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How my siblings were starved to death and buried in Shakahola

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The minor in his sworn evidence stated that he left with his father to the forest before their mother joined them inside Shakahola forest and never attended school.

A sombre mood enveloped Shanzu Law Courts as an eight-year-old child testified about being taken to Shakahola Forest with his siblings. Under state protection, the young witness provided his testimony in a safeguarded setting, highlighting the gravity of the case and his tender age.

The minor who was testifying against suspected Shakahola massacre mastermind Paul Mackenzie, along with his aides, was unable to control himself as he recounted to Shanzu principal magistrate Leah Juma how his mother and two siblings relocated to the Shakahola forest in pursuit of Mackenzie's preachings, eventually dying of starvation and being buried in a ceremony known as the "Harusi" wedding.

The minor in his sworn evidence stated that he left with his father to the forest before their mother joined them inside Shakahola forest and never attended school.

"My mother joined us after a while she came using a boda boda and while in the forest she gave birth to my brother he was named Amani," he told the court.

He went on to say that as time passed, his mother and one of his brothers died in the forest while he watched and that when he realised his younger brother was about to die, he tried to feed him unclean water.

"As he lay dying l looked at him and in a very weak voice I went and fetched water which had been used to wash utensils,  hurriedly began feeding him with the water however my father came back and found me in the act. I was scolded and told that l was preventing him from going to heaven and that God would punish me," he stated.

He went on to narrate, "Amani, my baby brother was the first one to die, followed by another brother. Following their death, my father took their bodies to a hole outside our house before the bodies were placed inside the hole. Mackenzie whom the minor referred to as "Mtumishi" came to witness the burial and ordered that residents should continue with their fast."

The child informed the magistrate that when he was rescued, he was prepared to die after going eight days without food or water and that his father had bought him new clothes.

"My father at the time of my rescue had bought me clothes and informed me that those clothes were for dying," he said.

He further stated that they lived in a village known as Bethlehem inside the Shakahola forest.

The minor told the court that he was rescued by his grandfather alongside police officers, who took him to a rescue home.

"Before our relocation into Shakahola forest, we lived in the Muyeye area of Malindi. I am now residing at an orphanage,” he informed the court.

Another witness police officer Cyrus Irungu attached at the Langobaya police station in Malindi county in his sworn testimony to the court informed the court that on March 17 2023 two reporters informed the officer that Isaac Ngala and Emily Wanje were neglecting their three children subjecting them to starvation within Shakahola "kwa Mackenzie".

"The two had sought police assistance to go and rescue their children and their relatives since it was a risky exercise. I informed my officer at the commanding station who assigned me more officers and since the station had no car, we boarded a car that belonged to Humphrey Ngongo, a relative to one of the victims," he stated.

Irungu went on to narrate that upon arrival inside the forest, Ngongo led them to the house of an eight-year-old minor, where they found an emaciated young boy in the hands of an elderly woman. The woman escaped as the officers searched the area for other victims.

At this point, the minor was asked by Ngongo about the whereabouts of his mother he responded that his mother had gone to "harusi" burial wedding ceremony. Further, he enquired about his brother. "The boy was hesitant to respond at first but he later directed us a few meters from their house and pointed to us a grave that had been flattened. He stated that the grave was his brother's "harusi" place meaning burial site," he said.

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