Twenty-eight years after the government tabled what was a controversial report on satanic, cult and devil worship in Kenya, the country is now grappling with the same issues the committee made up of religious leaders and lawyers had raised and had recommended action.
The report — prepared by a team chaired by then Nyeri Archbishop Nicodemus Kirima — was tabled in Parliament in 1999, four years after it was finished, and nearly five years after it was formed by President Daniel arap Moi in 1994.
The commission members included Dr Rev Jones Kaleli, Fred Ojiambo, Crispo Ongoro, Prof Jude Ongonga, Philista Onyango, Bishop Horrace Etemesi assisted by joint secretaries Josiah Okumu and Virginia Maina.
The findings of the team have come to fore these past few days after the Shakahola Massacre that has claimed the lives of more than 100 people who are reported to have told to starve themselves to death “to meet God.”
The damning report of the Presidential Commission of Inquiry into the Cult of Devil Worship in Kenya said religious cult was a growing concern in schools and society in general.
By then, according to the commission, it was evident that cultism was in formative stages in the learning institutions but with a very high possibility of becoming widespread.
Today, the recommendations – including a proposal to set up a special police unit charged with the responsibility of investigating ritual and related occultic crimes – are yet to be acted upon as the report tabled in parliament in 1999 continues to gather dust.
Even though the President failed to make public the report over its sensitivity, the then Internal Security Minister Julius Sunkuli tabled the 114-page report in parliament.
Two recommendations stood out, regarding the involvement of the security agencies and establishment of a moral agency to police the activities of the religious organisations.
“The officers attached to this unit should be given specialised training to families ... with characteristics, manifestations and activities which would assist in the identification of occultic crimes,” reads the report.
It recommended that “the government sets up a national committee consisting of professionals, lawyers, social scientists and the clergy to prepare a comprehensive national moral code of conduct which will regulate and govern the conduct of Kenyans, especially those in leadership”.
The commission proposed that a leader who fails to adhere to the code of conduct should resign.
The report further proposed the establishment of a national body comprising professionals and experts on religious matters to help in scrutiny of all religious organisations seeking registration, keeping in mind the constitutional provisions regarding the fundamental rights and freedoms of others.
“The national body should have a machinery to monitor the activities of the societies and should any be found to promote satanic practices, it should be deregistered,” reads the report.
Just as the present situation, where bodies have been exhumed at Shakahola as the State seeks to flex its muscle to deal with Mr Mackenzie over his religious teachings, occurrences in 1995 were more or less similar.
The Kirima-led commission documented the horrifying criminal cases which included murders where bodies were found with severed parts such as tongues, genitals, eyes and limbs missing.
“Other criminal activities included kidnapping of people especially children, rape and child abuse,” the report states.
The report also contains personal testimony of a self-confessed former devil worshipper.
The commission identified a cult as any religious group which differs significantly in one way or another from those religions which are regarded as authentic or standard by any given community.
In the report, Hare Krishna, the Moonies (Unification Church), the Church of God of Prophecy, the Church of the Living Word and Legion Maria were identified as common cult.
The team proposed a raft of recommendations that, had they been implemented, would have addressed the present concerns.
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For instance, it states: “Given the adverse effects of the activities of these organisations both in learning institutions and society in general, the commission recommends that their activities be monitored closely and further investigations carried out, with a view to curbing their harmful effects.”
Mackenzie has in the past had a run-in with the State over his followers’ children abandoning schools over claims that it is satanic.
Also, the report identified some programmes aired on TV, videos and film as foreign and as such exposed Kenyans, especially the youth, to foreign influence which was detrimental to national and social values.
“Given the adverse effect satanic cults have on the society in general and the youth in particular and considering that most are recruited unknowingly, the commission strongly recommends that programmes be developed to educate and sensitise the public through mediums such as public barazas, mass media and religious organisations on the manifestations and evils associated with the cult of devil worship,” it says.