Survivor of Kenya cult claims she joined freely

STORY: Shamim Vidza is one of just over 30 people who survived the hunger cult in eastern Kenya.

“I went to that church because I accepted Jesus as my personal saviour.”

Like the others, she was discovered in the forest where the self-proclaimed Good News International Church was based.

Emaciated, she was brought here to a hospital in Malindi, to recover.

But she still insists she was not forced to join.

“Everyone has a free will to attend whatever church they want, whether you go to Ezekiel’s church or wherever. No one gets promised anything, you go as a normal congregant, and I was one.”

More than 100 followers of the church are known to have died so far.

Japhet Charo met the cult's leader Patrick Mackenzie in 1997 - when they both worked as taxi operators.

He says Mackenzie disappeared for a while and came back claiming to be a pastor, even recruiting

Charo into his church.

“When I heard about these deaths, I was horrified. I thought to myself that if maybe I had stayed longer in that church, the same fate would have befallen me but, thank God that I and my family left in good time. I am indeed sad because that could have been me. If indeed it is true that, that is what is happening, then we leave it all to God.”

Survivors say Mackenzie told them the world was going to end on April 15 and that if they starved themselves to death, they would go to heaven.

He's in police custody, following a tip off earlier this month.

The death toll - already one of the worst in the recent history of cult-related tragedies - is expected to rise further, as the Kenyan Red Cross says more than 300 people are missing.