Nairobi — The government has extended the dusk-to-dawn curfew at the Chakama Ranch where search and rescue efforts and exhumation exercise of victims of the Shakahola Starvation cult is ongoing by a further 30 day.
Interior Cabinet Secretary Kithure Kindiki made the announcement Thursday when the phase 2 of the postmortem exercise of 129 bodies recovered from the Shakahola forest commenced.
Kindiki said the curfew extension is meant to allow the search and rescue teams more time to comb the forest noting that the their could be more victims holed up at the expansive Chakama Ranch where the 800-acre- land associated with controversial televangelist Paul Mackenzie sits.
“That area(Chakama Ranch)remains a crime scene, a disturbed area, an active security operation area and out of bounds for every unauthorised persons. Everything including the curfew order have been extended accordingly,” he said.
CS Kindiki stated that the government has an evidence of more graves at Shakahola forest.
The Interior CS further disclosed that the death toll from the Shakahola Forest starvation cult currently stands at 241.
Of these, five of them being skeletons recovered after the suspension of the exhumation exercise last week.
Kindiki said that the search and rescue teams stumbled on the five skeletons on two different days.
“The skeletons are part of the human remains that will be the subject of postmortem examinations,” he said.
The Interior CS further disclosed that one person who had been rescued from Shakahola forest and taken to hospital for stabilization lost their life on Wednesday after the victim completely refused to eat because of the level of indoctrination.
“We tried our best to feed the victim of this horrible crime with a lot of resistance but because they had already been weakened significantly, that combined with their resistance to eat made them to succumb last evening(Wednesday),” he added.
Kindiki stated that so far, the rescue teams have rescued 91 persons and taken DNA samples from 93 cases.
He added that the 19 victims have been reunited with their families since the start of the exercise adding that 34 suspects have been arrested in connection with the Shakahola deaths to date.
Kindiki explained that last week’s suspension of the exhumation exercise is meant to enable postmortem examinations on 129 bodies and free the space at the Malindi morgue because of its smaller capacity.
“Immediately after the postmortem examinations is concluded, we will resume the exhumation of more bodies. We will not leave any of our people in that forest; dead or alive,”
The interior CS reiterated that the government will not hide any information related to the Shakahola forest massacre noting the postmortem exercise will be led by Chief Government Pathologist Dr. Johansen Oduor who Kindiki says be giving daily updates at 5pm.
Mackenzie has not yet been required to enter a plea but on May 10 a court ordered him to be detained for three more weeks pending further investigations over what has been dubbed the “Shakahola Forest Massacre”.
The 50-year-old founder of the Good News International Church turned himself in on April 14 after police acting on a tip-off first entered Shakahola forest.
While starvation appears to be the main cause of death, some of the victims — including children — were strangled, beaten or suffocated, according to chief government pathologist Johansen Oduor.
Questions have been raised about how Mackenzie, a father of seven, managed to evade law enforcement despite a history of extremism and previous legal cases.
The horrific saga has stunned Kenyans and led President William Ruto to set up a commission of inquiry into the deaths and a task force to review regulations governing religious bodies.