The Cult Killings of Shakahola

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In April 2023, following a missing-person report filed by a man whose wife and daughter had left their home to join a church owned by preacher Paul Mackenzie, Kenyan police raided Mackenzie’s 800-acre commune in Shakahola forest on Kenya’s coast and discovered mass graves. So far, hundreds of bodies have been recovered from this forest, while hundreds more have been reported missing. Most of these people died after their church’s leader allegedly ordered them to fast to death in order “to meet Jesus.”

In Kenya, multiple New Religious Movements (NRM) have sprouted over the past two decades. Most of these NRMs have cropped up because of a failure of the central government to respond to socio-political issues facing the country. Many of their members join because of a promise by the religious leaders to solve their problems, whether by simplistic calls to give as a way of personal prosperity, or by the creation of religious bubbles for the members to be cushioned away from what is happening in the world.

The only difference between these churches and Mackenzie’s is that, in his church, people were made to starve to death, or beaten up and killed when they tried to leave.

This project is an in-depth investigation into Shakahola, the church formed by Mackenzie and what led people to join it, and socio-political events in Kenya that have led to a mushrooming of similar NRMs.

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