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How my brother led his family of seven to Shakahola - state witness

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Shanzu Senior Principal Magistrate Leah Juma was forced to adjourn the proceedings after the witness, a senior consultant surgeon, broke down in tears.

A court in Mombasa was forced to step down a witness testifying against suspected cult leader Paul Mackenzie following an emotional narration of how the lives of his brother, wife and at least six children were affected.

Mackenzie, of the Good News International Ministries in Kilifi County, is being investigated following the discovery of mass graves in the forest and reports that he convinced his followers to cause their deaths to quicken their journeys to see Jesus.

Shanzu Senior Principal Magistrate Leah Juma was forced to adjourn the proceedings after the witness, a senior consultant surgeon, broke down in tears while explaining what happened to his brother, his wife, and children numbering at least six. Juma allowed the state witness to take some time to cool down before carrying on.

In his sworn testimony, he told the court that in 2018, he noticed that his younger brother and his wife had taken their two children from St Andrew Primary School in Malindi.

"Upon receiving this information, I called my brother to my residence and asked him why he had done so, to which he responded that education was ungodly and not part of God's plan,” he stated, adding that he was told the children would no longer attend school.

"Shocked by my younger brother's response, I convened a family meeting in our parents' home, which was attended by my parents and all my siblings, including my brother, his wife and the two children," he narrated.

"During the meeting, he reiterated that education was ungodly and that he would not allow his children to attend school. His wife further told the meeting that if her husband ever decided to return their children to school, he would be the one to wake up every morning to prepare them."

The witness further informed the court that at the time of the decision, both his brother and the wife were ardent followers of pastor Mackenzie at his Furunzi church in Malindi.

Relocation

He went on to narrate that in  2019, he heard that Mackenzie had closed his churches and that in the early months of 2020, his brother, wife and children relocated to land within the Shakahola Forest, in Chakama Location, where the self-declared pastor's followers were to settle and farm.

It is believed that they had four more children in this period.

"In March 2023, l heard on one of the local radio stations, which I cannot quite remember, that followers of Pastor Mackenzie were being forced to fast until they died to go to heaven. I knew my brother was inside the forest. l was also informed that my brother and his two children had died due to starvation and that their bodies were buried in the same place," he stated.

He said he then arranged to go to Shakahola alongside a former General Service Unit (GSU) officer who resided inside the forest and knew the exact location of his brother's home.

"I wanted to go there for fact-finding to see my brother and confirm if his children had died and been buried there."

The witness told the court that he travelled to Shakahola with relatives and neighbours later in 2023 after learning of the deaths of hundreds of Mackenzie's followers due to starvation.

Upon arrival at the forest, he said, he found Mackenzie's guards armed with bows and arrows. They assaulted him and arrested the ex-GSU officer who was later taken to Langobaya Police Station, he added.

"I wish to further state that on April 14, 2023, at around noon, l received a call from the then Sub-county Criminal Investigations Officer of Malindi, a Mr Kamau, requesting ambulance

services in Shakahola for purposes of rescuing emaciated followers of Pastor Paul Mackenzie within the said area," he told the court.

"I left for Shakahola aboard a Malindi Sub-county Hospital ambulance but upon reaching the Baolala area, we met police officers who confirmed that three out of the persons in their Land cruiser were already dead and two men out of the rescued persons who appeared to be in critical condition were transferred to our ambulance."

The court heard that the two were rushed to the Malindi hospital but that one escaped immediately upon arrival while the other was admitted.

Self-proclaimed pastor Paul Mackenzie (2nd left) and other suspects in the Shakahola massacre at the Tononoka Children’s Court in Mombasa County on January 25, 2024. (Photo: Farhiya Hussein/EV)

Brother alive

It later turned out that the witness's brother had not died.

"On May 16, 2023, I received information that my younger brother had been arrested in respect to the deaths in Shakahola and was being held at the Watamu Police Station. I have since visited him although I do not know the whereabouts of his wife or his children whom I have now come to learn should be numbering six because he had more children in the period I was not interacting with him," the witness told the court.

"While visiting him at the Watamu Police Station, I enquired from my brother about the whereabouts of his wife and children but he informed me that he had taken them to a secret place in November 2013 and that they were all safe."

The witness noted that before his brother joined Good News International Ministries, "he was a good and focused person, right from high school and college, and he worked as a building contractor earning good money."

The hearings in the case began on July 8 and will end on July 11.

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