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Kenyan Cult Leader Begins Trial on Terrorism Charges

The trial of Paul Nthenge Mackenzie, a Kenyan cult leader accused of terrorism for his alleged role in the death of over 400 followers, has begun in Mombasa. Mackenzie, who was arrested in April last year, allegedly incited his followers to starve to death to “meet Jesus.” Alongside 94 co-defendants, he also faces charges of murder, manslaughter, kidnapping, and child torture in separate cases. Mackenzie and his co-accused pleaded not guilty to the terrorism charges during a court appearance in January. The case, dubbed the “Shakahola forest massacre,” has seen over 440 remains unearthed. According to autopsies conducted on the victims, starvation was the main cause of death. However, some of the victims were also strangled, beaten, or suffocated. The case has led to criticism of Kenyan police and a vow by President William Ruto to regulate religious movements in the country.