NAIROBI, Kenya May 26 — Efforts by starving followers of controversial preacher Paul Mackenzie’s Shakahola cult to escape from Chakama Ranch into the neighboring Tsavo National Park were scuttled by elephants who forced them back, it has now emerged.
Interior Cabinet Secretary Kithure Kindiki stated that 91 people who have so far been rescued had relocated to Tsavo East National Park but obstruction by elephants curtailed their continued stay in the national park.
“Our experience in the last two weeks is that some of the people we rescued, we never rescued them inside Shakahola land; they were moving towards the National Park,” he said on Friday.
“Some of them had been chased by elephants so they came back to Chakama ranch and we arrested them. When we interviewed them, they said they were Mackenzie’s people,” Kindiki said.
Details released before the Senate ad hoc committee investigating proliferation of self-styled churches pointed out that Mackenzie had totally brainwashed his followers to believe that the world would end in 2023.
“Perhaps they had been radicalized and indoctrinated to believe that they would have died not through not being trampled by elephants but through starvation. They were afraid of elephants yet they were going to die,” Kindiki said.
He made the revelations even as government agencies readied for a 24-hour search in the Shakahola forest through ground and aerial surveillance.
Kindiki told senators the ministry had extended the dusk-to-dawn curfew in Shakahola for another 30 days to ensure agencies make progress.
“We want the search and rescue to move to 24 hours daily without interruption. The only thing we are interrupting is exhumation to ensure the mortuary is cleared which is done scientifically and in accordance to international law,” he said.
Kindiki revealed that some of the victims of the were foreigners from neighboring countries as most Kilifi locals had shied away from his cultic teachings.
Mackenzie forcefully made his followers die through starvation alongside the coordination of vicious bouncers and scouts who manned the three villages where his followers starved to death.
Kindiki painted a picture of how the bouncers tormented and forcefully killed the followers in the event they took long to die.
He told senators the hired bouncers would cook and dine on a highly balanced diet as the starving followers watched.
“The bouncers were supervising the death of our people were actually cooking on the grave side. They dug grave in advance and if you change your mind and for whatever reason you are taking too long to die they would kill you,” he said.
The government has identified ten more mass graves though satellite images have shown there could be more graves in the 800 acre parcel of land.
Pieces of evidence obtained has shown that Mackenzie was on a mission of organizing huge mass graves to bury more people.
“His recruitment would have been continuous but we also suspect that more of his followers are scattered not within 800 acres but some are collated into the neighbouring Tsavo national park,” the Interior CS stated.
So far 241 people have died while 91 others were rescued in the operation being conducted by multi agencies.
The operation has since been halted after Malindi Hospital Mortuary was overwhelmed with bodies exhumed from the forest.
Kindiki said the exhumation exercise to give room for logistical preparations for the second phase of postmortem examination at the Malindi morgue.
“We have to do it in bits because the Malindi sub county hospital mortuary, the space is limited. We are using a temporary mortuary next to the permanent mortuary to help with the capacity,” he stated.
Out of 93 DNA samples taken, 19 bodies have been identified.
Kindiki’s appearance before the Senate came a day after he visited Mackenzie’s Shakahola home where fresh details were uncovered.
Police recovered a note that entailed the cultists detailed diet consisting heavy breakfast, lunch and dinner even as he convinced his followers to starve themselves to death as a ticket to heaven.
The controversial figure behind the Good News International Church even had a menu detailing his daily diet borrowing from top hotels.
A detailed menu found pinned at the door of Mackenzie’s homestead shed light on his eating routine, a stark contrast to the deprivation he advocated for his followers.
According to the menu, Mackenzie would have a hearty breakfast and skip supper only twice a week.
On Mondays, he would consume bread and vegetables for breakfast and forgo supper altogether.
Tuesdays saw him having ugali (a cornmeal dish) and vegetables for breakfast, followed by porridge for supper.
Wednesdays consisted of breakfast with spaghetti and supper with porridge.
Mackenzie would have muthokoi (maize meal) for breakfast on Thursdays, again followed by porridge for supper.
Fridays involved having ugali and vegetables for breakfast, with supper omitted.
Saturdays brought tea and chapati for breakfast, and once again, porridge for supper.
Sundays included breakfast with rice and vegetables, and he would conclude his day with porridge for supper.
Evidence outside Mackenzie’s house revealed remnants of chicken feathers, indicating that he occasionally ate chicken. Goat bones were also visible on the premises.
While starvation appears to be the main cause of death, some of Mackenzie’s victims — including children — were strangled, beaten or suffocated, according to chief government pathologist Johansen Oduor.