Kenya’s interior minister has announced that the Shakahola forest, where more than 250 members of a Christian cult perished, will be turned into a national memorial.
Kithure Kindiki said once the recovery of the bodies buried in the 800-acre forest was complete, the place will be turned into “a place of remembrance” so that people don’t forget what happened there.
He said the government had enough evidence to prosecute the leader of the cult and the main suspect, Pastor Paul Mackenzie, for genocide after he allegedly convinced his followers to fast to death in order to go to heaven.
Most of the victims, including children, died of starvation but some were strangled, beaten, or suffocated, according to autopsy reports.
The minister spoke on Tuesday at the start of the third phase of exhumation, when nine more bodies were recovered.
Since the operation started in April, 251 bodies have been recovered. Ninety-five people have been rescued from the forest and 35 suspects arrested.
Mr Kindiki said investigations had shown that the cult’s activities extended beyond the Shakahola forest and that investigations had extended to the larger 37,000-acre Chakama ranch in the area.
He said security roads were being constructed to provide access to the expansive area as search and rescue operations and investigations continued.