Kenyan pastor suspected of links to starvation cult: prosecutors

Kenyan pastor, Ezekiel Odero and his church were linked to mass deaths in Shakahola forest near Malindi.

Apr 28, 2023 - 15:28
Kenyan pastor suspected of links to starvation cult: prosecutors

NAIROBI - A high-profile Kenyan pastor appeared in court on Friday over the "mass killings" of his followers in a case that prosecutors said could be linked to the horrific discovery of dozens of bodies in mass graves.

Ezekiel Odero, the head of the New Life Prayer Centre and Church, was arrested on Thursday in the coastal town of Malindi and transferred to the port city of Mombasa where he was arraigned in a magistrate's court.

Prosecutors said Odero is suspected of committing crimes including murder, aiding suicide, abduction, radicalisation, crimes against humanity, child cruelty, fraud, and money laundering.

They said in a statement to the court that there was "credible information" linking the bodies exhumed from Shakahola forest near Malindi to the deaths of "several innocent and vulnerable followers" of Odero.

Prosecutors asked the court for Odero, a wealthy televangelist with a huge following, to be detained for 30 days to enable the police to complete their investigations.

Odero's arrest coincided with an investigation into Paul Mackenzie Nthenge, a cult leader accused of the deaths of dozens of people he is said to have ordered to starve themselves to death to find God.

Another 11 bodies were exhumed from the Shakahola forest on Thursday, taking to 109 the total number of dead, a police source told AFP.

The prosecution statement said it was investigating "intelligence information" that the bodies of Odero's followers were kept in a privately-run morgue before being transported and buried in the forest.

Nthenge, a former taxi driver who headed the Good News International Church until he closed it in 2019, is himself due in court on Tuesday.