many late modern faiths work to unify the fragmented realms and plural cultures of liberal modern societies, thus to reclaim the profane reaches of everyday life as vehicles of divine purpose.

Mackenzie, who was referred within the group as “Servant of God” or “Servant P.N. Mackenzie” (Good News Ministry website, n.d.), claimed to have spiritual prophetic power and the ability to see apparitions of Jesus (Hussein and Kalama 2023c). He used his leadership position to challenge a range of Kenyan institutions, such as public education and secular medicine. He also attacked the emerging global order.

Formal education is rejected as unbiblical, with an emphasis on the connection between education and sexual education and sexual education as promotion of alternative sexual expression. As he has put it, “I told people education is evil…. Children are taught gayism and lesbianism.” As for educators, “They know education is evil. But they use it for their own [financial] gains” (Mwai, Barrow and Njoroge 2023; End Times Breaking 2020).

Mackenzie’s policies concerning medicine can be linked to COVID. COVID-19 arrived in Kenya in March of 2020. The Minister for Health invoked the Public Health Act to authorize state action to control the spread of the virus. The responses by religious groups varied widely (Muchui 2020:1). Mackenzie used Covid to reinforce his opposition to conventional medical practice, including pregnancy check-ups, hospital care, and vaccination of children, as physicians “serve a different God” and are “part of the evil Babylonian system” (Muchui 2023).

More broadly, Mackenzie has positioned his ministry in resistance to the emerging world order and has supported conspiratorial explanations for its emergence. He has preached that powerful satanic forces that have captured major global power centers, which he terms the “New World Order.” These global elites have sought to wrest control over nation states and form an authoritarian world government. He has specifically targeted the Roman Catholic Church, the United Nations, and the United States as members of this global conspiracy. One video, for example, “Kisha Nikaona” (Then I Saw), shows images and signs of the Illuminati, the Catholic Church, the World Trade Organization, and Barack Obama portrayed as a devil)….At the same time, he has also targeted the government of Kenya, particularly for its plan to create individual identification numbers for citizens (huduma namba), which he has claimed are the “mark of the beast” (Mwai, Barrow, and Njoroge 2023).

Once Mackenzie had announced the closure of his church in Malindi, he sold his church building, vehicles, and the television station that hosted his ministry broadcasts. Mackenzie and a group of several hundred followers then sought to re-establish his ministry in Shakahola Forest, located in Chakama (Koech 2023). [Image at right] A 100,000-acre Chakama Settlement Project had been established by the Kenyan Government in the 1960s as a place to resettle landless people, but little progress had been made with resettlement. While the area contains numerous small villages, much of it is sparsely populated and has been beset by squatters and landgrabbers, which has led to land disputes and occasional violence. Mackenzie reportedly sold small pieces of the 800-acre tract to which he claimed ownership to followers who resettled with him. Mackenzie also divided the tract into districts with biblical names like Nazareth, Judea, Jericho and Jerusalem. MacKenzie named the section in which he lived Galilee, the area in which Jesus lived through much of his life (Higgins 2023).

Though Mackenzie’s followers occupied several hundred acres of Shakahola forest, it is unclear whether Mackenzie owned the property. The Shakama Ranching Company Limited, which has claimed ownership of the larger 100,000-acre tract asserted that no contract had been completed and no payment had been made (Citizen Team 2023; Ostiento 2023). Mackenzie therefore may well have profited from the sale of property he did not own and potentially face legal charges.


Mackenzie’s ministry began to face challenges just a few years after its founding. He initially did deliver sermons that were considered inspirational, established branch congregations (notably in Nairobi), and gained a substantial following through the internet. However, he began to attract opposition in 2010 for his contentious and apocalyptic sermons. His legal difficulties escalated dramatically in 2017. The focal issue was legally related to the deaths of his adherents, but he also faced potential charges over his financial dealings and property ownership claims (Higgins 2023).

The challenges facing Good News Ministries and Mackenzie personally mounted dramatically beginning in 2017. In March of that year Mackenzie was accused of “radicalizing children,” and the church was raided in October when he was charged with violation of the Basic Education Act for offering education at an unregistered institution. Additional charges were filed for failing to take his own child to compulsory primary and secondary education and failing to provide the right to education for a child (Obar 2023). Over ninety children were taken into custody in the raid. He was briefly arrested and then released for radicalization and promoting extremist beliefs in October under laws that had been passed to counter terrorism (Higgins 2023). In 2018, residents living near one of his churches who opposed his preaching demolished one of his churches and razed the home of one of his pastors (Njoki 2023). The following year Mackenzie was arrested for possession and unauthorized public distribution of films and for operating a film studio without a Kenya Film Classification Board valid licensing from the KFCB (Mtalaki 2023).

Mackenzie closed his church and moved to the Sakahola Forest in 2019. Formal legal against the group resumed and escalated in 2023. The police came to suspect that the parents within the group had starved and suffocated their children, as instructed by Mackenzie, and had buried two children in a shallow grave on March 16 and 17 of 2023 (Kithi 2023). Mackenzie was then arrested on March 22, and the Malini Court ordered the exhumation of the bodies. In the wake of these developments, a group of armed locals from the neighbouring village began attacking people they believed to be followers of Mackenzie in Shakahola Forest (Hussein and Kalama 2023b). This incident marked the “turning point” for investigators as some victims of the attack slowly shared information on the secret activities happening in the Shakahola encampment (Kimmanthi 2023). What followed was the discovery of mass graves, which led to an extended process of grave marking, exhumation, autopsy and identification (Hussein 2023e). [Image at right]

On April 15, 2023, Mackenzie was arrested, along with thirteen other suspects who police announced would be detained until the investigation was complete (Kalama and Hussein 2023). Hundreds of individuals have remained listed as missing (Ocharo 2023c). As the investigation progressed, police reported that some of the dead fasted until they starved to death, and some were bludgeoned, suffocated, or strangled. Before their deaths some members were held coercively, physically restrained, and controlled by armed guards (Kithi 2023).

The rapidly developing investigation into the fate of those who had been living in Shakahola Forest, the massive and rising death toll, the unresolved cause of death for many of those exhumed, and the large number of individuals who could not be accounted for sent shockwaves through Kenyan society. In the short term, the area around Shakahola Forest has experienced a steep economic decline as the thriving tourist trade has evaporated while the area has been flooded by friends and family searching for hundreds of missing persons (Rubadiri 2023). More significant are the longer-term issues that Kenya faces. Given the various ways in which individuals perished, there is a question of who will be legally culpable (Badurdeen 2023a). In addition to the virtually unanimous condemnation of Mackenzie, there is a debate over whether the government should be held accountable for lax regulation of religious entities.  Given the Kenyan constitution, there is the question of how can a balance be struck between freedom of religious expression and regulatory responsibility (Badurdeen 2023b). Existing law also creates the possibility that Mackenzie could be charged under the Prevention of Terrorism Act of 2012. To what extent can religious groups be self-regulating given an open religious economy (Badurdeen 2023a).

There has already been some governmental response to the Good News case. Five churches, including Good News, were de-registered by the government. A governmental task force has been commissioned to develop a legal framework for scrutiny and self-regulation of religious institutions (Anyango 2023). The Kenya Parliament issued a 175-page report in September 2023 listing some twenty-one causes of action against Good News and Mackenzie. These include (Report of the Ad Hoc Committee 2023:17, 74-80):

(1) recruited hundreds of vulnerable people through agents in different parts of the country who systematically lured followers to their death through deceptive recruitment tactics which he intensified during the uncertainty and anxiety occasioned by the COVID-19 pandemic;
(2) manipulated his followers by promising them land and financially exploited them by requiring them to sell their assets and hand over the proceeds to him;
(3) created an armed gang which he employed to violently enforce his starvation doctrine by attacking and killing followers who changed their minds about willingly starve themselves to death;
(4) set up a makeshift court where he held mock trials of followers who had refused to comply with starvation orders. The orders from this makeshift court would be enforced by the armed gang;
(5) exploited the vulnerability and impressionable minds of children who had no agency and subjected them to painful and slow death by starvation;
(6) violated the fundamental human rights and freedoms of his followers including the right to life, right to human dignity, freedom and security of persons, subjected them to physical and psychological torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, denied them access to health care, shelter and food in clear violation of Articles 26, 28, 29, 43, 53 of the Constitution

A coalition of religious groups has also responded with the formation of the Code of Conduct and Governance Guidelines for the Church in Kenya led by Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) Chairman Bishop Emeritus David Oginde. This initiative was to self-regulate and avoid governmental oversight (Olale 2023). As one of the members of the Steering Committee put the matter: “Let the congregants hold their leaders accountable. When they see me doing the contrary, let them stand up and say ‘that is not right, we will not agree, and we will not allow you to do that.” There are seven  principles in the guidelines:

  1. Integrity and ethical conduct are central to Biblical teaching and practice.

  2. The church shall promote and enhance the wellbeing of the brethren and of society as a whole in accordance with Christian beliefs and convictions, and refrain from any conduct that undermines the constructive role that churches play in the society.

  3. The church shall respect, protect and preserve life and shall refrain from any conduct that devalues, dehumanizes or destroys life.

  4. The church shall endeavour to uphold the sanctity of life.

  5. The church individually and collectively, shall respect and uphold the dignity of every person and shall not abuse or exploit any person, or do anything to violate or degrade that person.

  6. The church values children, born and unborn, and shall act in their best interest when under their care by protecting them.

  7. The church shall respect the right of every person to join any faith or religion of other choice without bullying, harassment, intimidation or victimization.

The Report of the Ad Hoc Committee (2023:99-109) actively debated self-regulation and government regulation in the wake of the Good News episode. A major consideration has been the viability of self-regulation in a nation with an estimated 4,000 religious groups, absent any mandatory enforcement mechanism, and with opposition by the large number of the new, independent groups (Orindey and Chiba 2023).

The future of Good News International Ministries appears to be uncertain at best as members living in the Shakota Forest have been uprooted, the group lacks a physical location as it did not legally possess the land it occupied. Mackenzie and over two dozen of his followers have been held in police custody for an extended period, and more serious criminal charges and prolonged time in custody are in the offing (Nation Team 2023; Mwangi 2023). Indeed, “A Senate report has accused Paul Makenzi of being the mastermind of the Shakahola massacre and recommended he be charged for the death of at least 429 people” (Sanga 2023). On November 10, 2023, Mackenzie was convicted of showing films on his Times Television program without the approval of the Kenya Film Classification Board (Igunza 2023). Mackenzie is currently incarcerated while awaiting new court proceedings (Ocharo and Kalama 2023). On January 31, 2024 Good News International Ministries was declared to be an organized criminal group. Mackenzie and a number of followers therefore face charges of murder, child torture and “terrorism.” Additional charges and prison sentences appear to be a distinct possibility. Mackenzie and his incarcerated followers have responded with hunger strikes that have left them physically debilitated (Mghenyi 2024). The movement  may survive in some form in the near term; the most likely possibility is a small, fringe group with a precarious existence.


Image #1: Paul Mackenzie.
Image #2: Cover of Franklin Hall’s Atomic Power with God.
Image #3: Shakahola Forest.
Image #4: Exhumation of bodies in Shakahola Forest.
Image #5: A coalition of religious leaders seeking to establish a code of conduct for religious organizations.


Aljazeera. 2024. “Kenya declares cult an ‘organised criminal group’ after starvation deaths.” Aljazeera, January 31.  Accessed from https://www.aljazeera.com/amp/news/2024/1/31/kenya-declares-cult-an-organised-criminal-group-after-starvation-deaths on 4 February 2024.

Andrew, Divinah. 2023. “The Impact of Globalization on the Traditional Religious Practices and Cultural Values: A Case Study of Kenya.” International Journal of Culture and Religious Studies 4:1–12.

Aniche, Ernest. 2018. “Africa’s big men in the continent’s democratic experiments.” Pp. 236-55 in  Africa’s big men: Predatory state-society relations in Africa, edited by K. Kalu, O. Yakob-Haliso and T. Falola. London: Routledge.

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Atetwe, Carolyne. 2023. “Shakahola cult: Paul Mackenzie’s wife released on bond.” Nation. Accessed from https://nation.africa/kenya/news/shakahola-cult-paul-mackenzie-s-wife-released-on-bond-4292450 on10 August 2023.

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Publication Date:
19 October 2023