CS Kindiki calls for tighter regulation of churches after Kilifi ‘cult massacre’

Written by on 24 April 2023

Interior Cabinet Secretary Kithure Kindiki has condemned the killing of at least 39 people in a shocking religious cult in Shakahola forest, Kilifi County.

In a statement on Sunday, April 23, CS Kindiki termed the deaths as an abuse of freedom of worship and called for tougher measures to regulate religious activities in the country going forward, including self-regulation of the organisations.

According to Kindiki, punishing persons linked to the cult that forces their followers to fast to death is not enough.

“The unfolding Shakahola Forest Massacre is the clearest abuse of the constitutionally enshrined human right to freedom of worship. Prima facie, large-scale crimes under Kenyan law as well as international law have been committed,” Kindiki said.

“While the State remains respectful of religious freedom, this horrendous blight on our consience must lead not only to the most severe punishment of the perpetrator(s) of the atrocity on so many innocent souls, but tighter regulation (including self-regulation) of every church, mosque, temple or synagogue going forward.”

The minister promised to visit the area on Tuesday even as he directed reinforcement of security in the 800-acre forest that has now been declared a crime scene.

“While the Multi-agency security team on site is doing their best to unearth the truth and prevent further loss of lives, I have directed the Regional Commissioner for Coast Region together with the Regional Security Team to reinforce the team in Malindi ahead of my visit on Tuesday,” he added.

“Enough security officers have been deployed and the entire 800-acre forest is sealed off and declared a scene of crime.”

As of Sunday, 39 bodies had been exhumed from shallow graves in the forest, a majority of the victims being children.

The victims, witnesses said, believed they would go to heaven if they starved themselves to death.

Reports indicate that detectives exhumed a total of 10 graves on Sunday, April 23, 2023, bringing the three-day total of exhumations to 39.

The members are said to have starved themselves to death after instructions from a religious cult leader, Pastor Makenzie Nthenge, who told them they have to starve to death to “meet Jesus”.

The pastor has since been arrested and is helping police with investigations.

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