'Deadly prayers': Kilifi couple arrested after their two children die in suspected cult

Signage of the Kilimo Primary School in Kilifi County, where the two children who died after their parents reportedly refused to take them to hospital, were learners. [Marion Kithi, Standard]

Police in Kilifi have arrested a man and his wife after they were accused of causing the death of their two children by failing to take them to hospital after they fell sick.

The couple is said to have refused to take the two children, a girl aged 11 and a boy aged 13, for medical attention claiming their religion does not allow it and that the children would be healed by faith.

The couple was arrested on Wednesday, September 20, 2023, with police reports indicating that one of the children died on Saturday and the other one a day later while in the hands of a local preacher where the couple had reportedly gone for prayers.  

Until their untimely deaths, the children were students at Kilimo Primary School. 

Kilifi North Police boss Kenneth Maina said the the incident saying the deceased were a boy and a girl aged 13 and 11 respectively.

Until their untimely demise, the children were learners at Kilimo Primary School.

''On Sunday, September 17, 2023, through our informers, we learnt that a child had died because he was not taken to the hospital by the parents. We started investigations and even went to the place in Kibaoni where we found the parents. After further investigations, we realised that another child had died on Saturday," Maina said.

The police boss said their investigations had established that the first child died at the parents' house in Ukombozi village and the second one at the preacher's home where the parents took her for prayers to be healed.

The police said the parents failed to take their children for medical attention because medicine violates their religious beliefs.

"The couple said it believes in divine healing. They said Jesus shed His blood for their healing and that he died on the cross to break the devil’s power," said Maina.

He added: "The boy was in Standard Eight and his sister was in Standard Six. It is the parents who killed their two children, not God, not the church, and not religious devotion.''

Aside from the couple, the police have already arrested the preacher they had gone to seek help from. Eight followers of the preacher were also nabbed even as the police upped investigations into the matter.

Police have yet to establish the name of the church, which does not have a physical address.

"We are yet to know the name of the church where the couple had gone to seek intervention. We have established that they normally hold their Sunday worship services in a member's home,” said Maina.

When pressed to explain what happened, the couple told the police that their children's deaths were "God's will". 

Witnesses told the police that the victims started showing symptoms four days before they died. "They appeared to be suffering from a common cold. They may also have had a sore throat. At some point, they were unable to breathe, before they died," said one of the witnesses who did wish to be named.

An autopsy revealed that the children died of pneumonia and respiratory illnesses.

''We have done a post-mortem and we have learnt that the kids died of pneumonia,'' said Mr Maina.

At the same time, police said they are looking for the couple's three other children who are said to be missing.

The three, police say are aged between ten, seven and four years.

Mr Maina has urged residents to report such cases to the police to help them protect the community.

Cases of religious cults have been rampant in Kilifi County. There has been the case Shakahola massacre where hundreds of people, members of Good News International Church,  died after they were lured into starving in the name of religious fasting. The church is associated with controversial preacher Paul Makenzi who is facing charges over the death of members of his denomination.

And in the latest incident, it emerged that women are asked to attend services without wearing inner wears and bras, "to allow the holy spirit to speak to them freely".