Families hit by Shakahola deaths cry foul over delayed DNA results

Families of victims of Shakahola massacre are still waiting for remains of their missing kin for burial.

“It is more peaceful to bury a relative you have nursed because you can move on but it is more painful living in the darkness trying to figure out the whereabouts of your missing kin,” says Zachariah Avonde, brother of Rose Khagai who went missing in February, last year.

The family in Kakamega strongly believes their kin is a victim of the Shakahola massacre in Malindi, Kilifi County, where about 429 bodies have been recovered from open graves in the forest.

One year down the line, many families are waiting for DNA results from samples collected from the bodies as they agonise about the whereabouts of their missing relatives believed to followers of Pastor Makenzi of the Good News International Church.

Avonde, 60, from Elufafwa village in Lurambi constituency, is accusing the government of keeping them in darkness on the whereabouts of their kin and the progress of DNA examination.

“I traveled to Malindi last year in February to the mortuary where DNA was being conducted but it is almost a year now, and as a family, we have never received any DNA results. Last year in November, I received a call from the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) officers from Malindi asking me to be patient,” said Avonde.

No information

“I asked the officer how I could be patient when, as a family, we have no clear information on the whereabouts of our sister. He told me I have to understand that I am dealing with the government and there is a way the government operates," he added.

According to Avonde, the family is struggling to move on and it will only calm down once they are certain about the state of their missing kin. 

“We want to tell the State to give us the remains of our beloved kin for burial because we are sure she died. That is the only way we shall have closure,” he said.

The man noted that if by any chance the sister is still alive, the government should trace and reunite her with the family.

“But if at all my sister died and the government wants to bury her, we will be glad if we are told so that we can let her go and give the government approval to bury her. This will allow us to carry out rituals by conducting a parallel burial so that we can release her soul and let her rest,” said Avonde.

At the same time, the 60-year-old wants Makenzi to take full responsibility for the massacre. Makenzi and 94 others are facing 10 charges in relations to the deaths.

“We have been watching, listening and reading stories about the ongoing case facing Makenzi, his accomplices and some of the followers have been in and out of court to answer to various charges. We want to tell the government to ensure Makenzi is jailed,” said Avonde.

The case will be heard on February 15.

Elsewhere, Tabitha Mukhulu from Shisasari village in Lurambi constituency is still recovering from shock that her three sons were followers of Makenzi. One was rescued, the other is in police custody assisting police with investigations while the whereabouts of the third one remain unknown.

Mukhulu reunited with his elder son Ferdinand Muhanji who came back from Malindi last May.

“Before the incident, my son Muhanji was a Geography and Kiswahili teacher, teaching in one of the local schools. Fortunately, he was rescued and he is now recovering from the trauma,” said Mukhulu.

Her second-born identified as James Lusukhu is among those facing various charges.

“Whenever I contact DCI officers about the release of my son, they tell me he is in the hands of the government and I should wait for the case to be concluded,” said Mukhulu.

“I am begging the government to release him, he has not done any crime but was brainwashed. Let Makenzi be held responsible and not my son because his continued presence in police custody is causing more harm," she added.

The woman is calling on concerned authorities to look for the whereabouts of her last-born son Joseph Musalakani who is still missing.

“I was told by officers that there is the possibility that my last born child died but they are looking for him. If he is no more, let me be informed with DNA results so that we can conduct what is required and put the matter to closure,” she said.

Mukhulu said she has gone through stigma after being accused of converting her sons to a cult-like religion.

In Mwitoti village of Mumias East sub-county, Benson Omari, a father of five, says he is waiting for DCI officers who contacted him to take DNA samples from him.

“DCI officers called in November, last year, stating that they were coming to take my DNA samples and that of my wife so that they can match the samples. But since then, I have not seen anyone and I am still waiting,” said Omari.

Four siblings

Omari said his eldest son led his three siblings to Malindi last year in January. Luckily, the family was able to rescue two children.

However, his two sons are still missing and the old man wants investigators to expedite the probe.

“I need to know whether my two children have died. And that can only be possible if I have DNA results so that I can prepare for their burials and move on with my life,” said Omari.