The discovery of mass graves in Shakahola forest has stunned the nation, with the Interior Cabinet Secretary Kithure Kindiki describing the situation as a “highly organized crime.” The exhumations resumed on Tuesday, and Prof Kindiki warned that there may be many more graves to uncover.
Investigations have revealed that the Kilifi-based cult leader Paul Mackenzie is the mastermind behind the massacre. Mackenzie is accused of ordering his followers to starve to death “to meet Jesus,” with some victims also strangled, beaten, or suffocated. The chief government pathologist Johansen Oduor confirmed that some corpses had missing organs, suggesting that the suspects may have been engaged in forced harvesting of body parts.
Police believe that Ezekiel Odero, a high-profile televangelist, is one of the conspirators in the case. He allegedly received “huge cash transactions” from Mackenzie’s followers who sold their property at the cult leader’s bidding. The authorities have frozen more than 20 bank accounts belonging to Odero for 30 days.
A total of 112 people have been confirmed dead, with search and rescue efforts ongoing. Mackenzie turned himself in on April 14 after police acting on a tip-off first entered Shakahola forest, where some 30 mass graves have now been found.
The situation has raised questions about how Mackenzie managed to evade law enforcement despite a history of extremism and previous legal cases. Prosecutors are seeking to hold the father of seven for another 90 days until investigations are completed. Senior principal magistrate Yusuf Shikanda will rule on the request on Wednesday.