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First Shakahola Massacre Bodies To be released to Families

Kenyan authorities are on the verge of releasing the remains of individuals associated with a doomsday starvation cult, marking a pivotal moment in a case that has deeply unsettled the nation and garnered global attention.

These bodies, the first to be returned to their families, have undergone nearly a year of meticulous DNA analysis for identification.

The discovery of shallow mass graves in April last year, nestled in a remote wilderness near the town of Malindi along the Indian Ocean, sent shockwaves throughout Kenya.

The grim find, encompassing hundreds of bodies, including children, unravelled the horrors of what has been termed the “Shakahola forest massacre,” allegedly orchestrated by self-proclaimed pastor Paul Nthenge Mackenzie. Mackenzie is accused of coaxing his followers into starvation as a means to “meet Jesus.”

Out of the 429 bodies exhumed between April and October, some have been positively identified through DNA profiling and are now slated for release to their respective families for burial.

Government autopsies revealed that while many perished due to starvation, others, including children, exhibited signs of asphyxiation, strangulation, or blunt force trauma.

Francis Wanje, a high school teacher who lost eight family members in the tragedy, shared his relief at identifying four of them, with plans underway for a funeral next month.

Initially spurred by the disappearance of his grandchildren, Wanje’s family led investigators to the vast forest, ultimately uncovering the mass graves.

However, he expressed frustration at the lack of government assistance in burial arrangements, highlighting the financial strain of organizing multiple funerals.

Responding to inquiries, a homicide officer from the Directorate of Criminal Investigations emphasized that families are responsible for making their own burial arrangements. This reality, coupled with delays in DNA profiling due to resource shortages, has compounded the anguish for grieving families.
The Kenya National Commission on Human Rights (KNCHR) recently condemned the sluggish process, accusing authorities of withholding results under the guise of security concerns. In a scathing report, KNCHR underscored the urgency for closure, asserting that prolonged delays not only impede justice but also violate cultural rights enshrined in the Constitution.
As the nation awaits the final resolution, families yearn for closure and the opportunity to bid farewell to their loved ones in a manner befitting their cultural traditions.
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