I lost my three sons to Shakahola cult, distraught Kisumu father says

Kisumu man: I lost three sons to Shakahola cult

Mr Morris Yimbo, a resident of Kanyakwar, Kisumu, lost his three sons to Kilifi's Shakahola cult massacre.

He says his boys were lured to the cult by his brother, Wickliffe Omondi alias ‘Waimoi’, as the nation was battling the Covid-19 pandemic.

Almost three years ago, his sons — Vincent Lihanda (21), Godwin Maxwell (17) and Collins Lijodi (14) — went missing without a trace.

The first one to disappear was his eldest son, Lihanda.

Until recently when the Shakahola saga started unfolding, the police were unable to trace his children.

Mr Yimbo recalls that his son started developing weird behaviours after joining a church associated with his brother, Omondi.

He soon became rebellious and disobedient.

On Sundays, the two would go to church, sometimes in Vihiga or Kakamega. And in some occasions, they would go for night vigils, commonly referred to as kesha.

Shakahola cult - missing sons

Yimbo’s missing sons, from left: Collins Lijodi, 14, Godwin Maxwell, 17, and Vincent Lihanda, 21.

A worried father was forced to have a chat with the son to remedy the situation.

“It now became the norm for the two to come home late at night, on excuses they would go for night vigils without my consent. As a father I was worried because his performance in school was worsening,” said Mr Yimbo.

In his effort to discipline his son, who was now absconding classes, the son ran away from home.

For two weeks the boy was missing. His parents reported the matter to the police.

However, the son finally reached out to his mother who later convinced him to come back home.

“He called his mother asking for forgiveness. We persuaded him to come home, which he eventually did,” recalls the father of three.

Even as the son returned home, he was still determined to leave school and pursue preaching the gospel.

His parents were shocked at his new interest in preaching at a young age.

All these events were unfolding during the Covid-19 pandemic when the country was in a lockdown.

But as soon as the lockdown was lifted, the son soon disappeared with his uncle, Mr Omondi.

“We reported the matter to the police but we couldn't get any information on my son’s whereabouts,” said Mr Yimbo.

Barely two months after the first born went missing, his other two children followed suit.

Mr Yimbo’s brother had carefully planned the disappearance of the two as well.

On the eve of their disappearance, they had packed their clothes in suitcases ready for their departure to Lamu.

“That evening my wife entered my son’s room, there was something unusual about it. Their clothes were packed as if they were soon travelling,” he calls.

Morris Yimbo from Kanyakwar in Kisumu County, narrates to Nation.Africa how he lost his three sons to Shakahola cult.

Photo credit: Elizabeth Ojina | NMG

The following day, in the evening, their mother waited for the two boys to return from school, but they did not show up.

“By that time, I was working in Kisii County. It is likely my brother had made arrangements for them to run away from home,” said the father of three.

It’s now been years of making frequent visits to police stations trying to find his lost sons.

On occasions the sons would call their father asking for money using different numbers.

“Sometimes the numbers would be switched off. We came to realise there were 14 different mobile numbers,” he said.

According to Mr Yimbo, police were able to trace the calling location as Lamu.

“Little did I know that my brother had joined this church in Shakahola and was responsible for the disappearance of my children,” said Mr Yimbo.

In an unfortunate turn of events, he soon found out his boys were among the victims who died.

During the search for his children, he discovered they were strangled while trying to escape from the camp.

The father of three described the scene as horrific. The children were buried behind the camp where they were staying in shallow graves.

Overwhelmed with the unfolding events, he passed out and was rushed to the hospital.

“Some of the victims who survived who knew my children said they tried to escape on March 15, but were caught and killed,” said Mr Yimbo.

He is now waiting for DNA results of the deceased before they can make burial arrangements.