Bodies found in mass graves in Kenya have missing organs: investigators

Volunteers assist forensic experts and homicide detectives from the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI), to exhume bodies of suspected followers of a Christian cult named Good News International Church in Shakahola forest of Kilifi county, Kenya April 25, 2023. — Reuters

Investigators have revealed to the court that 21 bodies found in the latest exhumation have missing organs. They are expecting more bodies to be found in the coming days. 

It has also raised doubts that there may be forced removal of the organs from the bodies reportedly linked to a Kenyan cult.

Since the discovery of the mass graves in April, there have been a total of 133 people found dead in the so-called “Shakahola forest massacre” — including children.

According to the Police, most of the bodies found near Malindi on Kenya’s Indian Ocean coast were followers of self-styled pastor Paul Nthenge Mackenzie, who allegedly told people to starve to death so that they could “meet Jesus”.

Self-proclaimed pastor Paul Nthenge Mackenzie (2nd L), who set up the Good News International Church in 2003 and is accused of inciting cult followers to starve to death to meet Jesus, talks to his lawyer on May 5, 2023. — AFP
Self-proclaimed pastor Paul Nthenge Mackenzie (2nd L), who set up the Good News International Church in 2003 and is accused of inciting cult followers to starve to death “to meet Jesus”, talks to his lawyer on May 5, 2023. — AFP

Chief government pathologist Johansen Oduor said: “While starvation appears to be the main cause of death, some of the victims were strangled, beaten, or suffocated.”

Regional commissioner Rhoda Onyancha said: “We have 21 bodies exhumed today from nine graves, and this exercise will continue tomorrow,” adding that “the latest exhumations took the overall toll to 133.”

“Post-mortem reports have established missing organs in some of the bodies of victims who have been exhumed,” said chief inspector Martin Munene in an affidavit submitted to a Nairobi court.

He also added: “It is believed that trade on human body organs has been well coordinated involving several players.”

Chief inspector Munene stated: “Ezekiel Odero, a high-profile televangelist who was arrested last month in connection with the same case and granted bail on Thursday, had received ‘huge cash transactions’, allegedly from Mackenzie’s followers who sold their property at the cult leader’s bidding.”

Authorities have been ordered by the Nairobi court to freeze over 20 bank accounts pertaining to Odero for 30 days.

“We have resumed the exhumation exercise because we believe that there are more bodies inside this place,” noted Interior Minister Kithure Kindiki, while visiting the scene Tuesday.

“What we have here in Shakahola is one of the worst tragedies our country has ever known,” he stated while mentioning that “a multi-agency team was exhuming at least 20 mass graves believed to contain several victims,” he added.

“I am afraid that we have many more graves in this forest, and therefore it leads us to conclude that this was a highly organised crime,” he expressed.

Several doubts have been raised about how Mackenzie evaded the authorities despite having a record of extremism and court cases.

Police made their way to Shakahola forest after receiving information where it unearthed 50 mass graves.

The former taxi driver who submitted himself to Police is under investigation and the prosecutors are seeking his custody for a further 9- days. He was the founder of Good News International Church in 2003.

Senior principal magistrate Yusuf Shikanda said he would rule on the request Wednesday.

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