Makenzi on hunger strike after Kindiki vowed to keep him in jail for life over Shakahola massacre

Paul Makenzi (right) at Shanzu law court on June 2, 2023. Makenzi and other suspects are in custody pending investigations into mass murder in Shakahola forest in Kilifi County. [Omondi Onyango, Standard]

Controversial preacher Paul Makenzi has gone on a hunger strike over Interior CS Kithure Kindiki's remarks that he should be handed a life sentence for the massacre of over 250 members of his church in Shakahola, Kilifi County.

His lawyer, Wycliffe Makasembo, told Principal Magistrate Yusuf Shikanda on Wednesday, June 7, 2023, that they need assurance from Chief Justice Martha Koome that the courts will not be interfered with by outside forces in the process of seeking the truth and justice over the incident.

"We want the CJ to assure us of the independence of the courts in the trial of my client. We do not want the Judiciary to be interfered with. I want justice for my client," the lawyer said when he also announced his client has taken to a hunger strike to protest the CS's remarks and push for fairness in the matter.

He added: “Our clients (Makenzi and co-accused) have embarked on a hunger strike due to continued violations of their rights and will not eat and will further boycott court appearances until their grievances have been addressed.”

Makenzi, his wife, Rhoda Maweu and 17 others, are in police custody pending a ruling, on Friday, on whether or not, the court will release them on bail.

The police had sought more time to detain the suspects to conclude investigations into the bizarre incident where members of Good News International Church, including children, are said to have been starved to death in the name of religious fasting.

There are those who were killed, through strangulation, according to postmortem examinations the government has been conducting on the recovered bodies.

It emerged that Makenzi's was a well-planned extermination scheme where a gang was hired to finish off those who took too long to die from the imposed starvation. The armed gang also targeted those who opted out of the arrangement.

Kindiki who spoke in Shakahola, where followers of Makenzi are believed to have died as a result of fasting, said the State will ensure the controversial pastor remains in jail for the rest of his life. 

Kilifi Governor Gideon Mung'aro and Interior Cabinet Secretary Kithure Kindiki in Shakahola forest, Kilifi County. [File, Standard]

Makasembo said if Kindiki does not have faith in the Kenyan judiciary, then he should move the case to the United Nations International Court of Justice.

"As lawyers representing Makenzi, we will also boycott court proceedings and hearings until we get an assurance that there will be no interference with the courts during the trial of our client. We want an assurance of the court’s independence," he said.

He said further: “We want an assurance from the Chief Justice of the court’s independence in the trial of pastor Makenzi's case following the statement by CS Kindiki that our client will rot in jail regardless of the court’s decision.”

Mr Shikanda, however, said Kindiki's remarks would not influence the decision of the court. "Courts are independent and free from any external influence." 

“I have heard and noted the concerns of the parties. It is obvious the remarks made were not for this court. The remarks were by the Executive arm of the government and they belong to it. The Judiciary makes decisions independently. Hence I will not speak for the CS on this matter since this is not the right forum for me to do so,” said Shikanda.

He added: “I however know the impact of the statement on the suspects. They are apprehensive because they feel they may not get justice. However, they should have faith in the court since I will be guided by evidence and materials tabled before the court.”

On Sunday, Kindiki said even if the court sets Makenzi free, he will still be returned to prison and stay in jail until his death, and also face judgment in the afterlife.

"Makenzi will not get out of jail. He will age in there. We pray that God gives him more years to see Kenya's security prosper. He will not get out of jail. Makenzi will meet the wrath of God after jail," said Kindiki.

Makenzi is accused of luring his followers to death through starvation and dehydration, in the name of religion.

Some of the dead children were strangled, while others were attacked by blunt objects, according to the autopsy.

On June 2, Makenzi protested his "perpetual detention" and asked the state to either charge or release him on bail.

This was after the Senior State prosecutors Jami Yemina and Peris Bosibori sought an extra 60 days to detain him pending the conclusion of investigations.

Makenzi’s other lawyer Elisha Komora said if the State has evidence linking his client to the alleged massacre in Shakahola forest, they should charge him together with the co-accused.

The State claims Makenzi ordered the followers of his church to fast until they meet Jesus Christ and ostensibly attain martyrdom, a claim Makenzi has denied.

All this time, Makenzi is said to have been eating well, promising his followers that after he has overseen their fasting and attainment of martyrdom, he will follow suit, and also fast to death.

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