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No, photo doesn't show alleged Kenyan cult leader's house ‘built by followers’

IN SHORT: A Facebook post claims to show a luxury home in the Kenyan coastal city Mombasa, owned by cult leader Paul Mackenzie. But the page impersonates president William Ruto’s daughter, and the house is actually in the United States.

Paul Mackenzie, a self-styled religious leader in Kenya, is in police custody for his alleged involvement in the deaths of hundreds of people. 

He is accused of encouraging his followers to starve themselves in order to reach heaven and “meet Jesus”.

It’s alleged he told them that the world would end on 15 April 2023.

As of 16 May, police in Kenya had found over 200 bodies, including those of children, in mass graves in Shakahola, a remote forest in the coastal Kilifi county where Mackenzie’s home is. 

On the same day, more than 600 people from the area were still reported missing.

The shocking story has been widely reported around the world. It has also generated a lot of discussion on social media.

In relation to this, a Facebook page posted two photos, one of a luxury house and the other of Mackenzie. The text reads: “Inside Pastor Mackenzie Ksh. 500 million house in Mombasa built by his followers.” 

The post has over 950 reactions and more than 180 comments. 

It also links to an article published on a news blog website that most likely belongs to the same person who runs the Facebook page. The article claims that the house pictured is located in the heart of Mombasa and goes on to describe its features.

Africa Check has already debunked a false claim about Mackenzie attending a religious ceremony at Kenyan president William Ruto’s residence. So, is this claim about the luxury mansion belonging to Mackenzie true? We checked.


Facebook page impersonating president’s daughter

First, the Facebook page where the claim is posted uses the name and photo of Charlene Ruto, a daughter of the president.

Most of the posts on the page direct people to a news blog. But Charlene Ruto’s actual Facebook page is verified, can be found here and is not affiliated with the blog.

Second, a reverse image search reveals that the house pictured is actually this house in Thousand Oaks in the US state of California. 

It is a luxury home first owned by a former professional hockey player, who sold the house in 2021.

The same house has been linked to at least one other false claim. In October 2022, Africa Check debunked the claim that the house was near the Masai Mara and belonged to former Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta.

The claim that the house is in Mombasa and that it belongs to Mackenzie is false.

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