In a significant development in the investigation into the Shakahola massacre, the Kenyan prosecutor’s office announced on November 20, 2023, that it has identified 131 children who perished in this tragic incident. Since April, 428 bodies have been unearthed in the Shakahola forest in the southeast of the country, where followers of the International Church of Good News gathered. The church’s pastor, Paul Mackenzie, preached a form of extreme fasting as a means to join Jesus.
Deputy Prosecutor Jami Yamina described this as a crucial step forward. In total, 184 children’s bodies have been exhumed from the Shakahola forest. Investigators have managed to establish the identity of two-thirds of these victims. “Now the task is to match each name to the bodies in the morgue,” said the deputy prosecutor.
The investigators faced meticulous work, as the sect leaders took great care to destroy any documents that could aid in the identification of its followers. Additionally, DNA analyses are challenging due to the advanced state of decomposition of the bodies.
Proving “they were not in paradise”
According to the deputy prosecutor, the 66 survivors of the sect did not deny the evidence when presented with the names of the child victims. Some even dared the justice system to “prove that they were not in paradise.”
Alongside Paul Mackenzie, 28 other defendants will stand trial in this case. With the identification of the victims, the deputy prosecutor believes that he will soon be able to specify the charges they will face. In the meantime, the accused remains in provisional detention.
In April 2023, a mass grave was discovered in the Shakahola forest, near the town of Malindi on the coast. This forest housed the followers of the International Church of Good News. Its pastor, Paul Mackenzie, preached extreme fasting as a means to join Jesus. Today, nearly 430 bodies have been unearthed.