On Friday, authorities barred Azimio leader Raila Odinga and three local Members of Parliament from entering the Shakahola mass gravesite, declaring the area a security operation zone.
Odinga, who was joined by MPs Amina Mnyanzi (Malindi), Harrison Kombe (Magarini), and Gertrude Mbeyu (Kilifi Woman Rep), arrived at the site around noon. The group spent two hours attempting to contact Interior Cabinet Secretary Kithure Kindiki for permission to access the crime scene, as they sought to offer condolences to the families of the victims.
“The Shakahola incident has captured the world’s attention,” Odinga said. “I haven’t seen another case with reports of cults where the media has been barred. Why has the government restricted media and human rights access to the area? I don’t need permission to be there, and I made my visit public.”
Last month, Kindiki designated the Shakahola forest as a disturbed area and security operation zone. Odinga urged the government to provide transparency regarding the ongoing operation within the forest.
The Azimio leader also accused controversial pastors of engaging in cultic activities and maintaining close ties with high-ranking government officials. “These are conmen using religion to prey on innocent Kenyans. They are criminals and should be arrested,” Odinga stated, highlighting previous concerns raised about church regulations that went unaddressed.
Odinga reported that senior officers informed him the area was off-limits to his team. “CS Kindiki told me the area is an operation zone. Yet, there are MPs en route to the site, and we were asked to wait for them. Why permit MPs but deny me entry?” Odinga questioned.
The National Assembly Administration and Internal Affairs Committee, led by Gabriel Tongoyo, was scheduled to discuss the Shakahola incidents with the Kilifi Governor, County Commissioner, and county security committee.
Gertrude Mbeyu clarified that the group only wanted to view the gravesites, not the bodies. “Innocent people starved to death. Some suffocated and strangled. This is heinous and horrified the entire world,” she said.
Odinga stressed that the Shakahola massacre should not have occurred in a country with law and order. “Where were the security agencies when this happened? They are coming after the act to protect graves and dead bodies,” he said, insisting on media access to cover the events.