What you need to know:
- The 31, who were at a house at Kamwene 'B' village in Kihingo, Njoro sub-county, appeared weak and hungry after fasting for nearly a week, according to the police.
- This comes amid investigations into Shakahola cult leader Paul Mackenzie and controversial pastor Ezekiel Odero.
Detectives in Nakuru County are holding a 62-year-old woman suspected to be the spiritual leader of Army Rurwama, a group which had confined 31 people to a house for a fellowship, fasting and prayers.
The 31, who were at a house at Kamwene 'B' village in Kihingo, Njoro sub-county, appeared weak and hungry after fasting for nearly a week, according to the police.
The suspect identified as Hellen Wanjiru Weri was arrested in a Saturday raid, following a report from a 66-year-old resident of Moi's Bridge in Uasin Gishu County.
The woman said her daughter, who had secured a job as a community health nurse at a local dispensary, refused to report to work and instead travelled to Njoro for the prayers and fasting.
According to a police report seen by the Nation, the woman reported that her daughter had been locked up at Ms Wanjiru’s house for several days, without food, for prayers and fasting.
On Saturday, officers led by the Ndeffo police station boss tracked her daughter’s phone, arrested Ms Wanjiru and freed the 31 people.
Police established that the complainant had secured employment for her 35-year-old daughter but that she refused to report to work, opting to travel to Njoro instead, with her husband.
"[The daughter], a mother of four, had secured employment as a community health nurse. She, however, refused to report to work and travelled to Nakuru," the police report said, adding she was to begin work on April 26.
“Officers found the members [of the group] confined to one house belonging to Ms Wanjiru. She runs an unregistered suspected cult church known as Army Rurwama. The scene was visited. All were rescued and taken to Njoro police station for further investigations,” the police report said.
Among those rescued were 14 adults aged between 23 and 64 years. Ten were women and four men, from Kisumu, Kitale, Ndeffo, Mau Narok, Ol Kalou, Molo and Subukia.
Also rescued were 17 minors aged between two and 15 years. Eleven were girls and six boys.
Njoro Deputy County Commissioner David Mbevi said they were tipped off by a member of the public of suspicious activities in Ms Wanjiru’s home. Mr Mbevi said their raid confirmed some religious practices were taking place there.
"We found them praying, he said. "Ms Wanjiru has informed detectives that her church has been operational since 2006. We are investigating to establish what other religious activities have been going on in the church because the circumstances that brought all of them together are questionable."
Mr Mbevi said all of the people found in the house, including Ms Wanjiru, were taken to Ndeffo police station, and recorded statements with the police.
“They confirmed to us that they were there for prayers though the place is not a registered church. They describe her as their spiritual mother. With recent reports of cults in the country, we decided to conduct further investigations,” Mr Mbevi said.
He noted that the adults told detectives that they travelled to Ms Wanjiru's house for prayers, so they could find solutions to their lives' challenges.
Njoro Deputy Sub-County Police Commander Lawrence Nallo said the adults and children were later released.
This comes amid investigations into Shakahola cult leader Paul Mackenzie and controversial pastor Ezekiel Odero.
The state has linked the two, describing them as individuals who share a history of business investment, particularly the TV station previously used to pass radicalised messages to their followers.
Some of these followers, the court heard, are believed to be among the hundreds of bodies so far exhumed at the Shakahola land linked to Mackenzie.
Mr Mackenize is being investigated over the deaths of more than 100 people, whose bodies were found in mass graves in Shakahola, Kilifi County. It is said he convinced them to starve themselves to death in order to see God.
Mr Odero is being investigated for murder, aiding suicide, abduction, radicalisation, genocide, crimes against humanity, child cruelty, fraud, money laundering and being an accessory to crimes.
More on this: Paul Mackenzie: From hawker to doomsday preacher
The Kenya Red Cross has set up tracing and counselling desks at the Malindi Sub-County Hospital, as part of response to the Shakahola massacre. At the tracing desk, at least 212 people have been reported missing.