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Kenyan forest death bodies victim of a ‘highly organized crime’

Kenyan investigators have resumed the search for members of a doomsday cult in a forest where more than 100 corpses have been exhumed, the interior minister said on Tuesday, May 9, describing them as victims of a “highly organized crime”.

Kenya cult leader appears in court after death of over 100 followers

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“I am afraid that we have many more graves in this forest and therefore, it leads us to conclude that this was a highly organized crime and I want to assure the country, the government of Kenya will do whatever it takes to unravel this organized criminal activity that has cost us all these people and counting, said Kenya’s interior minister, Kithure Kindiki.

Paul Mackenzie, leader of the Good News International Church, is in custody accused of ordering followers to starve their children and themselves so they could go to heaven before the end of the world, which he said would come on April 15.

He has not yet been required to enter a plea. His lawyer, George Kariuki, said Mackenzie was cooperating with police.

Mackenzie wants the investigation not to be “one-sided” by focusing on him. Police should keep an open mind in order to unravel the “mess”, Kariuki told Reuters, providing no further clarification.

The search operation in the Shakahola forest in southeastern Kenya had been suspended for a few days because of bad weather, with hundreds of people still reported missing.

“We have many more graves in this forest, and therefore it leads us to conclude that this was a highly organized crime,” Kindiki told reporters during a visit to the forest, where workers wearing hazmat suits and masks were digging up graves.

He said on Twitter post-mortem examinations on 112 bodies that had been exhumed or recovered had ended.

Search and rescue efforts for people “suspected to be holed up in the thickets and bushes have been going on.”

In Malindi, Kilifi County to oversee commencement of the second phase of exhumation of bodies at the Shakahola forest. The exercise was called off due to bad weather. Post mortem examinations on 112 bodies exhumed or recovered from Shakahola have been concluded. Search and rescue…

— Kithure Kindiki (@KindikiKithure) May 9, 2023
President William Ruto on Friday, May 7, announced an inquiry into the mass deaths, while a court kept Mackenzie in detention pending further investigations.

Last week a court released on bail prominent televangelist Ezekiel Odero, whom authorities say they suspect of being involved in the mass killing of his own followers.

Unlike in Mackenzie’s case, police and authorities have not said anything about any bodies being found.

Odero is also suspected of helping launder money for Mackenzie, according to court documents seen by Reuters in which police say “huge cash transactions” thought to be linked to the sale of houses belonging to Mackenzie’s followers were traced to Odero’s bank accounts.

Reuters could not immediately reach a lawyer representing Odero.

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