‘Cried every day’: Kenya cult families struggle for closure

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A year after school teacher Francis Wanje lost eight family members to a Kenyan doomsday cult, he is still reckoning with the horror and haunted by unanswered questions.

His daughter was one of 429 people whose bodies were exhumed last year from shallow graves in a sun-scorched forest near the Indian Ocean town of Malindi. “It has been a very tough journey,” Mr. Wanje said after he received the remains of four relatives last month, including his daughter and grandson. “We are still hoping that perhaps in the near future, we are going to get the other four,” Mr. Wanje said.

The victims were lured by former taxi driver turned evangelical pastor Paul Nthenge Mackenzie into the Shakahola forest which he promoted as a refuge from the impending end of the world. Mackenzie, a preacher who had run afoul of the law on numerous occasions, is accused of inducing them to starve to death to ascend to heaven. While many people died of starvation, government pathologists have said that others, including children, died of asphyxiation and strangulation.

The case first came to public attention a year ago this week after Mr. Wanje set out on a private rescue mission following a tip-off from a former member of Mackenzie’s Good News International Church.

“The senseless murders could have been avoided if everyone (had) moved with urgency.”

The Kenya National Commission on Human Rights said in a report released last month that the police ignored multiple warnings about the cult.

Content retrieved from: https://www.thehindu.com/news/international/cried-every-day-kenya-cult-families-struggle-for-closure/article68084326.ece.

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