Man seeks state support to bury four relatives who died in Shakahola

Mr Titus Ngonyo and his son William Ponda look at a family album of their kin during an interview with the at their Malindi home where they sought government Assistance in burying 4 of their kin positively identified from Shakahola Tragedy. Families are expected to receive 34 bodies which will be released on Tuesday.

Photo credit: Wachira Mwangi| Nation

What you need to know:

  • Speaking exclusively to the Nation, Mr Titus Ngonyo shared the family's anguish as they prepare to receive the bodies, which have been held by the government since their exhumation from the Shakahola forest in mid-April 2023.

A man who lost four relatives to the Shakahola cult is pleading for government assistance in burying them after their bodies were positively identified through DNA tests.

Mr Titus Ngonyo said the family is devastated after the loss of his wife, son identified as Harry, daughter-in-law, Emily Wanje, and five-year-old grandson Seth Ngala. 

The fate of his eldest son, General Service Unit officer Isaac Ngala, a daughter-in-law, and two-year-old grandson, who were also involved in the cult, remains a mystery. 

Speaking exclusively to the Nation, Mr Ngonyo shared the family's anguish as they prepare to receive the bodies, which have been held by the government since their exhumation from the Shakahola forest in mid-April 2023.

"We are overwhelmed by the thought of multiple burials and have decided to lay all four to rest in a single grave at our family home.

Mr Titus Ngonyo points to the location of his family members' resting place at their Malindi home. The family is seeking government support in burying four of their kin who were positively identified from Shakahola tragedy.

Photo credit: Wachira Mwangi| Nation

However, we urgently require support from the national government as we lack the resources to even purchase a single casket, let alone four," Mr Ngonyo implored.

Of the eight family members who found themselves in the grips of the Shakahola tragedy, only one grandson, Ephraim, was rescued last year.

He recounted his futile efforts to dissuade his wife from joining the ill-fated Good News International Church.

His tragedy was compounded by the defection of Isaac Ngala, the 36-year-old officer, who abandoned his post in Nairobi in 2019 to follow controversial preacher Paul Nthenge Mackenzie.

Isaac's wife, Emily, also resigned from her teaching job in Malindi to join him.

Despite their grief, the family has been unable to make burial arrangements due to warnings from authorities involved in the Shakahola investigation, cautioning against premature decisions amid ongoing processes.

William Ponda Titus, Mr Ngonyo's only surviving son, managed to evade the tragedy by working as a driver in Mombasa. He dedicated himself to the search efforts after learning of the forest deaths.

Shakahola deaths

Bodies exhumed at Shakahola Forest  being loaded to a Police Van in this photo taken on May 13, 2023. 

Photo credit: FILE

With the impending release of the bodies on March 26, the family faces the daunting task of preserving them at the morgue while they scramble to gather funds for a dignified burial. 

“It’s been a long journey. It is a relief though they are dead. At least I will have them closer home. We plan to bury them in one grave,” Mr Ngonyo explained.

Last week, Chief Government Pathologist Johansen Oduor revealed that out of the 429 victims exhumed from Shakahola Forest, only 34 have been identified.

Dr Oduor announced that families would now be responsible for organising burials independently, with no further government involvement.

As the Ngonyo family, along with numerous others affected by the Shakahola tragedy, seeks closure, their plea for assistance underscores the magnitude of the devastation wrought upon their lives.