Kindiki: Makenzi hired armed gangs to kill followers who backed out of starving plan or took too long to die

Interior CS Kithure Kindiki when he appeared before the Senate Ad hoc Committee investigating the Shakahola deaths linked to controversial pastor Paul Makenzi at Parliament building, Nairobi, on Friday, May 26, 2023. [Elvis Ogina, Standard]

Controversial preacher Paul Makenzi hired criminals armed with crude weapons to kill followers who changed their minds about fasting and wanted out, as well as those who took too long to die, according to Interior Cabinet Secretary Kithure Kindiki.

Prof Kindiki, on Friday, said grave diggers built temporary structures next to the graves of the victims where they had a menu of a well-balanced diet as they watched the Good News International Church congregants starve to death.

“Most of the victims died of starvation while others were strangled using wires. There were also those who were bludgeoned to death using blunt objects. The post-mortem revealed that some also had cracked skulls and ribs,” the CS said when he appeared before the Senate Adhoc committee investigating the Shakahola murders.

He revealed that the government has identified 10 more mass graves in the 800-acre land.

And in what he said was a well-organized and deliberate scheme by Makenzi to commit genocide, the CS said his team is gathering evidence to prove this and charge him under international crimes law.

“I am against rushed prosecutions where there isn’t enough evidence to bring justice to the families of the victims. I am building a broader but water-tight case which might take up to a year to gather evidence and I urge for patience from Kenyans. What we are doing with this case is to make sure we make a statement to deter such occurrences in the future,” Kindiki said.

The committee also heard that investigative authorities are probing multiple crimes including possible sexual offenses against minors, organ harvesting, and forced starvation.

The CS pointed an accusing finger at the Judiciary and the national security organs which he accused of complacency and castigated them for turning a blind eye to what is going on in Shakahola.

Bodies that were exhumed in Shakahola, Kilifi County, on Monday, May 15, 2023. [File, Standard]

Kindiki said that since 2017, Makenzi had been arrested four times with the latest being in March, in relation to the operations of his cult.

“But I am baffled that each time he was arrested, he was let go with just a slap on the wrist,” said the CS.

An application for custodial orders against Makenzi - by the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions - which was never granted by the Judiciary also irked Kindiki.

“The Judiciary should answer to the people of Kenya what it was doing during the unfolding of the Shakahola massacre. Whenever Makenzi was arrested, he was released on cash bail. What is more saddening is the fact that the majority of the bodies we have exhumed were buried 26 days before we found them and most died after the month of March,” said Kindiki.

He has now promised a shake-up of the national security institutions which he said should have been able to detect and prevent the deaths of the Shakahola victims.

The minister emphasized that any public officer whose action or inaction aided the progression of the cult would also soon have a date with destiny.

“I must admit that as security organs of this country, we failed. With the sophistication of our security organs, we should have been able to stop the scale of the offence. Accountability will not spare any institution, including the National Intelligence Service (NIS),” said Kindiki.

He added: “I want to tender an unqualified apology on behalf of myself and the people I work with because the matter started many years ago but we only just detected it recently.”

Mr Danson Mungatana, the chairman of the Senate committee investigating the Shakahola massacre, at Parliament buildings in Nairobi on Friday May 26 when the team hosted Interior CS Kithure Kindiki. [Elvis Ogina, Standard]

So far, 241 bodies have been exhumed and 911 people rescued. Of these, 19 have been reunited with their families. There are however reports of 619 people who are said to be missing. The CS said he could not directly link all the missing people to the Shakahola saga.

Search and rescue efforts have also been scaled up to 24 hours and the team is now relying on technology such as night vision equipment to detect movement, drones, as well satellite images and metal detectors to identify graves.

A curfew in the area has also been extended for a further 30 days. The team is also incorporating a mobile mortuary to help ease operations at the already full Malindi hospital.

The Danson Mungatana-led Adhoc committee promised to get to the bottom of the matter.

“We are not ruling out any possibility in terms of the Shakahola grounds being used for extrajudicial killings. Some of the skeletons stumbled upon by our team were older and our investigations will explore the extra-judicial aspect,” said Mungatana, the Tana River Senator.

He added: “We treated with suspicion the transfer of officers in Kilifi as opposed to action being taken against them but we are happy that the minister has said action will be taken. We also welcome the international crimes angle being taken by the CS. We will do all we can to aid in investigations. I urge Kenyans to write or get into contact with this committee in case they have any information that is helpful.”

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