Shakahola forest death toll hits 350 after 12 more bodies exhumed


Locals from Shakahola Centre help dig up graves at Shakahola forest part of the 800 acres linked with cult leader Paul Mackenzie of Good News International Church on June 6, 2023 during the 3rd phase of the exhumation.

Photo credit: File I Nation Media Group

Homicide detectives on Monday exhumed 12 bodies in Kilifi's Shakahola forest, bringing the death toll to 350.

This is the fourth phase of the exhumation conducted in one of prime suspect Paul Mackenzie's associate, Tutus Musyoka's home.

The exhumation resumed after two weeks break by pathologists and homicide detectives.

Speaking in Meru earlier today, Interior Cabinet Secretary Kithure Kindiki noted the security experts had identified and mapped 40 more grave sites that are yet to be dug.

He noted they suspect the grave sites to contain more than one body each.

"We lost many Kenyans whose sin was to follow and believe a person they thought was the man of God. Families perished inside the Shakahola forest, we saw families of six and seven buried in one grave, so for those religious leaders who criticise the government for the steps they are taking, then I tell them they are wrong because we will not sleep on the job," said CS Kindiki.

Coast Regional Commissioner Rhoda Onyancha confirmed the exhumation process will take some time compared to previous times.

"The security team remained in Shakahola despite our colleagues conducting the autopsy. We have been doing patrols and assisting the homicide detectives in scanning the forest, and we have identified a number of graves," said Ms Onyancha.

So far, 95 people have been rescued and 37 arrested.

Ms Onyancha said the number of DNA Samples collected from families in search of their loved ones has increased to 253.

"The tracing desk is quiet, and the number of those who have reported their missing relatives is still at 613," said Ms Onyancha.

Those that have identified their rescued relatives are at 20.

Appearing before the Senate Ad Hoc Committee on the Proliferation of Religious Organizations, chaired by Tana River Senator Danson Mungatana, Principal Secretary for the State Department for Lands and Physical Planning Nixon Korir said they have no evidence showing Mackenzie was the owner of the 800-acre piece of land inside the Shakahola forest.

"We are not aware of any lease registered to us that alleges that Mackenzie has a piece of land," said Mr Korir.

According to the Chakama Ranch owners, they did not sell the piece of land to Mackenzie or his followers, whom they now claim came as squatters.

Last month, the government suspended the third phase of the exhumations to pave the way for autopsies on the bodies recovered during phase three of the exercise.