Provide clear roadmap out of Shakahola Forest

Interior Cabinet Secretary Kithure Kindiki inside cult leader Paul Mackenzie's house in Shakahola Forest, Kilifi. [Marion Kithi, Standard]

On Tuesday, Interior Cabinet Secretary Kithure Kindiki launched yet another phase of exhumation of victims of what has now come to be known as the Shakahola massacre.

The launch, as odd as it sounds, was accompanied by equally odd pronouncements, among them that the massive ranch will be converted into a national monument.

Since his first visit, Prof Kindiki has made a raft of pronouncements which have added swell to the unfortunate spectre of the tragedy. His first act on landing at the ranch was to declare it a disturbed area, and to ban all people, except himself and authorised persons, from accessing the scene.

He elected to run the exhumation, rescue and post-mortem in phases citing the vastness of the ranch, weather conditions, personnel and resources required for the job. He has continued to go there every other week to launch one thing or another, to expand the scope and issue new pronouncements.

In the meantime, the official inquiry the CS promised, and which was delivered by the president has been stopped by the courts. A Senate team is running their own parallel inquiry.

When he appeared before the team, the CS gave a moving narration of the possible turn of events at the ranch, including how Pastor Paul Mackenzie issued orders on hapless victims to be clobbered to death.

A few days ago, Kindiki put the Judiciary on notice against releasing Mackenzie. He warned that if the preacher were to be released, government would haul him back to jail to spend a lifetime there.

The CS is, unarguably, a well trained lawyer, and a professor of law at that. He is also an advocate of the High Court and high-ranking lawyer who has practiced all the way to the Supreme Court and at the ICC.

He knows too well that Kenya runs on rule of law, and not edicts or empty pronouncements. He has instead elected to blind himself from this reality, and to speak from both sides of his mouth. He has issued orders on the opening up of the ranch, and building of roads to nowhere in bid to recover more bodies.

In the meantime, families of missing persons continue to agonise on the fate of their loved ones. By all accounts, the operation as announced and framed by the CS is an open-ended one. No one, apart from the CS, knows when it will end.

The victims, and their families require closure and no amount of false promises, and tough pronouncements will accord that. If the agencies conducting the operation at the ranch were as tough as the CS sounds, the massacre would probably not have happened.

Time has come for the CS to offer a clear roadmap out of this inglorious spectacle which has brought immense pain and shame. The CS cannot dig up the ranch for eternity, and move to adjoining ranches - including the national park - in hunt for graves.

He must deploy more resources, including modern technology, to fast-track the rescue and recovery efforts. Above all, the CS must be modest in his pronouncements to avoid giving false hopes to grief-stricken families.

The country, and the families need closure much more than vain pronouncements.