Ruto appoints inquiry commission to probe Shakahola cult deaths

shakahola mass graves bodies

Some of the 26 bodies that were exhumed from a mass grave site at Shakahola Village in Kilifi County on April 24, 2023, from land belonging to cult leader Paul Mackenzie.

Photo credit: Wachira Mwangi | Nation Media Group

President William Ruto has formed a Commission of Inquiry to investigate the Shakahola cult deaths that have shocked the country.

Court of Appeal judge, Justice Jessie Lesiit, will chair the commission whose mandate will be to inquire into the deaths, torture and inhumane and degrading treatment of members and individuals linked to Pastor Paul Mackenzie-led Good News International Church in Malindi, Kilifi County.

The commissioners are Justice (Rtd) Mary Kasango, Dr Frank Njenga (psychiatrist), Mr Eric Gumbo, Bishop Catherine Mutua, Dr Jonathan Lodompui, Mr Wanyama Musiambu and Mr Albert Musasia.

Commission joint secretaries will be Mr Oliver Karori and Ms Rachel Maina with Senior Counsel Kioko Kilukumi appointed as lead counsel to be assisted by Ms Vivian Nyambeki and Mr Bahati Mwamuye.

According to the gazette notice, the Commission of Inquiry will prepare a report and submit its recommendation to President Ruto within six months.

The commission has also been tasked with establishing circumstances under which the deaths occurred and also inquire into the legal, institutional, administrative, security and intelligence lapses that may have contributed to the occurrence of the tragedy.

It is also expected to identify people and organisations who bear the greatest responsibility for the Shakahola massacre and recommend specific actions that should be taken against them including criminal investigations.

“The commission shall recommend legal administrative or other forms of accountability action against any public official whose actions or omissions are established to have willfully or negligently contributed to the Shakahola tragedy,” part of the Gazette Notice states.

The commission is also expected to inquire into factors that led to the rise of the Good News International Church and other factors that give rise to such religious extremist institutions, occult groups and other formations that foster negative religious-based activities.

It has also been tasked with recommending legal, administrative, institutional and regulatory reforms aimed at preventing the occurrence of future incidents of deaths or gross violations of the rights and welfare of people by extremist religious institutions.

The commission will be required to receive views from members of the public and also oral or written statements from any person with relevant information.

It shall also summon any person concerned to testify on oath and to produce any books or documents that may require.

The commission will hold the inquiry in public but may hold private hearings if necessary and shall exercise power conferred on it by law for the proper execution of its mandate, including the power to require cooperation from public officers and institutions.