Mackenzie and Followers’ Manslaughter Charges Read for Over 5 Hours

January 24, 2024

It was a long day in court yesterday as the State formally charged cult leader Paul Mackenzie and his 94 co-accused followers linked to the Shakahola massacre.

Mackenzie, along with his wife Rhoda Maweu and 93 other suspects, faced charges in front of Mombasa Chief Magistrate Alex Ithuku. They were accused of 238 counts of manslaughter related to victims who fasted to death in compliance with Mackenzie’s instructions.

The bodies of these 238 victims were among the 429 exhumed from Shakahola Forest. All 238 victims in the manslaughter case were adults.

The plea-taking process extended over five hours as the court read the 238 charges of manslaughter to the 95 accused. In the afternoon, midway through the court proceedings, the suspects began dozing off due to the humid conditions at the law courts on a sunny afternoon in Mombasa.

Magistrate Ithuku had to intervene to ensure the suspects remained alert as the charges were being read.

Three court clerks alternated in reading all the 238 charges to the 95 suspects. The charge sheet was 479 pages long.

Collective Plea to Save the Court’s Time

The prosecution sought to have the 95 accused enter a collective plea rather than individually. The State prosecution, led by Peter Kiprop, Jamii Yamina, Victor Owiti, Hillary Isiaho, and Alex Gituma, argued that it would require four days to read the charges to each individual.

“We have observed it has taken about 10 minutes to read all the 95 names. It will take four days to read all the charges to the accused. We are accordingly asking the court to proceed to ask the suspect, who pleads guilty to the charges. There will be no prejudice suffered to those who plead not guilty,” said Owiti.

Mackenzie and his followers were charged that, on diverse dates between January 2021 and August 2023 in the Kwa Makenzi area of Shakahola Forest in Chakama, Kilifi county, in pursuit of a suicide pact for their death and others not before the court,  they jointly caused the death of 238 people.

Out of the 238 victims, only 23 have been identified so far.

All the suspects pleaded not guilty to the charges. The prosecution objected to the release of each of the 95 accused persons on bond.

The court ordered that the hearing for both the application for and against the bond would take place on February 13, 2024, and directed that all the suspects remain in custody at Shimo la Tewa Prison.

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