May 9, 2023

Autopsies reveal missing organs in Kenya cult deaths, say police

Discovery raises suspicions of forced harvesting by suspects linked to group led by Paul Nthenge Mackenzie


The Guardian

Agence France-Presse in Nairobi

Tue 9 May 2023


Autopsies on corpses found in mass graves linked to a religious cult in Kenya have revealed missing organs and raised suspicions of forced harvesting, investigators said, with a fresh round of exhumations to resume on Tuesday.


The discovery of mass graves last month near the Indian Ocean coastal town of Malindi has stunned the deeply religious Christian-majority country in what has been called the “Shakahola forest massacre”.

Police believe most of the bodies belong to followers of the self-styled pastor Paul Nthenge Mackenzie, who is accused of ordering them to starve to death “to meet Jesus”.

While starvation appears to be the main cause of death, some of the victims – including children – were strangled, beaten or suffocated, according to the chief government pathologist, Dr Johansen Oduor.

Court documents filed on Monday said some of the corpses had their organs removed, with police alleging the suspects were engaged in forced harvesting of body parts.

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

It is “believed that trade on human body organs has been well coordinated involving several players”, he said, giving no details about the suspected trafficking.

Munene said 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.

The Nairobi court ordered the authorities to freeze more than 20 bank accounts belonging to Odero for 30 days.

A total of 112 people have so far been confirmed dead, the interior minister, Kithure Kindiki, said on Tuesday after arriving in Malindi to supervise the resumption of exhumations, which were suspended last week because of bad weather.

“Search and rescue efforts for persons suspected to be holed up in the thickets and bushes have been going on,” Kindiki said.

Questions have been raised about how Mackenzie managed to evade law enforcement despite a history of extremism and previous legal cases.

The former taxi driver turned himself in on 14 April after police acting on a tipoff first entered Shakahola forest, where 30 mass graves have now been found.

Prosecutors are asking to hold Mackenzie, who founded the Good News International church in 2003, for another 90 days until investigations are completed.

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



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