The government has declared a church owned by controversial preacher Paul Mackenzie as an organised criminal group.
In a gazette notice issued on Wednesday, Cabinet Secretary for Internal Affairs and National Administration Kithure Kindiki designated Good News International Ministries; the church based in Malindi, Kilifi County as an organised criminal group under the Prevention of Organised Crime Act number 6 of 2010.
“In exercise of the powers conferred by section 22(1) of the Prevention of Organized Crimes Act, the Cabinet Secretary for Interior and National Administration declares Good News International Ministries to be an organised criminal group for the purposes of the Act,” read the notice.
Organised crime is a category of transnational, national or local groupings of centralised enterprises operated to engage in illegal activities, usually for profit.
Murder, terrorism and child neglect
Good News International Ministries joins 28 other listed gangs in the country, including al-Shabab, Mungiki, Sokoni Youth, Shymbo 12, criminal groups of boda boda transporters, Chinkororo, Gaza, Young Turks, Wakali Kwanza, Wakali Wao, Wakali Kabisa, Sungusungu and others.
Mackenzie has been charged in the Malindi, Shanzu, Mombasa and Tononoka courts with more than 400 different offences, including murder, terrorism and child neglect.
On January 16, Mackenzie was charged with murder and terrorism following the deaths of more than 400 people found in mass graves in Shakahola, Kilifi County.
The suspected cult leader was arrested in April 2023 following the discovery of bodies, some of which were said to have starved to death, but he denied the claims.
By the time he was charged, the bodies of 429 people, including children, had been exhumed from mass graves in Shakahola, a forest in Malindi, Kilifi County.
Signs of starvation
The bodies showed signs of starvation. However, the court was informed that the children may have been strangled.
The Director of Public Prosecutions told the court that Mackenzie allegedly encouraged his congregants to move to the forest and prepare for the coming of Christ.
On January 25, Mackenzie and 38 other defendants denied charges of child cruelty and child rights violations in the Tononoka courts.
Mackenzie and his co-accused, appearing before Principal Magistrate Nelly Chepchirchir, denied 16 counts, including child torture, allegedly committed on various dates between 2020 and 2023 in the Shakahola forest.
The State also accused Mackenzie and the co-accused of beating children as young as 8 and 14 years old with sticks on their legs, causing them bodily harm.
“This is subjecting children to torture and it is contrary to the law under the Children Act,” read the magistrate.
They were also charged with violating the children's right to education contrary to Section 30 (1) (2) read with Section 30 (3) of the Basic Education Act 2013.
The case will come up for mention on February 15 when their bail application will be heard.