Shakahahola: State Opens Security Roads To Help Search, Rescue Mission

The government has started opening security roads within the Shakahahola forest to help search and rescue teams to conduct their operations, according to Interior and National Administration Cabinet Secretary Abraham Kithure Kindiki.

Prof. Kindiki said at the same time that more graves had been discovered within the 800-acre land believed to belong to controversial preacher Paul Mackenzie, where 241 victims of the preacher’s cultic teachings have died.

The CS launched the second phase of post-mortems on 129 bodies of Mackenzie’s victims at the Malindi Sub County Hospital Funeral Home Thursday before visiting the operation area, where he announced the extension of orders made earlier, including a dusk to dawn curfew.

He also announced that the government would scale up the security operation within the 50,000-acre Chakama ranch and beyond by employing the use of satellite technology, drones, and aircraft to search the entire ranch and neighbouring Tsavo East National Park and the Kulalu Ranch.

“We have started opening several security roads effective immediately in order to search every millimeter of the Chakama ranch for any survivors of Mackenzie’s atrocities,” he said at the Shakahola Command Centre after visiting officers involved in the search and rescue operation.

Kindiki visited Mr. Mackenzie’s alleged home inside the 800-acre farm, among other areas, before holding the press briefing where he said more graves, including close to ten mass graves, had been discovered and would be dug to exhume the bodies after the second phase of the post-mortems.

The CS, who was accompanied by Kilifi Governor Gideon Mung’aro and other senior government officials, said it was not easy to identify the graves as some had been tampered with by the perpetrators, while others had been concealed with vegetation.

“Even the exercise of looking for graves we believe is not complete because some of those graves are not conspicuous. Some of them were tampered with, while others have been concealed by growing vegetation on top of them,” he said.

He said the search and rescue operation would not be interrupted and that a 24-hour surveillance would be put in place with more personnel and modern technology, including the use of satellites to enhance communication between ground and aerial search teams.

He said he had asked the Communication Authority (CA) and the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) to pull down Mr. Mackenzie’s cultic teachings on social media.

He said the government had information on other preachers propagating cultic teachings and that security officers would apprehend them after investigations were completed.

Earlier in Malindi town, the CS said investigations into the Shakahola debacle will take longer than anticipated to allow the state to build a watertight case against Mackenzie and his collaborators.

Kindiki described the atrocities perpetrated in Shakahola as international crimes against humanity, which require time to investigate in order to secure convictions once the suspects are charged in court.

“We believe much more than before that the offences committed in Shakahola constitute some of the greatest atrocities against humanity,” he said, even as he pleaded for patience.

“This is a very complex matter involving mass killings of men, women, and children, and given the complexity of the matter and the gravity of the crimes, the issues demand that we take a long time to be able to piece together the evidence and be able to prepare for the prosecution of the people most responsible for these crimes,” he said.

Prof. Kindiki said the government had upscaled the search and rescue operation by deploying more personnel and technology within the entire 50,000 acres of the Chakama Ranch, which include the 800 acres believed to belong to Mackenzie.

The CS announced an extension of curfew orders within the ranch for another 30 days and that government officers who will be found to have been complicit will, in addition to being dismissed from service, be charged.

He said a total of 241 people had so far died in the debacle, including five skeletons that were found in the forest after the exhumation was suspended a week ago and another victim who died in hospital on Wednesday after adamantly refusing to eat.

He said the government would ensure that all victims of the cultish sect within the forest are rescued, dead or alive.

Meanwhile, pathologists conducted autopsies on 15 bodies, four of which were male victims and eleven of which were female.

Chief Government Pathologist Johansen Oduor said one of the bodies had indications of injuries on the head, a hint that the victim could have been killed.

Ten of the victims had died of starvation, while the cause of death of the remaining four could not be ascertained due to the high level of decomposition, said Dr. Oduor during the daily press briefing at the Malindi Sub County Hospital Mortuary.

Source: Kenya News Agency