Paul McKenzie, the “mind thief,” leader of a Kenyan cult who convinced dozens of his followers to starve themselves to death

The leader of the Good News International Church is a former taxi driver and televangelist. He insists that he did not force anyone to fast to death.

Paul McKenzie Nthenge quietly surrendered to the Kenyan Police on April 14. He assured the authorities that he was not responsible for the deaths of more than 70 people, whose bodies have been found in recent days in the Shakahola forest, in the southeast of the country. "I stopped preaching in 2019, I even sold even the chairs in the temple." During the time he was held, he did not eat or drink anything. This is the same thing he advises his followers to do in order to meet Jesus: starve to death. McKenzie, however, maintains a very healthy physical appearance. The preacher insists that he did not force any of his faithful to go into that forest to perform a deadly fast.

McKenzie stole their minds and wills, managed them at his whim and convinced them to enter this wooded area of more than 300 hectares, where hundreds of followers of the Good News International Church, founded in 2003, are still missing. Police suspect that most may be underground, at shallow depths, which is what the church preaches so that their souls can fly quickly after they perish. McKenzie himself confessed to the authorities that they would find many more corpses because about a thousand people followed his preaching. Last March, he was already arrested after the death of two children from starvation, who were buried by their parents in the garden of their homes just a couple of feet under the ground.

In 2017, police were already aware of his extreme preaching, which included, in addition to fasting to death, promoting the non-schooling of children because education was not recognized in the Bible. The website of the religious organization explains that it was created "on August 17, 2003 by the servant of God PN McKenzie" and already has branches in several regions of the country and three thousand members. "The mission of this ministry is to nurture the faithful holistically in all areas of Christian spirituality as we prepare for the second coming of Jesus Christ through teaching and evangelism," promotes the Good News International Church. The church claims that it is necessary to make known the gospel of "our Lord Jesus Christ free from deception and the intellect of man," as McKenzie often tells his faithful during his preachings.

McKenzie has been known as a cab driver, tele-preacher, evangelist, visionary, saint, assassin and founder of a new church. But who is really Paul McKenzie Nthenge? The only thing we can be certain of is his ability to steal people's minds and get them to do his will. He has mastered the art of recruitment, seduction, conversion and indoctrination and has been accused of provoking, directly or indirectly, the death of many people. Cult members are generally believed to be weak, vulnerable individuals who see the group as a substitute for family and fall prey to an authoritarian and charismatic leader. It is a certainty that the vast majority of these individuals enter these cults voluntarily. In a country like Kenya, with misery, murder, lack of education and prospects abound, a smart, bold and charismatic person like Paul McKenzie Nthenge can easily find fertile ground. Meanwhile, Kenyan police continue to find bodies in the Shakaola forest.