Pastor, Paul Makenzi Makenzi Was Arrested on Suspicion of Telling his Followers to Fast to Death in Order to Meet Jesus
The dead – now numbering 73 – are thought to have been members of the Good News International Church. It is believed they were persuaded to starve themselves in order to reach heaven before what they were told was going to be the end of the world.
Kenya is a profoundly religious country with 85% of the population identifying as Christian.
President William Ruto, who is a devout man himself, has described the head of the Good News International Church, Pastor Makenzie Nthenge, as someone who did “not belong to any religion”.
Last month Mr Nthenge was charged in connection with the deaths of two children whose parents had joined his church. He was released on bail, but he is now back in police custody.
Theologian and psychologist Dr James Kipsang Barngetuny told the BBC that there was a problem in Kenya with the “mushrooming” of lots of small churches, which are not properly regulated.
He said that unscrupulous leaders are able to brainwash people and take advantage of their desire to find a solution to their problems.
A full-scale investigation has been launched into the Good News International Church and its leader, named in court documents as Paul Mackenzie Nthenge, who preached that death by starvation delivered followers to God.
The case has prompted the government to flag the need for tighter control of fringe denominations in a country with a history of self-declared pastors and movements that become involved in crime.