Mackenzie lured victims on social media, promised them land before killing them – Court told

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Controversial preacher Paul Mackenzie leveraged technology and social media to lure victims into the Shakahola forest where they were massacred, a witness has told the court.

According to a statement by the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (ODPP), Mackenzie would then indoctrinate them with religious extremism and radicalization ideologies and entice them with a promise of land in the vast area if they remained faithful.

“Mackenzie also promised his victims plenty of farmland within Shakahola forest on which they will farm and build homes,” ODPP stated.

Appearing before Shanzu court Senior Principal Magistrate Leah Juma where Mackenzie and his 94 co-accused were answering to charges of terrorism over the deaths of more than 400 of his followers, the witness under protection recounted how the preacher conducted his activities.

The court heard that Mackenzie first opened a social media account to mobilize people from far and wide, after which he promised them that land would be sold to them cheaply to enable them build temporary homes.

“One by one, people of different walks of life streamed into the forest situated about 200 kilometres from the Shanzu court…Men and women, some married, arrived with their children after Mackenzie assured them of abundant land with the forest. Each arrival was gifted with some few acres of land sold to them at a throwaway price to put up their homesteads,” the ODPP stated.The villages were christened Biblical names like Bethlehem, Judea and Jericho, among others, with some people losing their portion of land for defying Mackenzie’s radical teachings such as travelling to Malindi town – which he referred to as Babel – without his permission.Magistrate Juma also heard of the horrifying tales of how the futures of men, women and children were shut down once they arrived in the forest by Mackenzie, his deputy Smart Deri Mwakalama, and a clique of trusted radical men who barred anyone from leaving.“Once inside the villages, the victims were indoctrinated into his radical teachings anchored on doomsday under the strict supervision of the armed militia tasked to deal with any escapee,” added the ODPP.“The armed militia disguised as Good News International Ministries (GNIM) church followers, secluded families, who had brainwashed with teachings including discarding worldly affairs and loathing the state system… the court heard that victims were cut off from the rest of the world and their lives were brutally snuffed out as days passed.”

Later on, the brainwashed parents were informed that taking their children to schools and hospitals was an ungodly act, as Mackenzie also destroyed any non-Biblical literature.

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