Autopsies carried out on certain corpses found in a forest in southeast Kenya, where members of an evangelical sect used to gather, revealed the absence of some organs, according to a judicial document consulted by AFP on Tuesday. “Autopsy reports revealed that some victims’ bodies had missing organs that have been exhumed so far,” the document dated Monday states. The document also mentions “a well-coordinated human organ trafficking ring that involves multiple actors.”
More than a hundred bodies, mostly children, were discovered in April in the Shakahola forest, where members of a sect gathered, recommending extreme fasting to “meet Jesus.” The discovery of the bodies provoked feelings of horror, indignation, and incomprehension in this East African country of around 50 million inhabitants, where there are more than 4,000 registered churches, according to the government.
According to autopsies carried out on 112 bodies, most of the victims died of hunger, allegedly following the teachings of Paul Nthenge Mackenzie, a self-proclaimed pastor of the International Church of the Good News. The pastor, who is currently in custody, will be charged with “terrorism,” prosecutors announced on May 2.
Some of the victims, however, were strangled, beaten, or drowned, according to Dr. Johansen Oduor, the head of autopsy operations, last week. In the document, the Criminal Investigations Directorate (DCI) asks to freeze the bank accounts of Pastor Ezekiel Odero, who was detained on April 28 in connection with the case and released on bail on Thursday. According to the DCI, this influential religious leader received “enormous in-kind transactions” from the amounts given by the members to Mackenzie, who had asked them to sell their properties.
The findings of missing organs in some of the bodies and the mention of a coordinated organ trafficking ring in the judicial document suggest a possible motive for the deaths. The case has shocked the nation and raised questions about the regulation of religious organizations in Kenya, highlighting the risks of unregulated religious practices.
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