The Kenyan government says it will release some of the bodies of the Shakahola hunger cult victims next week.

About 34 bodies have been identified and reunited with their families, out of hundreds that were exhumed last year. The bodies of 429 people, including children, were exhumed from graves in Shakahola, a remote forest outside the coastal town of Malindi.

Many showed signs of hunger and assault. The families of the survivors and victims said, self-proclaimed pastor Paul Mackenzie encouraged members of his Good News International Church to move there and prepare for the end of the world. Survivors say he ordered them to fast so they could “reach heaven”.

The government will advise the families of the victims but will not help them transport the bodies for burial, said senior government specialist Dr Johansen Oduor on Wednesday. Mr Mackenzie has denied involvement in the deaths. He and several of his followers are currently facing several charges, including terrorism, murder and torture. A new excavation is scheduled to take place in one to two weeks, Dr. Oduor said, adding that 35 more grave sites have been identified. Planned new drilling could increase the death toll further.

Dr Oduor said reuniting the bodies with their families has been slow because “people are not coming to pick up their loved ones”.

March 21, 2024

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