26 more bodies have been found in Shakahola village in Kilifi County on Monday, bringing the total number of those exhumed since Friday, April 21, to 65. This means that total deaths attributed to the cult this month now stand at 73, including the 8 victims who died after a police raid that lifted the lid on the horror church belonging to Paul Mackenzie.
Police also rescued nine people from death by starvation today, with five of them being in critical condition. They were rushed to hospital for treatment.
Authorities confirmed finding 7 bodies in one grave on Monday, the highest from one site since the operation to exhume victims began last week.
Th exhumation exercise on the 800-acre land belonging to the cult leader was suspended on Monday due to bad weather and will resume tomorrow.
Police also found a man believed to be his ally and co-mastermind on the vast property.
Mackenzie, who is in police custody, is being investigated for influencing his followers to starve to death in order to meet their maker. Police also suspect that some of the victims did not starve to death and may have been killed and then buried on the property.
Pastor Paul Mackenzie of the Good News International Church during an interview with the ‘Nation’ in Kilifi County on March 24, 2023.
GroInspector-General of Police Japhet Koome updated the tally after visiting the scene, adding that a total of 29 people had been rescued and taken to hospital. Mr Koome and Director of Criminal Investigations boss Mohammed Amin arrived at the village in the afternoon.
IG Japhet Koome (right) and Director of Criminal Investigations (DCI) Amin Mohammed in Shakahola village on May 24, 2023.
Questions about security, outrage
Questions have been raised on possible laxity and negligence by administrators and the local security apparatus.
Kenyans have also expressed outrage at how the government has handled the case, with reports that the team deployed to carry out the exhumations and rescue operation complained over a lack of adequate manpower.
On Sunday, Interior Cabinet Secretary Kithure Kindiki directed the Coast regional coordinator, together with the regional security team, to reinforce the team in Malindi ahead of his visit on Tuesday.
Prof Kindiki said enough security officers had been deployed and the entire land sealed off as a crime scene.
“The unfolding Shakahola forest massacre is the clearest abuse of the constitutionally enshrined human right to freedom of worship. Prima facie, large-scale crimes under Kenyan law, as well as international law, have been committed,” the CS said.
“While the State remains respectful of religious freedom, this horrendous blight on our conscience must lead not only to the most severe punishment of the perpetrator(s) of the atrocity on so many innocent souls, but tighter regulation (including self-regulation) of every church, mosque, temple or synagogue going forward.”