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Cult deaths should have been prevented: Kenya's Ruto

STORY: Kenya's president has said government agencies should have been able to prevent the deaths by starvation of more than 200 members of a cult.

In an interview with Kenyan news outlets on Sunday (May 14), William Ruto added that he takes responsibility for the tragedy.

"And certainly," he said, "some people who are responsible for this failure on the part of government will have to give an account."

Authorities accuse Paul Mackenzie, leader of the Good News International Church, of ordering his followers to starve themselves and their children.

That was so they could go to heaven before the end of the world.

The death toll so far stands at 201, making it one of the worst cult-related disasters in recent history.

Most have been exhumed from shallow graves in Shakahola Forest in Kenya's southeast.

Mackenzie surrendered to police on April 14 after they raided the forest, where his church was based, and rescued 15 people who had been starving themselves.

He has not yet been required to enter a plea and one of his lawyers has said he is cooperating with investigators.

But Mackenzie was also arrested earlier this year on suspicion of the murder of two children by starvation and suffocation - and was then released on bail.

Relatives of his followers say after he was freed he returned to the forest - moving forward his predicted date for the end of the world from August to April 15.

Ruto said that, given the presence of government agencies in the area, including police, intelligence services and the local administration, Mackenzie's activities should not have gone unnoticed.

Earlier this month Ruto appointed a commission of inquiry into the deaths and another task force to review regulations governing religious organizations.