Shakahola death toll hits 443 as seven more bodies exhumed

Detectives exhume bodies during the phase five exhumation inside the Shakahola forest, Kilifi county [Marion Kithi, Standard]

Seven more bodies were exhumed Tuesday at the Kwa Mugambi area, located south of controversial pastor Paul Makenzi’s homestead in Shakahola Forest, Kilifi county.

This brought to 443 the number of bodies retrieved from the shallow graves in the forest after phase five of the exercise started on Monday

Detectives and forensic experts from the Director of Criminal Investigation (DCI) Department of the Homicide Unit exhumed seven skeletal remains believed to be of Makenzi’s followers.

The Shakahola massacre has been linked to Makenzi and his followers who allegedly strangled, hacked, or lured the victims to fast to death “to meet Jesus Christ.”

Makenzi, his wife, and his followers have been arraigned in court over several offenses under the Murder and Children Act at the Mombasa, Malindi, Shanzu, and Tononoka Law Courts. They have denied the charges.

On Monday Chief Government pathologist Johansen Oduor said 50 mass graves have been identified in phase five of the exhumation.

The graves are located using the global positioning system (GPS).

The exhumation resumed after a six-month suspension in December 2023 to allow pathologists to conduct DNA tests on the remains recovered from Shakahola forest.

Out of the 34 positively identified bodies, the state has handed over 32 bodies to their families.

The two remaining bodies are of siblings and a further DNA test is required to establish their identity before being handed over to their families for burial.

Earlier, Coast Regional Commissioner Rhoda Onyancha said 610 people have been reported missing at the tracing centre.

Interior Cabinet Secretary Kithure Kindiki announced that the unclaimed bodies will be buried in Shakahola.

Prof Kindiki said that the state has compulsory possession of 4,000 acres of the Chakama ranch which will serve as the final resting place for victims that will not be claimed by their families.