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Shakahola massacre, a Kenya agony since 11 months

20-03-2024 by Freddie del Curatolo

It has been a good eleven months since the first corpses were found in a mass grave in the Shakahola forest, some seventy kilometres inland from Malindi, on the lovely tarmac road leading to the entrance of the Tsavo National Park.
Since then, 429 bodies have been exhumed in the grounds run by the controversial preacher from Malindi, Paul Mackenzie Nthenge, in what has been described as 'the Shakahola massacre'.
Mackenzie had convinced many of the faithful of the sect he had founded, the 'International Church of the Good News', to fast, because in his view the end of the world was imminent, the Devil would take over the reins of the planet and the only way to be saved was to die pure in order to meet Jesus in paradise.

So the faithful handed over their (few) possessions and exchanged them for a hut in the forest, where they would gather in prayer and abstain from food until death.
Some of the faithful took their whole family with them, including children.
It was some concerned relatives who raised the alarm and the investigation has since been launched.
Mackenzie has been in prison in Malindi since 15 April 2023, and a total of 95 other worshippers have been accused of being his accomplices. For 38 of them, who are also in jail, as many as 238 counts of manslaughter have been laid. According to the investigators, many of the 429 victims, including children, did not die of starvation, but were 'helped' to die, including by the use of violence. Autopsies carried out on corpses in an advanced state of decomposition were still able to show signs of strangulation or blunt force injuries.

It took this long to carry out DNA tests, after the autopsies of over 400 identified bodies, and to be able to return them to their families. The handover took place yesterday, just as the Mombasa court was once again refusing the lawyers of Mackenzie and his alleged accomplices bail. The self-styled pastor will remain in jail while the trial proceeds.
Kenyan President William Ruto had previously called for the leader of the 'fasting sect' to be convicted of genocide and terrorism. In Kenya, virtually (we spoke about it recently, in connection with another case, read here) the death penalty still applies, but in fact it has not been applied for more than 30 years. It will certainly be difficult for Mackenzie to avoid life imprisonment and, given the evidence, almost impossible for this to happen, despite the paradoxical situations, even in the field of justice, that Africa has often shown us.

TAGS: forestadigiunoshakaholamackenzie

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