KNCHR probes Shimo La Tewa prison for allegedly mistreating Makenzi

Shakahola cult leader Paul Makenzi. [Robert Menza, Standard]

Controversial pastor Paul Makenzi was held in solitary confinement at Shimo La Tewa Prison, Mombasa, contradicting his right to freedom from torture and cruel human degrading treatment.

A report by the Kenya National Commission for Human Rights (KNCHR) filed at Shanzu Law Courts indicts prison officers for alleged ill-treatment of Makenzi and nine detainees linked to the Shakahola massacre.

KNCHR says that Makenzi was kept in segregated isolation at Shimo La Tewa, which is tantamount to torture.

In the damning report against the prison wardens, KNCHR said it was not in dispute that inmates linked to the Shakahola massacre were allegedly injured by the officers and did not get adequate medical services.

“It was also alleged that the prison officers made verbal abuses or slurs against the detainees in the Shakahola matter, causing enormous distress and mental disturbance and anxiety,” it states.

However, the Shimo La Tewa Maxim Prisons Officer-In-Charge (OIC), Kassim Kimuyu, is quoted in the report defending his officers handling of Makenzi, saying they had nothing against him.

“Prison officers cannot operate outside the Prisons Act, cap 90 and there is nothing personal against Paul Makenzi and group. All the officers on duty in the specific blocks, such as the violent extremist block, are specially trained on security and ability to deter radicalisation,” he said.

Kimuyu noted that all prison officers are trained on the Prevention of Torture Act by the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC), thus privy to the Act.

“The prison resources are overstretched due to the high number of inmates and remandees, and for them to have their cells, then others have been moved,” Kimuyu said in the report.

The commission filed the 36-page report dated August 24, 2023, at the Shanzu Law Court in September last year, but The Standard was able to exclusively obtain a copy on Wednesday.

On August 10, 2023, Shanzu Law Courts Principal Magistrate Yusuf Shikanda directed KNCHR to investigate the veracity of allegations of torture of Makenzi by prison warders.

The defense lawyer, Wycliffe Makasembo, had protested in open court on August 4, 2023, that Makenzi and nine other detainees were being subjected to torture in solitary confinement in the three prisons.

The nine, Makenzi, Smart Mwakalama, Titus Munyao, John Mark, Robert Katana, Alfred Kasena, Gideon Mbithi, Stephen Ominde, Collines Kabae, and Erick Omollo are accused of orchestrating the massacre of at least 429 followers of Good News International Ministries inside the Shakahola Forest in Malindi.

On July 14, 2023, the ten accused persons were transferred from Malindi GK Prison to Shimo La Tewa Prison as police sought more time to investigate the deaths of mainly the children and women.

At Shimo La Tewa, they were all taken to the Capital Block and placed in Cell 1. Makenzi claimed that his mistreatment started three days after their arrival.

“After 3 days, he stated that they were taken out of the cells in shifts of 5, then 4, and he was taken out alone when the rest were inside to bask for about 2 hours,” says the KNCHR report.

Makenzi claimed that he survived on water for 8 days after he refused to eat, fearing poisoning. “He refused to eat due to trust issues,” says the report seen by The Standard.

KNCHR claimed that the suspects were mistreated, and at one time, Makenzi developed muscle cramps and back pain due to continued lockup in the small cell.

“After about nine days, a Dr Bwire of the Prison Dispensary visited his (Makenzi) cell, at which time he was very weak, due to lack of nutrition and could not stand properly,” it states.

The commission told the court that Makenzi was detained in a tiny cell christened “White House” at the Shimo La Tewa Maximum Prison, Mombasa.

“Shimo La Tewa prison transferred the main complainant, Paul Makenzi, to the segregated isolation to another cell with minimal interaction,” said KNCHR.

It says that the detainees' rights to visitation and communication with family members were curtailed in the Shimo La Tewa, Kilifi, and Malindi GK prisons.

“The presented scanty medical records are not proof of access to quality and adequate medical care. This presents an infringement on the Right to Health as well as Article 29 (a) of the Constitution,” states the commission in its findings.

KNCHR recommends that the Kenya Prison Service conducts internal investigations and takes action against prison officers found responsible for the violations.