First four victims of Shakahola tragedy buried in one grave


Exhumed bodies at the Shakahola fasting cult crime scene. [Nehemiah Okwembah, Standard]

Fate followed four relatives whose bodies were retrieved in embrace from a shallow mass grave inside the Shakahola forest when they were buried together yesterday in a single grave.

Seth Hinzano Ngala, Esther Biria, Harry Ngonyo and Emily Wanje were the first victims of the Shakahola massacre.

Seth, Emily and Esther are the son, wife and mother of General Service Unit officer Isaac Ngala who died in Shakahola but his body is yet to be identified through DNA testing.

The four were buried at Myeye village on the outskirts of Malindi town in an emotional ceremony attended by hundreds of residents. 

Their remains had been preserved at the Star funeral home in Malindi after the family collected them from government officials last week.

Yesterday, the bodies were placed in different caskets as they arrived from the mortuary in a van as relatives wailed.

At the grave site, a priest sprinkled holy water on the bodies placed in coffins, then said a prayer before they were interred in the afternoon.

"We are praying for the souls of those killed unjustly. God knows their souls," said pastor Conjester Waweru of the Anglican Church of Kenya. 

It was the third such funeral of identified bodies in Shakahola in Kilifi county after two others that took place last week, also amid heightened emotions.

The only surviving son, William Ponda, said yesterday his family lost eight members to the Shakahola cult but the DNA tests only led to the positive identification of four.

"We are still hoping that the rest of our family members who died there will be identified soon so that we can put this tragedy behind us. It has been a difficult time for us since the Shakahola massacre occurred," said Ponda.  

For a village trapped in the tragedy, the funeral marked a turning point as residents discussed in low tones as they tried to come to terms with such a loss.