NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — Thirty-nine bodies have been found so far on land owned by a pastor in coastal Kenya who was arrested for telling his followers to fast to death.
Malindi sub-county police chief John Kemboi said that more shallow graves have yet to be dug up on the land belonging to pastor Paul Makenzi, who was arrested on April 14 over links to cultism.
The total death toll is at 43, because a further four people died after they and others were discovered starving at the Good News International Church last week.
Police have asked a court to allow them to hold Makenzi longer as investigations into the deaths of his followers continue.
A tipoff from members of the public led police to raid the pastor’s property in Malindi, where they found 15 emaciated people, including the four who later died. The followers said they were starving on the pastor’s instructions in order to meet Jesus.
Police had been told there were dozens of shallow graves spread across Makenzi’s farm and digging started on Friday.
Makenzi has been on hunger strike for the past four days while in police custody.
The pastor has been arrested twice before, in 2019 and in March of this year, in relation to the deaths of children. Each time, he was released on bond, and both cases are still proceeding through the court.
Local politicians have urged the court not to release him this time, decrying the spread of cults in the Malindi area.
Cults are common in Kenya, which has a largely religious society.