Nairobi (Agenzia Fides) - There are 241 bodies found so far of followers of a Kenyan sect, buried in mass graves in the Shakahola forest, in eastern Kenya, on a ranch in Kilifi county, near the city of Malindi (see Fides, 3/5/2023).
Autopsies of the first 129 bodies show that most of the victims died of starvation, having followed instructions to fast to death "in order to meet Jesus" by "Pastor" Paul Mackenzie Nthenge of the Good News International Church".
Some victims, including children, were strangled, beaten or suffocated, according to the coroner. So far, the police have arrested 39 people, including "pastor" Paul Mackenzie Nthenge, and have rescued 91 members of the sect found still alive in the forest.
Most of the followers are Kenyans, from the western, northern and eastern parts of the country and from some parts of the coast, but there are also citizens of other African countries, Interior Minister Kithure Kindiki told the “Ad hoc Committee on the Proliferation of Religious Organizations”. An assessment that is far from definitive if one takes into account that experts on the spot have discovered new mass graves. However, the excavations were suspended due to logistical problems at the time of the autopsy of the bodies of the 129 exhumed victims.
The Minister reported other disconcerting details, stating that "the Shakahola massacre is a well organized, well planned and perfectly executed crime." Among the 91 followers who have been rescued and hospitalized, some - says the minister - "refuse to eat", while one hospitalized patient has died. In addition, cult leader Mackenzie had recruited a team of beaters to kill those who took too long to die or changed their minds.
The minister added that Mackenzie and his team of assassins watched the starvation of the fans from a special facility where they could eat abundantly. The Kenyan press has reported that a detailed menu reserved for Mackenzie has been found, showing how he feasted on copious meals for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
The Minister has also reported that there is evidence of sexual abuse of some of the children found dead.
There is still a suspicion, advanced by a criminal police report but denied by Kindiki (see Fides 5/10/2023), that organs were extracted from some of the bodies found in the forest pits, not so much for transplants as for "magic rites". (L.M.) (Agenzia Fides, 26/5/2023)