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Senate committee hears wrenching testimony from Shakahola victims in Kisumu 

Preliminary reports recorded by family members of the Shakahola cult victims confirm that a large number of casualties indeed came from Kisumu and Vihiga Counties.

This was revealed by the vice chair of the Senate ad-hoc committee on the proliferation of religious organizations, Senator Shakila Abdalla during the committee’s visit to Kisumu County on Friday.

Ms. Abdalla noted that they interrogated relatives who came out to provide painful accounts following the disappearance of their kin to Pastor Paul Mackenzie’s Good News International Church based in Kilifi County.

“We have managed to gather crucial information from the families of victims from Western Kenya which will help us in drafting our final report,” stated the nominated Senator at a press briefing after meeting various groups of interest from the region.

Despite freedom of worship, she observed, there is a need to regulate and monitor the sector owing to mushrooming of churches with Kenya having over 40,000 registered faith-based organizations.

“It is prudent that the government regulates religious activities to prevent religious organizations from extreme indoctrination, radicalization and exploitation of their followers as has been witnessed in Shakahola,” said Abdalla.

Further, she urged the lakeside residents with useful information about the mass massacre in Shakahola to come out and share the details with the ad-hoc committee in a move to eradicate the devastating challenge of radicalization.

Senator Veronica Maina speaking at the same media conference reiterated the committee’s commitment to gather views from Kenyans, victims and affected persons with relevant information that would help the senate establish a lasting solution to the problem.

“It is touching to listen to the families of the real victims in Kisumu and the stories we have received from them are similar to those from Kilifi,” Maina observed.

She continued, “This means that the trend was the same and people from Kisumu County and we also suspect that those from Vihiga County were affected by the Shakahola incident.”

The 11-member senate ad-hoc committee was formed to investigate the proliferation of churches in the country and the circumstances that led to the deaths of over 350 faithfuls of the church linked to Pastor Mackenzie.

The committee held meetings with the Kisumu Deputy Governor Dr. Mathews Owili, the County Security Intelligence Committee team led by the County Commissioner, religious organizations, Non- Governmental Organizations (NGOs), Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) and other interest groups before heading to Vihiga County for a similar exercise on today.

By Robert Ojwang’

 

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