Locals from Shakahola Centre help dig up graves at Shakahola Forest part of the 800 acres linked to Paul Mackenzie of Good News International Church in this past photo taken on June 6, 2023.

| File I Nation Media Group

Shakahola cult: Paul Mackenzie buried his followers with the state's knowledge

A burial permit dated January 28, 2022 and obtained by the Nation has revealed how Mackenzie was allowed to conduct burials for his murderous cult.

The burial permit, with serial number 1722406, was issued to one Evans Sirya and also bears the signature of the then Makongeni Sub Location Assistant Chief, Raymond Charo, who is now the Chief of the Chakama Location.

However, Nation cannot independently verify who Evans Sirya was and whether he was related to Sylas Omondi Otieno, or even if they are the same person after Mackenzie's followers changed their names once they moved to Shakahola,

It seemed that you could get the burial permit after submitting a small letter explaining why you needed the permit and attaching a copy of your ID card.

In this case, Sylas Omondi Otieno had written a letter requesting a burial permit to bury his wife, Zilpha Adoyo Mwande.

 The letter, dated January 28, 2022, read: "Mimi Bw Sylas Omondi Otieno Nathibitisha kwamba Bi Zilpha Adoyo Mwande ni mke wangu na kwamba mnamo usiku wa leo saa saba usiku ameaga dunia katika kijiji cha Shakahola, Makongeni Sub-location... Kwa hiari yangu nimeamua kumzika leo tarehe 28/1/2022 hapa nyumbani bila kuendamortuary ndani ya masaa 24 hours..wako mwaminifu Silas O.Otieno".

 It loosely translates to "I, Mr Silas Omondi Otieno, confirm that Mrs Zilpha Adoyo Mwande is my wife and that she died at 1am this morning at Shakahola village in Makongeni sub-location... I have decided to bury her today the January 28, 2022 here at home without going to the mortuary within 24 hours. Yours sincerely, Silas O. Otieno".

Both Mr Otieno's and Mrs Mwande's national identity card numbers were listed in the letter and a copy of his card was attached.

Pastor Paul Mackenzie

Paul Mackenzie of the Good News International Church during an interview with the ‘Nation’ in Kilifi County on March 24, 2023. 

Photo credit: File | Wachira Mwangi | Nation Media Group

 On the same day, a burial permit was issued, stating: "Having duly ascertained the cause of death of the above deceased person, I hereby authorise the burial of the body," and signed by Makongeni Sub-Location Assistant Chief Raymond on  January 28, 2022.

 Nation was able to trace the family of the deceased and Mrs Mwande’s mother was dead and had been buried over 15 months ago.

In an exclusive interview, Mrs Esther Anyango mentioned that she had no idea that her daughter had died or had even moved to Shakahola with her husband.

"I knew that my daughter and her family of two children lived in Likoni in Mombasa. I was shocked when I was informed that my daughter had died in childbirth around March this year," said Mr Anyango.

 She had to travel from Kisumu to find out the truth.

 "I started in Likoni and reported a missing person. After several attempts, the police found out that my daughter was in a village called Shakahola and we had to go there. On arrival we were taken to Mackenzie's house and when we asked him if he knew the whereabouts of Mr Omondi, my son-in-law, he denied knowing her. Another person sitting next to Mackenzie positively identified the family and even said he knew where they lived, so he was asked to accompany us," said Mrs Anyango.

 On the way, she noticed that another man they had seen earlier at Mackenzie's house had passed them on a bicycle.

 "To this day, I feel that the person on the bicycle was sent to warn my family to leave the house because when we arrived, there were children's shoes, clothes and food being prepared. It was as if they had left in a hurry," said Ms Anyango.

 After a thorough search of the house, she found the burial permit.

 She is now seeking justice and does not know when she will see her son-in-law and grandchildren again.

 When contacted for comment, Mr Raymond Charo, the then Assistant Chief of Makongeni Sub-Location, refused to comment on the allegations.

"I cannot comment on matters of burial permits, I have submitted all my reports to the Coast Regional Commissioner," he said.

 Nation understands that the same discussion of state approving burial permits to Mackenzie was raised during public hearings by the Senate ad hoc committee during its tour of Kilifi County two weeks ago.

The Ad Hoc Committee on the Proliferation of Religious Organisations, chaired by Tana River Senator Danson Mungatana, was set up by the Senate to investigate the circumstances under which members of Kilifi cult leader Mackenzie died in Shakahola forest and the role religion played in the whole saga.

Shakahola Forest victims

65 followers of Paul Mackenzie rescued from Shakahola Forest at the Shanzu Law Courts.

Photo credit: Kevin Odit I Nation Media Group

 "The permits presented to the committee were stamped by the Deputy Chief of Makongeni Sublocation of Chakama Location, whose jurisdiction includes Shakahola Forest, the site of Mackenzie's cult. The permits indicate that the two deaths were the result of natural causes,” a source with knowledge of the dleibertaions told Nation.

 He added:  “However, it was not possible to ascertain whether the burials had been submitted to the registrar of deaths for a death certificate to be issued. Similarly, it was not possible to know whether the Assistant Chief, in issuing the permits, had shared the information with superiors up the chain.”

 It is also understood that the security officials who appeared before the committee refused to discuss the Shakahola issue in detail, arguing that the matter was still under active investigation.

 “Furthermore, the county security chiefs, most of whom are newly posted, refused to discuss the matter substantively on the pretext that they were new to the station," Nation was told.