Azimio la Umoja-One Kenya coalition party leader Raila Odinga has been denied entry into the Shakahola forest where it is feared that hundreds are buried after cult deaths.
Raila visited the site in Kilifi County alongside coastal leaders including Kilifi woman representative Gertrude Mbeyu, MPs Amina Mnyanzi( Malindi) and Harrison Kombe (Magarini).
“The Shakahola incident has caught the world’s attention. I haven’t seen anywhere else where there have been reports of cults (and) the media is blocked. Why did the government ban the media and human rights from the ground? I don’t need anyone’s permission to get there and I had even made my visit public,” Raila said.
A bitter exchange ensued at the site as the officers cited “orders from above” to deny the opposition supremo entry to the site.
“Tell us you do not have the power to allow Baba (Raila Odinga) in and tell us whom to call. You cannot do that. You want us to go back? We board our vehicles and go? We will not do that. I am a leader in Kilifi County (and) we will not,” the woman representative told the security.
The government on April 28, 2023, suspended the exhumation of bodies at Shakahola forest owing to bad weather.
Interior Cabinet Secretary Kithure Kindiki made the announcement after touring the area.
“The experts have advised us that the procedure of doing the exhumations for purposes of judicial and court processes involves a lot of sensitivity. The ground must be dry to a certain level so that they are able to conduct the exhumations without interfering with the evidence or further damaging the bodies. Therefore we have suspended the exhumations because of the weather and as soon as it dries up a little bit we will resume,” Kindiki explained.
The Interior CS also revealed why journalists and human rights groups were barred from accessing Shakahola forest to follow up on the exhumation exercise.
“The process of exhuming the bodies is a court-ordered process; It is done based on certain ethical and professional standards, that’s why we cannot allow everybody to take part in the exhumation, or to take images,” Kindiki said.
“Such images are limited even by international law because they constitute outrageous crimes against human duty. These are the bodies of people’s loved ones and kin and so there is a limit even in terms of what security agents can do,” he added.
On Friday, President William Ruto appointed a Commission of Inquiry to investigate suspected killings in Shakahola Forest.
“President William Ruto appoints a Commission of Inquiry on the Shakahola Tragedy. The Head of State has also appointed a Taskforce to review the legal and regulatory framework governing religious organizations,” State House Spokesperson Hussein Mohamed said in a tweet.
The President’s action comes days after Senate elected Tana River Senator Danson Mungatana as the chairperson of the Senate Ad Hoc Committee to investigate the proliferation of religious organisations and the circumstances leading to the deaths of 110 people in Shakahola.