(VIDEO) Mackenzie’s neighbours speak: How the pastor arrived, settled in Shakahola

The dusty villages of Bi Nzaro and Bofu tacked 10 kilometers from the Malindi- Sala Gate highway have gained new life and exposure since the embattled former pastor Paul Mackenzie’s alleged cult activities erupted.

It is in the two villages that are two kilometers apart and Shakahola village, which is 16 kilometers away that Mackenzie first attempted to settle in early 2019 moments after closing his Good News International ministries at Furunzi area in Malindi town which is located 78 kilometers South East of Shakahola.

He came with goodies for the people and would at some point distribute relief food as he set foot in the three villages.

He started a church at Shakahola village near the Galana River and opened another branch at Bi Nzaro village, according to villagers, but his stay was short-lived when he was chased away for preaching against formal education and medication.

However, there are many theories in the Makenzi cult with claims that a dry marathon fasting ritual until death will make one meet Jesus Christ with some quarters alleging trade in human organs while other claims include offering human sacrifices and many more.

The government has since dispelled fears that body organs were being harvested before the victims died.

Autopsies carried out by government pathologists indicate that majority of the 200 victims exhumed so far died due to starvation as a result of the marathon fasting while a select few were hit with blunt objects on the head as a small number of the bodies showed signs of death by asphyxiation, strangulation or bludgeoning.

A police affidavit also indicates that some had had organs removed hence creating even more confusion with the same affidavit linking another embattled pastor with the farm allegedly ferrying his dead followers to be buried there.

How Makenzi, a former taxi driver in Malindi town was able to convince his followers drawn from far and wide to the bushy wasteland still remains a mystery since some of the victims were doing well in life with well-paying jobs and businesses.

Studies on cults indicate that cult leaders use clever undetectable methods to lure their followers and they normally link current natural and catastrophic disasters with their alleged prophecies which they draw from the book of Revelation which is the last book in the holy bible.

As for Mackenzie, through doomsday preaching, he relied heavily on that book where he demonized formal education, the huduma namba, modern medicine and many other things.

His teaching could eventually attract the ire of the government leading to his arrest twice in 2017 and in 2019. He was charged and freed on bond. He relayed to them fears of a fast-approaching apocalypse.

But Makenzi was very smart not to involve the locals at Shakahola in the fasting-to-death rituals since he knew very well that his dirty activities would be unraveled if anyone from the local population was touched.

Senate Speaker Amason Kingi who is also a former Kilifi Governor said that Paul Mackenzie reinvented himself after being welcomed by residents to farm.

“Mackenzie knew that if he rattled the locals, he would be in trouble and so he recruited people from outside Chakama location. The people felt they were safe and none of the residents was a member of his cult,” he said.

He added that there was no suspicion until a herdsman noticed two people dead and notified the area leaders.

Kahindi Kalama Charo from Bi Nzaro village said that Makenzi took advantage of Shakahola’s Chakama phase three settlement scheme that is yet to be adjudicated to allocate himself land with the help of some locals.

A walk on sections of the farm reveals fresh beacons dated February 19, indicating that people were allocating themselves land in the area.

According to Charo, the former preacher first settled at Shakahola village along the Galana River where he practiced farming. He would later open a makeshift church but only a handful of villagers attended before they evicted him because of his type of sermons.

He then arrived at Bofu village where he opened another church but was again evicted for his teachings.

“Makenzi came here through people who allocated him the land after producing ‘kajama’ (four bottles of mnazi) or a small appreciation to the elders but he never bought and there’ s no title deed even among us. Many people come here and are literally allocated plots,” he said.

“He started inviting people in droves to the piece of land and he expanded it to the current 800 acres. The people started living well with us but it reached a point where those people started denying us access to the thickets and there is a huge water pan that was constructed by Makenzi but we could not use that water,” he added.

The father of two added that the Makenzi followers started appearing frail and weak and efforts to convince them to seek food aid from the government were futile and that is the point the villagers decided to forcefully invade the farm to know what was going on.

A meeting was convened and since the three villages of Shakahola, Bofu and Bi Nzaro share one village elder who resides in Shakahola, 16 kilometers from Bi Nzaro village.

“There came a time when some children escaped and revealed that they were being forced to fast and that information angered us so much. We mobilized the three villages and as we tried to enter the farm which is 12 kilometers from Bi Nzaro, violence erupted and we had to flee since those guys were armed with machetes and other crude weapons,” he said.

He added that General Service Unit (GSU) officers from Danisa which is inside the Galana Kulalu Food Security Project that is 30 kilometers away responded to distress calls and quelled the situation.

“I ran from that place all the way to Shakahola and they burnt two motorbikes and I could not wait for the GSU officers,” he added.

Daniel Karisa Mzimba said that the Mackenzie people were very secretive but information started coming out when children started escaping and seeking help from nearby villages.

“It was difficult to understand them despite their ‘suffering’ and when pressed further they could respond that they were fasting to see Jesus Christ. Our efforts to investigate were met with violence until when the government responded,” he said.

“It is some of the people we were with that started attacking the Mackenzie men prompting them to retaliate. That is when we ran for our dear life and two motorbikes were torched. It was after the operation started that we got to know about the death inside that 840 acres where we could discover graves scattered all over. The graves are also flattened to conceal them,” he said.

He is however against the government’s plan to take over the ownership of the 50,000 Chakama ranch and urged the government to concentrate on the 840 acres.

Joan Omazi said that she has known about Mackenzie for four years but the recent happenings came to the fore when a Makenzi believer married a local girl and it is the girl that started revealing the ongoings at the farm but villagers dismissed her.

“Makenzi should not be released because he may wipe us all. He has money and can influence everyone around here. The government should put up security posts on that farm,” she said.

She added that her Bofu village currently and occasionally receives people allegedly from the Makenzi cult and they hand them over to authorities.

“Those people while running away from the security operation, they come into this village and we give them water and food and then call the police so that they can be rescued. We have rescued at least five people since who came to hide here,” she said.

She also alleges that Mackenzie might be using witchcraft to hoodwink people.

Adam Kaluwa, the nyumba kumi elder at Bofu village alleges that there are allegations of body organ harvests at the farm and that not all the bodies buried there are of the Mackenzie people.

He added that the dusk-to-dawn curfew has really affected the livelihood of the locals who ply their charcoal trade within the 840-acre farm and beyond.

“If the government insists on taking over the whole 50,000-acre Chakama ranch then we will be in trouble as a village, they should just focus on the Makenzi land,” he said.

Katana Thoya from Bofa village said he survived the Makenzi attack adding that Makenzi has a very strong militia that protects his farm from any intruders.

“I was hit hard on the arm and ran away but it is the Shakahola village elder who called the GSU who arrived on time to quell the tension,” he said.

President William Ruto has since formed commissions to look into ways of regulating religion in the country.

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