Investigators said autopsies performed on bodies found in mass graves associated with a religious cult in Kenya revealed missing organs and raised suspicions of forced harvesting. A new round of exhumations is scheduled to begin on Tuesday.
In what has been dubbed the “Shakahola forest massacre,” mass graves were found last month close to the Indian Ocean coastal town of Malindi, shocking the deeply religious Christian majority nation.
According to police, the majority of the bodies are those of Paul Nthenge Mackenzie’s alleged flock members, who were allegedly told to starve to death “to meet Jesus.”
According to Johansen Oduor, the chief government pathologist, starvation appears to be the primary cause of death, but some of the victims, including children, were allegedly strangled, beaten, or suffocated.
According to court documents submitted on Monday, some of the corpses had their organs removed. Police claim the suspects were involved in the forced harvesting of body parts.
Chief inspector Martin Munene stated in an affidavit submitted to a Nairobi court that “post-mortem reports have established missing organs in some of the bodies of victims who have been exhumed.”
He made no specific references to the alleged trafficking but stated that it is “believed that trade on human body organs has been well coordinated involving several players.”
Munene claimed that Ezekiel Odero, a well-known televangelist who was detained in the same case last month and released on bail on Thursday, had received “huge cash transactions,” allegedly from Mackenzie’s followers who sold their property at the cult leader’s command.
More than 20 bank accounts belonging to Odero must be frozen for 30 days, the Nairobi court ordered the government.
Kithure Kindiki, the interior minister, arrived in Malindi on Tuesday to oversee the restart of exhumations, which were halted last week due to bad weather, and announced that a total of 112 people have so far been confirmed dead.
“Search and rescue efforts for persons suspected to be holed up in the bushes and thickets have been going on,” Kindiki said.
Despite a history of extremism and prior legal issues, concerns have been raised about how Mackenzie managed to elude law enforcement.
After police entered Shakahola forest, where about 30 mass graves have now been discovered, acting on a tip-off, the former taxi driver turned himself in on April 14.
In order to complete their inquiries, prosecutors want to detain the father of seven who started the Good News International Church in 2003 for an additional 90 days.
The request would be decided on Wednesday, according to senior principal magistrate Yusuf Shikanda.