Parents have a duty to protect children from harmful practices

Detectives exhume bodies from shallow graves within Shakahola forest. [Marion Kithi, Standard]

Detectives looking into the Shakahola cult deaths have found that most of the bodies exhumed from graves in the area belonged to minors. This came as data on missing people suspected to be members of cults compiled by the Kenya Red Cross showed that 245 of the 444 people reported missing and thought to have died due to Paul MacKenzie’s teachings were minors.

A look into MacKenzie’s teachings disclosed cultic tendencies that led people to death. In one of his teachings, Mackenzie explained that children should not be an obstacle in advancing the spread of the gospel.

The pastor alludes that God created people to spread his word and that children should not be an obstacle to that. He affirms that if one cannot preach and spread the gospel because of obligations related to childcare and upbringing, then they better be starved to death. The pastor says this in one of his sermons amid thunderous applause from congregants.

This therefore puts children who are our heritage in direct danger. We must be reminded that Kenya has laws that are very deliberate on the care and protection of children.

The Children’s Act No. 29 of 2022 is an Act of Parliament that gives effect to Article 53 of the Constitution; to make provision for children rights, parental responsibility, alternative care of children, including guardianship, foster care placement and adoption; to make provision for care and protection of children and children in conflict with the law; to make provision for, and regulate the administration of children services; to establish the National Council for Children’s Services and for connected purposes.

The law provides that all judicial and administrative institutions, and all persons acting in the name of such institutions, when exercising any powers conferred under this Act or any other written law, shall treat the interests of the child as the first and paramount consideration to the extent that this is consistent with adopting a course of action calculated to safeguard and promote the welfare of children, promote and conserve the welfare of children and secure the child such guidance and correction as is necessary for their welfare.

It is also important that in any matters affecting a child, the child shall be accorded an opportunity to express their opinion and that opinion shall be taken into account in appropriate cases, having regard to the child’s age and degree of maturity.

In the case of Shakahola, it is mostly parents, bestowed with the solemn responsibility of the provisions of Article 53 of our Constitution, who abrogated their roles and led their children into an open deathtrap. One would ask how and why one would be so brainwashed that they would want their children dead for whatever reason.

Agencies with direct responsibilities to child protection such as the Kenya police, the Children’s Department, Provincial Administration and any other government entities must treat the revelations of the Shakahola massacre as an eye-opener as it means that other than the obvious sexual offences, forced child labour and child neglect, there are other serious and life threatening offences. We must develop proactive measures to safeguard children against indoctrination.

The Kenya National Union of Teachers supports United Nations Children's Fund, Child Rights International Network, ECPAT, Defence for Children International, Plan International, World Vision and many other organisations that are think-tanks focusing on children’s rights through research, artwork, and advocacy.

Their goals are to have children recognised as individuals with human rights to build a collective effort to protect and defend children’s rights, and to seek justice for their rights violations.

Kenya, which recognises the efforts of the listed organisations, must maximise on its networks to save our children. In the words of Billy Graham, one of the world’s renown televangelist; the greatest legacy one can pass on to one’s children is not money or other material things accumulated in one’s life, but rather a legacy of character and faith