HomeCountiesSurvivors demand to die as authorities uncover shocking cult tragedy in Kilifi

Survivors demand to die as authorities uncover shocking cult tragedy in Kilifi

The remote and isolated village of Shakahola in Kilifi County has been plunged into horror as members of a suspected cult starve themselves and their children to death. The country is still coming to terms with this latest episode of madness, which has left a trail of death and despair.

The red soil from freshly dug graves in the unforgiving heat serves as a grim reminder of the tragedy that has befallen the village. The stench of death hangs heavily here, and the gravity of the matter is evident on the faces of every man and woman you meet. For the locals, the most shocking aspect is the sheer confidence of some survivors who demand to be left to die.

On Friday, authorities discovered seven bodies while digging up sites suspected to be secret graves used to bury starved followers of Pastor Paul Mackenzie’s church in Shakahola village. A team of pathologists and forensic experts began exhuming 32 burial sites believed to contain bodies.

The recovery brings the death toll to 17 since news of followers of the controversial pastor starved themselves to see “Jesus”. Sixteen followers have been rescued so far, including a 55-year-old man found in a hideout.

Given the scope of work at hand, the investigating team was forced to enlist the help of locals in digging the graves as they took a break. The remoteness and inaccessibility of Shakahola are compounded by the isolation in which the village stands, making it difficult for the government to provide adequate security.

Locals interviewed by Saturday Nation said this has left them vulnerable, and any attempt to snitch on the cult was met with attacks and death threats. There is also the bit about the presence of non-locals in the group, who show up there in the middle of nowhere, ready to starve themselves to death.

The exhumation of five children’s bodies in the seven recovered yesterday shows the possibility of parents either coming with more than one of their children to the ‘starve-to-death’ site. The investigating team is looking into whether there was intelligence shared about the cult, and if the police failed to act on the report.

During operations to flush out and rescue the cult members three weeks ago, police had to get logistical and vehicle support from Malindi—some 80km away. There is also a handwritten note inside an abandoned house that reads, “Ni mimi ndunge…yesu awe pamoja nawe.. hakika niombee msamaha kwa watoto wako.” The note is believed to be from one of the cult members.

People whose kin are believed to be Pastor Mackenzie’s followers camped in Shakahola to know their fate, but they were not allowed near the grave sites and were kept at bay pending the conclusion of investigations. Ms Esther Mkambe from Bungale said her younger sister and three children joined the church in Malindi and later relocated to the wilderness in Shakahola. The investigation is ongoing, and the authorities are seeking answers to how such deaths and cult behavior could go on for so long undetected.

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