The Kenyan authorities on Thursday arrested another church leader, accused of mass killing of followers, days after the leader of a cult in the same region was detained for the mass graves of his followers.
Ezekiel Odero, the pastor at New Life Prayer Centre and Church in the small southeastern town of Mavueni was arrested as law enforcement agencies evacuated more than 100 people who had been holed up inside his church.
According to Interior Minister Kithure Kindiki, Odero’s arrest is connected to allegations of deaths that have occurred at his premises and reported at various morgues across the town. He is currently being processed and is expected to face criminal charges.
“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,” tweeted Kindiki.
“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,” he added.
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… pic.twitter.com/78EHEoH08l— Kithure Kindiki (@KindikiKithure) April 27, 2023
Odero is a wealthy televangelist who drew huge crowds and used pseudoscience and trickery to deceive people into believing him. According to reports, in his 40,000 seater church in Malindi, Odero claimed that ‘holy’ scraps of cloth sold at his mega rallies could heal sickness.
Notably, Mavueni is only 66 km away from the Shakahola forest where 98 bodies have been exhumed so far after police acted on a tip-off to rescue the brainwashed followers.
So far, the authorities have not linked the two cases. The crackdown of one of Kenya’s most high-profile pastors comes after President William Ruto vowed to crack down on extremist religious leaders who violated the law.
The shocking Kenya religious starvation cult
Earlier this month, the Kenyan authorities raided the premises of Paul Makenzie Nthenge, a pastor who ran the Good News International Church and advised followers to starve themselves in order to “meet Jesus”.
The police said they began the operation after receiving a secret tip that ‘ignorant’ followers of Nthenge were ‘starving themselves to death’. After reaching the church, they found 15 malnourished followers who were on the verge of death. Seven died before reaching the hospital as authorities extended their investigation by searching the nearby cemetery and forest.
Since then, over 98 bodies have been exhumed from the Shakahola forest and the grisly discoveries are not expected to end soon.