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Man narrates how he lost wife and kids to Shakahola cult

Stephen Mwiti, a resident at Akumbone, Tigania West in Meru County, is among the many Kenyans who have lost their loved ones to the Shakahola ‘massacre’.

Mwiti, a father of five kids lost his whole family when a wife decided to relocate to ‘Bethlehem’, one of the residence owned by the controversial pastor Paul Mackenzie.

How it started

Mr Mwiti eulogizes his wife as a loving and a humble woman who at no time raised her voice against him. The two had been married for a decade.

Narrating his sad memories of his wife, Mwiti says that his good marriage changed when his spouse Bahati started watching kilifi- based cult leader Preacher Mackenzie’s sermons on his TV channel.

Mwiti also says Bahati seemed at first interested in the sweet godly sermons preached, but later became an enthusiastic follower of Mackenzie.

He however regrets that the wife later joined the Good News International Church, where she was initiated into the cult.

Mwiti and Bahati have been at loggerheads for the past seven years as she became radicalized such that she was against educating their children and even adopting family planning.

The father of five was surprised when her wife revealed that she was moving with their kids, all aged below ten years, to ‘Bethlehem’ – Mackenzie’s residence in Shakahola village, Kilifi County- eight years ago.

Mwiti’s family is now nowhere to be found and he fears they died in the mass killing as they are thought to have joined Mackenzie.

He narrated how he tried to convince his wife to abandon Mackenzie’s teachings to no avail.

“I used to take children to hospital and school because she said they were taught these things are earthly and they should avoid them. When I washed their uniforms she would never touch them,” Mwiti narrated.

The devastated man says that he vowed not to give in to her quest for the sake of the children as he knew they would suffer if he let them go.

Mwiti says when Bahati and the children left for Shakahola, he would send them food and money because he was unsure of their well-being.

According to him, smelt a rat a month ago when his wife’s phone went off. This forced him to travel to Kilifi on a rescue mission but claims to have faced hostilities from a gang that used to guard the ranch.

“I was accompanied by five of my friends to the forest. We were almost killed but we managed to get to ‘Bethlehem’ and I met Mackenzie. I asked him where my family was but he did not give me satisfactory answers. I was told they were somewhere deeper in the forest, but I could not get there. At his place, I saw about 100 people, most of them children and women,” he recounted.

Following Mackenzie’s arrest on April 14, Mwiti approached survivors and showed them photos of his children and wife hoping they would identify them.

“I was told my children must have died some time in November, and my wife a month ago, when her phone went off. As for the newborn baby, he was breastfed for a day and then suffocated. They said he had ascended to heaven and that they would meet him there,” said Mwiti.

As concerned authorities carry the remains of the victims to the morgue, helpless Mwiti awaits the process of identification to ascertain that he lost his entire family to the cult.

 “If it turns out that my family was wiped out, I don’t know where to start. I will have to get another wife and start a new family,” he said.

When media visit Mwiti’s kin in Meru at Akumbone, Tigania West, where he was born 45 years ago, despair hung over the village after his father Joseph Nkarichia was told that his son’s family was missing.

Mr Nkarichia 71 years old is a worried man as he has no grandchildren at his age. He regrets not to have taken any step to help when he heard about the marital problems his son was undergoing.

“My son went to the coast over 20 years ago and I have never seen his wife or my grandchildren. I had planned to go for the children when I heard that my son was not on good terms with his wife so that they would come and keep me company but I don’t really know what stopped me. Perhaps it’s this devil they call Mackenzie,” said Nkarichia

Meru family: The family says they lost seven members to the Shakahola cult

The aged man wonders how a man would kill all those people in the name of a religion and still walk free.

“Can’t the government protect us from these cults? Given a chance I can strangle him like a chicken,” added Nkarichia in frustration.

Nkarichia has a reason to be bitter. After his wife died in 1989 leaving him with three children, he struggled to raise them. He decided not to get another wife until his last born was older than 10 years. He remarried, but his second divorced him.

“I feel lonely. The only thing I’ll do now is to get Mwiti another wife and convince him to come back home. I’m getting old and you never know what might happen tomorrow. But I know God is with us,” he said.

Nkarichia is in fear, the fear of being faced with the burden of burying a family, one he has never seen.

“If they are dead, I will ask Mwiti to bury them there and come back home. We start a new life. He is my only hope,” Nkarichia concludes.

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