90 Bodies Found at Kenya Doomsday Cult Where Followers Told to Starve Themselves to Death to 'Meet Jesus'

Kenya cult
A Red Cross worker comforts a woman rescued from a doomsday cult in Kenya, where followers were told to starve themselves to death, officials said.Getty

Kenya authorities have dug up 90 bodies at doomsday cult where the leader told followers to starve themselves to death to "meet Jesus," officials say.

At least 90 emaciated bodies have been exhumed from mass graves at a doomsday cult in Kenya, where the leader advised his followers to starve themselves to death so they could "meet Jesus" before the end of the world, officials said.

The grisly discoveries have unfolded since last week, when a tip led to authorities raiding an isolated, 800-acre farm run by Paul Makenzie Nthenge, also known as Paul Makenzie, a self-avowed Christian preacher who admonished his followers to take their own lives by starving, and to starve their children as well, officials said.

Nthenge had been telling his flock starvation was the only path to God, authorities said, and he was arrested last week and is currently in custody, awaiting the filing of charges.

Kenyan President William Ruto likened the cult leader's behavior to terrorism.

"What we are seeing is akin to terrorism," Ruto told reporters Monday. "Mr. Makenzie pretends and postures as a pastor when in fact he is a terrible criminal."

Nthenge heads the Good News International Church, located on his farm hidden deep in the Shakahola forest, human rights organizations said. According to those groups, more than 200 people have been reported missing after joining the church.

"We don't know how many more graves, how many more bodies, we are likely to discover," Interior Minister Kithure Kindiki told reporters Tuesday, saying the crimes were serious enough to warrant terrorism charges against Makenzie.

"Those who urged others to fast and die were eating and drinking and they were purporting that they were preparing them to meet their creator," said. Authorities also suggested Nthenge should be tried by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity.

"The majority of the bodies exhumed are children," a forensic investigator told Agence France-Presse on condition of anonymity. The deaths drew comparisons to American cult leader Jim Jones, who led more than 900 followers in a mass suicide known as the Jonestown Massacre at his compound in Guyana in 1978.

Hussein Khalid, executive director of human rights group Haki Africa, told the news agency that followers were instructed children should starve first, followed by women, and lastly, men.

"The horror that we have seen over the last four days is traumatizing. Nothing prepares you for shallow mass graves of children," Khalid said.  

The nearest state-run mortuary has advised it has run out of space for bodies, authorities said. Autopsies are pending for the bodies discovered thus far.

About 29 people were rescued from the site, but several refused treatment, saying the world was about to end and they wanted to meet God, officials said.

"We pray that God will help them to go through the trauma, to help them recover and tell the story of how one time a fellow Kenyan, a fellow human, decided to hurt so many people, heartlessly, hiding under the Holy Scriptures," the interior minister said.

Nthenge had been arrested last month and was charged in connection with the deaths of two children whose parents had joined his church, according to local reports. He had been released on bail, the reports said.

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