Surprise as Shakahola detainee turns up with infant in court

Paul Mackenzie at the Shanzu Law Courts in Mombasa to face terrorism charges.

Paul Mackenzie and his co-accused at the Shanzu Law Courts in Mombasa to face terrorism charges.

Photo credit: Kevin Odit | Nation Media Group

Shanzu Law Court users and visitors appeared puzzled, after one of the survivors-turned-suspect of the Shakahola massacre, turned up with an infant on Thursday morning.

The woman is one of the 66 people who were initially held at Sajahanad Rescue Centre in Mtwapa, Kilifi County as survivors of the Shakahola massacre when they were rescued around May 2023, before they were later relocated to prison upon being listed as suspects.

The two-month-old infant is an indication that the woman might have conceived while at Shakahola Forest and gave birth in detention.

The Prosecution informed the court that the woman would be a State witness.

Shanzu Senior Principal Magistrate Joe Omido ordered the woman be offered psychiatric treatment for two weeks.

The woman is also one of the many survivors, who staged a hunger strike while at the rescue centre, forcing the authorities to relocate them to prison, to avert more deaths due to starvation.

She is among those rescued from the forest around May 2023, after authorities discovered shallow mass graves, where hundreds of suspected Kilifi cult leader Paul Mackenzie’s followers had been buried.

Unwanted pregnancies

A few months after they were taken to the rescue centre, the State raised concerns about possible unwanted pregnancies, after the prosecution told the court that the survivors were mingling freely.

Assistant Director of Public Prosecutions Jami Yamina at the time said the survivors' health had improved, hence the need to separate men and women, to avert cases of unwanted pregnancies.

The 95 people including their leader Mackenzie are facing the offenses of radicalisation and engaging in organised crime among other charges.

Meanwhile, Mackenzie’s wife is among those charged with terror-related offenses.

Ms Rhoda Mumbua was charged in relation at the Shanzu Law Courts in relation to hundreds of deaths linked to a cult allegedly led by her husband in Shakahola.

Another key suspect Smart Mwakalama, was also among those charged with the offences alongside his wife on Thursday.

Mr Mwakalama is alleged to have been Mackenzie’s right-hand man in Shakahola Forest, where 429 bodies were exhumed.

They are among 95 suspects facing charges of terror-related offences at the Shanzu Law Courts including radicalisation and engaging in organised criminal activity. However, they all denied the charges.