Jail Mackenzie but don't condemn all churches - Pastor Dorcas Rigathi

Dorcas Rigathi 

Dorcas Rigathi addresses a function at the KICC in Nairobi on March 2, 2023.

Photo credit: Dennis Onsongo | Nation Media Group

Pastor Dorcas Rigathi on Thursday broke her silence on the Shakahola mass killings and cult leader Paul Mackenzie, condemning the blanket condemnation of Christian faithful in the country.

Noting Mr Mackenzie is a criminal, not a pastor, Ms Rigathi said Kenya is governed by the law, and that criminals and terrorists should be dealt with in accordance with the Constitution.

“If Paul Mackenzie is a criminal, he should be treated as an individual. Even his family should not be part of his crime. Paul Mackenzie is not the church. In fact, he has said he is not a pastor but that he is Mr Paul,” she said.

She further cautioned against the generalisation of the church or religious organisations when a rogue leader violates the law, saying individuals should bear their responsibilities regardless of their positions in society.

Ms Rigathi said the law should be applied and that if found guilty, the cult leader should be put behind bars.

“We have a law where when somebody is a criminal the procedure should be followed. We cannot stand here and say that because one Christian has been caught in a compromising situation, the whole body of Christ should be condemned. A criminal is a criminal. A terrorist is a terrorist. A murderer is a murderer. Let them be taken through the law and be prosecuted. If they are guilty, let them be put behind bars,” she said.

“Let us follow the law and the Constitution, which allow the freedom of worship, and not infringe on the rights and freedoms of others. Let us also allow the criminal justice system to deal with this issue, and if those involved are prosecuted, then we can know who is guilty and put them behind bars. You cannot condemn every Christian.”

She spoke at the House of Grace Church, Nairobi, where she helped feed more than 300 widows from Kibra, Lang’ata Constituency.

Ms Rigathi’s sentiments came just hours after Interior Cabinet Secretary Kithure Kindiki said Pastor Ezekiel Odero, the head of the New Life Prayer Centre and Church, will face criminal charges related to the mass killing of his followers.

Pastor Odero was arrested on Thursday morning over suspected deaths at his church as police widened an investigation on allegations of the deaths occurring at his premises.

“It is notified for information of the general public that today Thursday, 27th April 2023, Mr Ezekiel Ombok Odero the Head of New Life Prayer Centre/Church at Mavueni within Malindi Sub-County of Kilifi County has been arrested and is being processed to face criminal charges related to mass killing of his followers,” CS Kindiki said in a statement.

“The said church has been shut down. The over 100 people who were holed up at the premises have been evacuated and will be required to record statements.”

Earlier on Thursday, Coast Regional Coordinator Rhoda Onyancha told the press that the pastor would be questioned by detectives at the Coast Regional Police Headquarters in Mombasa.

“We have arrested Pastor Ezekiel of the New Prayer Centre and Church at Mavueni in Kilifi County on allegations of the deaths that have been occurring at his premises and reported in various morgues or institutions,” said Ms Onyancha.

“We have also taken action and closed the prayer centre going forward,” she told reporters, without elaborating on the nature of the allegations against Mr Odero or his church.

Pastor Odero, dressed in his signature all-white garb and clutching a Bible, was transferred from Malindi to the regional police headquarters in Mombasa for questioning. A wealthy televangelist who draws huge crowds, his church in the south of Malindi can seat 40,000 people.

Last year, Ms Rigathi was among thousands of Kenyans who thronged Kasarani stadium to attend a crusade led by the Mombasa-based televangelist.

After the stadium was filled to capacity, she said Kenyans were starving for the word of God and that the multitude had gone to witness miracles, healing and wonders by pastor Odero.

Ruto: What is unfolding in Shakahola is akin to terrorism

Police have not connected Mr Odero to Mr Mackenzie, the leader of the Good News International Church, who is being investigated over the starvation to death of his followers.

By 6pm on Thursday, detectives had exhumed a total of 109 bodies from a vast piece of land in Shakahola Village, Kilifi County, which belongs to Mr Mackenzie.

Most of those found in the mass graves are children.

At least 22 people have so far been arrested in relation to the case.

These investigations come as Kenya’s policing authorities face severe criticism for alleged negligence amid cult activities.