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Shock over Shakahola victims shagging in Coast rescue centres

  Shakahola rescued victims in Shanzu Law Courts where they were arraigned for attmepted suicide for absconding meals [Courtesy, Files, Standard]

The State has raised concerns that 65 victims, who are crucial witnesses in the case against suspected Shakahola cult leader Paul Mackenzie, are engaging in sex at the rescue centres.

The State applied to have the 65 victims rescued from Shakahola forest who are detained at a rescue centre in Mtwapa be moved into Shimo la Tewa Prison to avoid unwanted pregnancies.

Through assistant director of public prosecutions (DPP) Jami Yamina, the State has expressed fears that it may soon be faced with cases of unwanted pregnancies and gender-based violence (GBV) at the Sajanadi Rescue Centre, where they are being held.

“The victims have regained health. They are strong, so the male and female must be separated. We don’t want to blame the rescue centre for unwanted pregnancies and GBV cases,’’ Yamina told Shanzu Senior Principal Magistrate Joe Omido.

Between June 6 and 10, at Sahajanad Centre, the victims staged a hunger strike but later agreed to cooperate with the State after they were taken to Shimo la Tewa Prison for three nights.

According to the DPP, some of the 65 victims — 26 males and 39 females, failed to give their true identities while they were being rescued.

They are accused of giving out a well-scripted and choreographed version of stories that failed to account for the status of their own families and children.

Most of the victims had left for Shakahola with their children and spouses, who are now believed to have died and buried in that forest.

Last month, Magistrate Omido ordered that all the victims undergo a medical and mental health assessment. Only two, out of the 65, are said to have shown signs of mental breakdown.

Jami said the survivors that were found to be sound mentally can have meaningful engagement with the investigators with the assistance of the advocates of their choice or with legal aid from State and rights organisations.

“They (victims) need to provide a proper account of their role and involvement in the deaths of the people who died at Shakahola forest,” Yamina said.

During his submissions, the assistant DPP also told the court that there is a need to also hold the male and female victims in separate detention facilities as required by the law.

This, he said, ensures their rights to medical attention, nutritional diet and any other complaints and redress mechanisms are in place.

At the same time, he urged the court not to release the victims before they are subjected to mandatory deradicalisation, disengagement and reintegration processes.

This, he said, will prevent further recruitment within communities. “Shakahola is no longer just a place, it was a mindset and an ideology that could be disseminated through the individuals who were rescued.”

Earlier on, an inside source in the investigation team revealed that cult leaders engaging in sexual activities with female followers in what he termed it as a way of welcoming them into the ‘holy’ land.

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