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Kenya arrests second pastor to face criminal charges ‘related to mass killing of his followers’

<i>Stringer/Reuters</i><br/>Detectives escort Ezekiel Ombok Odero
Detectives escort Ezekiel Ombok Odero

By Nimi Princewill, CNN

Kenyan authorities on Thursday arrested another prominent televangelist, to face criminal charges “related to mass killing of his followers.”

Interior Minister Kithure Kindiki said Ezekiel Ombok Odero, who pastors the New Life Prayer Church in Mavueni, Kilifi County, announced the arrest on Twitter, but did not give further detail on the allegations against Odero.

“The said Church has been shut down,” the minister posted on social media site Twitter, adding that “over 100 people who were holed up at the premises (of the church) have been evacuated and will be required to record statements.”

Odero touts miracle healing for the sick whom he sells packaged water (described as ‘living water’) and handkerchiefs at 100 Kenya shillings (around 70 cents)

“There is nothing special in the bottle. It is purified water. I pray for it. The clothes used by Paul in the Bible healed many people. The shadows of the prophets also had healing powers,” he told local media in an interview.

His church sits on 65-acre land and has a guest house that accommodates church members who “sleep in the church,” Odero said in a December 2022 interview.

“The faithful come from all over the world,” he is quoted as saying. This place is full to capacity every Sunday. Getting a parking lot is difficult. I had built the petrol station for guests to fuel their cars,” he said.

A country reeling

Odero’s arrest comes as the country is reeling from the discovery of at least 100 bodies in shallow graves in in the Shakahola forest in eastern Kenya. Some were found alive but weak and emaciated. They are believed to be members of the Good News International Church.
Authorities are investigating the pastor Paul Mackenzie Nthenge for allegedly encouraging his members, including children to starve themselves to death to gain salvation.

Kenyan authorities have vowed to implement tighter regulations on religious bodies and organizations after Mackenzie’s case sent shockwaves through the country and raised questions about the government’s intelligence.

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