Family closes painful chapter after Shakahola victim is buried

Families of Shakahola massacre victims at the Malindi sub county morgue where they camped for the collection of bodies of their loved ones. [Marion Kithi, Standard]

Elizabeth Dzidza Mwatsuma, a victim of the Shakahola massacre, was buried at Dzitsoni village in Kilifi County.

Mwatsuma was the first victim of the massacre to be laid to rest. The family picked her body from the morgue for interment.

Distraught family members wailed as they laid their kin to rest. But the remains was so decomposed that mourners could not view the body to bid her farewell.

Mwatsuma was among the 429 cult members who perished in the Shakahola massacre after a marathon fasting.

An aunt to Mwatsuma, Zawadi Kashero, said their family lost 12 loved ones to the cult  but the DNA tests only led to the positive identification of one.

‘’We lost 12 loved ones in the Shakahola massacre. These were our two daughters and their 10 children,’’ said Kashero yesterday, wiping away tears.

She further said the deceased’s husband Julius Katana was rescued and is now in custody.

Ms Mwatsuma, a mother of four, joined her elder sister Ms Josephene Mbodze Mwatuma in Malindi and became a member of the Good News international (GIN) church in 2016.

She went to help her sister with household chores and a year later, she got married to a member of the GIN church.

After the closure of the church in Malindi town, they sold their salon business in Malindi and relocated to the Shakahola forest in 2021.

So far, the bodies of 34 people have been identified through DNA testing. Only nine bodies have been released to their families.

From Tuesday, the release of the bodies from the Malindi subcounty hospital mortuary has been going on slowly causing anxiety among relatives.

Although the massacre occurred more than a year ago, many families are still struggling to come to terms with the loss as they wait to collect the bodies of those identified.

Paul Nthenge Makenzi, a former taxi driver in Malindi, allegedly lured hundreds of people to the remote Shakahola forest to prepare for the end of the world. [Marion Kithi]