The Kenyan president is investigating the deaths of religious sects

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By Webdesk

The commission of inquiry was announced Friday by presidential spokesman Hussein Mohamed, even as cult leader Paul Mackenzie remained in custody.

Kenyan President William Ruto on Friday set up a commission of inquiry into the deaths of more than 100 people believed to have starved themselves to death, while a court ordered the cult’s leader to remain in prison.

The Commission of Inquiry, announced Friday by presidential spokesman Hussein Mohamed, will investigate whether administrative or intelligence errors contributed to the deaths.

Kenyan authorities have said the dead were members of the Good News International Church led by Paul Mackenzie, who they say predicted the world would end on April 15 and ordered his followers to commit suicide to be the first to go to heaven.

The death toll stands at 111, but could rise further, in one of the worst cult-related disasters in recent history.

Mohamed said Ruto had also appointed a task force to review the rules for religious organizations.

Mackenzie has not publicly responded to the allegations against him, nor has he been asked to enter a plea to any criminal charges. His lawyer George Kariuki told the press on Tuesday that his client could face “possible charges of terrorism”.

Mackenzie appeared in court in the port city of Mombasa on Friday, where prosecutors asked a judge to detain him for an additional 90 days while their investigation continued.

The judge said he would rule on the prosecution’s request next Wednesday and ordered Mackenzie to remain in custody until then.

Mackenzie, who wore a black and pink jacket and held his two-year-old daughter during the hearing, told reporters in court that he and some of his supporters were denied food in prison. Prosecutors denied this and his lawyer had told the press on Tuesday that his client was eating.

“He’s eating and drinking,” Kariuki said. “He is healthy. I met him personally. There are rumors that he has refused to eat, which is not true.”

In March, Mackenzie was arrested earlier this year on suspicion of murdering two children by starvation and suffocation, but was subsequently released on bail.

Relatives of his supporters say that after he was released, he returned to the forest where they lived and brought forward his predicted end of the world date – which had previously fallen in August – to April 15.

This has led to criticism from some Kenyan lawmakers that security services have missed opportunities to prevent mass deaths.

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