Nairobi — Interior Cabinet Secretary Kithure Kindiki has vowed undying resolve to enforce the restriction on a Shakahola mass murder site saying security agencies will only allow parliamentary oversight.
While urging politicians to refrain from politicizing the tragic Shakahola Forest Massacre and allow security agencies to conduct thorough investigations into the deaths of over 100 followers of the controversial televangelist, Paul Mackenzie, Kindiki said the government had nothing to hide.
Speaking in Meru on Sunday, Kindiki emphasized that the 800-acre site associated with Shakahola is an active security operation zone and off-limits for politicians.
“It doesn’t matter how many bodies are recovered from Shakahola; we will broadcast the truth to the world because we don’t want this tragedy to ever happen again,” he said while commenting on the Mackenzie-led Good News International Church.
“I want to caution those who are politicizing issues around the Shakahola deaths, that we will not allow you access into the mass grave site. I want to remind them that is a security operation zone,” Kindiki affirmed.
Further, the Cabinet Secretary promised to be accountable to the public saying security teams will continue to liaise with relevant oversight committee of Parliament.
“I allowed the National Assembly Security Committee to access Shakahola because it is a security operation zone and Parliament has a role. The other politicians keep off. Don’t bring politics to Shakahola.”
He further reiterated that the government is committed to upholding the constitutional right of freedom of worship and maintained that it has no intention of maliciously targeting any religious institution in the country.
Kindiki dismissed claims that the state is intending to wage a war against religious institutions, clarifying that the prime focus has been turned to ridding the country of rogues advancing extremism and criminal activities.
“Let me make it clear that we are not at war with religion or the church of Christ; there is no conflict between the government and the church. Our only issue is with the few impostors who are hiding behind religion to engage in criminal activities,” he said.
Raila denied entry
Kindiki’s comments on security restrictions came days after Opposition leader Raila Odinga was denied entry into the Shakahola forest, with police saying access was restricted due to the ongoing operation.
Odinga, accompanied by some of the local leaders, said he was visiting the area to witness the ongoing operation following the recovery of more than 100 bodies exhumed since last month.
“Why are you restricting access yet this is a public area,” Malindi MP Amina Mnyazi who had accompanied Odinga said in a brief altercation with police.
But a senior police officer at the entry point was categorical that the leaders will not be allowed in.
“Tell us who to call if it is the Inspector General of police. How do you walk out of Baba (Raila),” ranted an infuriated Gertrude Mbeyu, the Kilifi MP.
The country has been stunned by the discovery of the graves last month near the Indian Ocean coastal town of Malindi, in what has been dubbed the “Shakahola forest massacre”.
Self-proclaimed pastor Paul Nthenge Mackenzie, who is due to face terrorism charges for allegedly urging followers to starve to death “to meet Jesus,” appeared in the dock in Mombasa.
Mackenzie is facing the charges along with 17 other defendants.
According to investigators, the other suspects are accused of operating an armed “enforcer gang” tasked with ensuring that no one broke their fast or left their forest hideout alive.
Autopsies carried out on 100 bodies have found that while starvation appeared to be the main cause of death, some of the victims — including children — were strangled, beaten, or suffocated.
Prosecutors are asking to hold Mackenzie, who founded the Good News International Church in 2003, for another 90 days until investigations are completed.
Ezekiel Odero, a wealthy and high-profile televangelist, was also arrested in Malindi last week in connection with the same case, and was granted bail at a court hearing on Thursday.
A total of 112 people have so far been confirmed dead, most of them children.
Odero is suspected of murder, aiding suicide, abduction, radicalisation, crimes against humanity, child cruelty, fraud and money laundering.
Prosecutors say they have credible information linking the corpses exhumed at Shakahola to the deaths of several “innocent and vulnerable followers” from Odero’s New Life Prayer Centre and Church based in Kilifi’s Mavueni area.
In his filing to the court, Odero said he wanted to “strongly disassociate” himself from Mackenzie and disagreed with his teachings.