Following the exhumations of 6 more bodies on Wednesday 19th July, the official death count associated with the Shakahola Massacre stands at 425 dead.
Below is our reporting on the Shakahola Massacre from 24th of April 2023:
Monday of June 2023 sees the beginning of a new stage in the investigation of what has come to be known as the Shakahola Massacre.
Crime scene investigators today return to the Shakahola Forest site in order to re-start the process of exhuming bodies from burial sites located around the forest. This return to the site comes after a two-week hiatus in which the investigation prioritised conducting post-mortems on the 129 corpses found in their previous visit there.
The discovery of those 129 bodies was a part of what is now being considered phase 2 of the Shakahola Massacre investigation. In phase one, a reported 112 bodies were discovered.
The present death toll now stands at 242 (one individual rescued from the site while alive has since died in hospital).
Interior Cabinet Secretary Kithure Kindiki speaking at a Church service in Kirinyaga County:
Cabinet Secretary Kithure Kindiki gave a church congregation in Kirinyaga County and update on the investigation. He offered new information on the cause of death for the bodies discovered in Shakahola and a warning to other cult leaders in Kenya.
On the manner of death and what was discovered through the post-mortems:
“We have lost many people … who were starved to death, hit with blunt and sharp objects or strangled.”
On the abuse of religion and its use as a disguise for criminality:
“Just the way we handle criminals hiding under Islam, we will equally deal with those hiding under Christianity. So that they do not stain the church.”
The Shakahola Massacre special-appointment task force:
President Ruto appointed a task force to handle the Shakahola Massacre investigation on the 5th of May.
More detail on what exactly the task force will be investigating has been released today. It will the responsibility to look into what causes have allowed religious cults to gain influence in this country. It will also be asked to make recommendations on how cults and domestic religious extremism can be legislated against.
More on that here: ‘Shakahola Massacre task force will review how cults form’
Below, you’ll find our original reporting on the Shakahola Massacre (dated 24th April 2023):
The number of bodies retrieved from Kilifi’s Shakahola Forest has hit 100 as detectives exhumed more bodies today.
The bodies are those of church members linked to controversial pastor Mackenzie Nthenge.
According to Inspector General of Police Japhet Koome 29 people have been rescued so far since last week when the exercise began in the 800-acre forest believed to be owned by controversial pastor Paul Mackenzie.
The IG disclosed that a team of experts drawn from the National Police Service, including Homicide detectives, other police officers, and government pathologists, are at the site of the crime, conducting investigations and taking part in the exhumation of the bodies.
“As NPS, we strongly condemn any form of religious organization that promotes extremist beliefs and operates outside the confines of the law, putting the safety and well-being of Kenyans at risk and violating basic human rights, in this case, the right to life.”
Alongside Shakahola Massacre death toll, there are over 100 people reported missing
According to the Kenya Red Cross, 112 people had been reported missing to its support staff at Malindi.
President termed the Shakahola incident as an “act of terrorism” and called Ruto called on Kenyans and different agencies in the country to be on the lookout for those who want to abuse the religious sector and those masquerading as religious persons.
“Terrorists use religion to advance their heinous acts. People like Mackenzie are using religion to do the same thing,” Ruto, who was speaking on Monday when he presided over the pass-out parade of the Kenya Prisons Service cadets, said.
A full-scale investigation has been launched into the Good News International Church and its leader since police stormed the forest at Shakahola and discovered the first bodies last week.
Interior Cabinet Secretary Kithure Kindiki, who termed the shocking saga a massacre, has announced that the entire Shakahola forest has been sealed off as a crime scene.
Additionally, Kindiki outlined the need for places of worship to be regulated.
“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,” said Kindiki.