Team censures Nakhumicha and Kindiki for blocking key witnesses

 Interior CS Kithure Kindiki (left) is briefed by a forensics officer on the progress of exhumations at Paul Makenzi's Shakahola land. [Marion Kithi, Standard]

The Senate ad hoc committee that investigated the Shakahola massacre has censured Interior Cabinet Secretary Kithure Kindiki and his Health counterpart Susan Nakhumicha for preventing their officers from testifying before it.

While Kindiki transferred 11 police officers and consequently blocked them from testifying before the committee, Nakhumicha told Chief Government Pathologist Dr Johaneson Oduor not to appear.

Among the police officers moved by Kindiki are former Kilifi County Security Committee members whose "acts of commission or commission aided and abetted the tragedy."

 They include Jecinta Wesonga (County Police Commander), Solomon Odera (Senior County Criminal Investigation Officer) and Daniel Muthusu Muleli (County Criminal Investigation Officer).

In telling them not to appear, Kindiki argued that some of them were suspects and others witnesses in ongoing police investigations.

On her part, Susan Nakhumicha is said to have prevailed upon Oduor from honouring the summons by the committee.

In the report, Mungatana states that the move by the two CS obstructed their efforts to procure the attendance of the crucial witnesses at every turn, noting that as public officers they ought to have facilitated the committee in execution of its mandate.

The report adds: " The Committee would have received the evidence in camera, as it did with evidence received from other stakeholders such as the National Intelligence Service, the Director of Criminal Investigations and the office of Director of Public Prosecutions. The Committee, therefore, strongly condemns the actions of the aforementioned Cabinet Secretaries.”

For his failure to appear, Oduor was hit by a Sh500,000 fine forcing him plead with the committee, informing it that he had been prevailed upon by Nakhumicha not to testify as Kindiki had offered to appear before the committee on his behalf.

Oduor's evidence would have assisted the committee in determining how the victims had died because he had conducted autopsies on the bodies recovered from the forest.

In its report, the committee says police failed to act on reports of the discovery of bodies in shallow graves and played down alarming reports on the suspicious relocation of followers of Makenzi's Good News International Ministries from the forest.

"Local herders from the Orma community in Shakahola were the first to find shallow graves in the area and alerted local authorities. The second incident that led to the discovery was by a grandfather, one Mr Francis Wanje, whose eight-year-old grandson had disappeared in the area and he ventured into the forest to look for the child," reads the report, which cites the security committee for "inaction".

The committee found that the police ignored several complaints, filed at Lango Baya Police Station, with the county's security committee also ignoring critical evidence of possible mass deaths.

The case involving the eight-year-old exposed the police's complacency, given that they delayed in offering help to his family and to human rights activists to whom the grandfather had reached out to.

"...upon reporting the rescue of the 8-year-old boy from Shakahola forest, and having identified two possible graves of his two siblings, police officers did not go to the forest until five days later on 22nd March, 2023.

"On the said day, police officers agreed to accompany Mr. Victor Kaudo, a staff of the Malindi Human Rights Centre and Mr. Francis Wanje, the grandfather to the boy, who had obtained exhumation orders for the graves of his grandchildren in Shakahola Forest. Upon reaching the forest, the police officers allegedly received a phone call and retreated from the exercise leaving Mr. Kaudo and Mr. Wanje in the forest. It was not established who called the police officers and instructed them to retreat," the report adds.

If its findings are adopted, the culpable police officers will be sanctioned within 30 days.

Also faulted in the report is the judicial system, which was accused of failing to deter Makenzi's activities that included radicalisation by constantly granting him bail. 

"In view of the number of prior charges brought against Paul Mackenzie as evidenced by the court cases detailed above, it appears the criminal justice system failed to deter the heinous activities of Paul Mackenzie in Shakahola, Kilifi County," notes the report.