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Child rights organizations irked by Shakahola child deaths

Child rights organizations have expressed shock and disbelief at the atrocities meted on children by their own parents subscribing to the cultic teachings of embattled preacher Paul Mackenzie.

They lamented that innocent children were denied the right to education and food, leading to their early deaths, even as institutions charged with the protection of Kenyans, especially children, took no action.

The Children Agenda Forum, a coalition of child-focused civil society organizations, said there was need for the full utilization of provisions of the Children’s Act 2022 in order to safeguard the rights and welfare of children and prevent similar occurrences in the future.

In a statement read on its behalf by Mr. Stan Kiraga at the Malindi District Cultural Associations (MADCA) rescue centre in Sabaki, Kilifi County, the forum blamed government institutions and the society for watching as Mackenzie violated children’s rights.

Kiraga said signs that things were not right started manifesting themselves when Mackenzie started teaching against secular education that led to the withdrawal of children from school and that despite school managers and relatives reporting the same to authorities, very little was done to stop the cult leader from violating the law.

“In this incident, it started by children being withdrawn from schools which was an initial indication that something was not right and schools reported. I know families who reported after their brother withdrew his children from school, but Mackenize was arrested, charged and released,” Kiraga said.

He said that unless the Children’s Act is fully enforced, it will remain in the law books without any effect on offenders, adding that the Act provides that the child has the right to food, proper upbringing, clothing and education as well as to be treated when sick.

The forum at the same time lauded President William Ruto for forming a commission of inquiry into the Shakahola killings as well as a taskforce to recommend the best way the church can be regulated.

“The government has a responsibility to know the kinds of people running churches and lay down strategies to regulate them to ensure what is taught in those religious organizations are beneficial to the society,” said Kiraga.

He prayed for the quick recovery of children rescued from Mackenzie’s death trap and for their seamless reintegration to society.

He also called for proper counselling of parents rescued from the massacre saying they were sick since a normal parent cannot deliberately deny their children food and watch them die.

Similar sentiments were made by the National Council for Children Services (NCCS), which on Thursday called for the regulation of the church since it had failed to self-regulate.

In a statement read by Bishop Bernard Kariuki, the organization said it was deeply saddened by what happened in Shakahola to children who could not decide for themselves that they wanted to fast to death.

“The council wishes to call upon all actors, both state and non-state, to be vigilant in matters pertaining to their role in safeguarding rights and welfare of citizens and in particular the rights of children and other vulnerable groups,” Bishop Kariuki said.

By Emmanuel Masha

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