Kenya on Thursday said that one of the country’s highest-profile pastors would face charges over the “mass killing of his followers,” just days after the discovery of dozens of bodies linked to another church.
According to the Interior Minister of the Nation, Kithure Kindiki, the “head of the New Life Prayer Centre and Church,” Ezekiel Odero, was arrested by the police for the mass killing of his followers and also faced criminal charges.
Odero was transported from the seaside town of Malindi, where the church he pastors is located, to the local police headquarters in Mombasa for questioning. He was wearing his trademark all-white attire and holding a Bible.
Odero is a well-off televangelist who draws sizable audiences; his church, located south of Malindi, can accommodate 40,000 people. He makes the claim that “holy” strips of fabric sold at his mega-rallies may cure disease.
Following the discovery of numerous bodies over the past week on Nthenge’s property near Malindi, government officials pledged to crack down on outlaw religious movements.
In a case that startled the nation, the cab driver-turned-preacher is accused of encouraging his devotees to starve themselves to death as a way to approach God.
Over the course of the grisly story, at least 22 people have been detained. Investigators discovered that more than half of the remains were of minors, and as their search area grows, police worry that the death toll may increase.
Nevertheless, despite high-profile instances of cults and criminal pastors being involved in crime, previous attempts to regulate Kenya’s bewildering array of churches and ministries have fallen short.
He was detained in 2017 on suspicion of “radicalization” after advising parents to keep their kids home from school since the Bible does not accept it as a legitimate form of learning.
After two kids died of starvation while in their parents’ care, Nthenge was once again taken into detention last month, according to the local media.
After a police raid revealed bodies on the land he owns in the Shakahola forest, he was granted release on bail for $100,000 Kenyan shillings ($700), but he turned himself in to authorities. On May 2, Nthenge must show up in court.