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No, photo of Kenya’s first lady Rachel Ruto at prayer meeting with suspected cult leader Paul Mackenzie is fake, doctored

IN SHORT: Kenya has been gripped by horrifying developments in the coastal county of Kilifi, where dozens of bodies have been exhumed, apparently members of a Christian death cult. But Rachel Ruto did not pray with the leader of the church involved.

In April 2023 Kenya was gripped by the gruesome story of a cult in which it appears dozens of followers starved to death.

As of 26 April, police had recovered 90 bodies from shallow mass graves in Shakahola forest in coastal Kilifi county.

Followers of the Good News International Church were reportedly convinced that they would go to heaven and “meet Jesus” if they starved themselves. 

The church leader, Paul Mackenzie, was detained on 15 April. At time of publication he is reportedly on hunger strike.

While this story was being widely reported on, a photo was posted on Facebook with the claim it showed Kenya’s first lady, Rachel Ruto, at a prayer service alongside Mackenzie.


Narok county is in the south rift valley region of Kenya, about three hours from the country’s capital, Nairobi.

In the image a man's face has been circled in red with three question marks. This man is standing next to Narok county governor Patrick Ole Ntutu, who is standing next to Ruto.

Since 14 September 2022, when president William Ruto was sworn in, his wife has frequently hosted leaders, pastors, gospel artists and prayer services at the presidential residence, State House, in Nairobi.

The implication of the claim is that Rachel Ruto has poor judgement.

This image has also been published here, here, here, and here .

Africa Check has, over several years, debunked several false claims targeting Ruto. Is this image more disinformation against her? We checked.


Doctored image

A Google reverse image search revealed that the photo was taken on 22 January 2023 at Word of Faith church in Olalui in Kilgoris, Narok county.

Ruto posted the photos on her official Twitter account

But comparing the image doing the rounds with the original photo makes it clear it was doctored to include Mackenzie. The disgraced church leader was not at the event attended by the first lady.

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