Will Mackenzie finally get charged after over five months in police cells

Prosecution always asked for an extension of detention period to complete probe

In Summary
  • Mackenzie has already spent 156 days in custody since his arrest on April 15
  • Despite facing a litany of charges including terrorism and genocide, Mackenzie and his co-accused are yet to be officially charged.
Paul Mackenzie and other co-accused persons arrive at the Shanzu magistrate's court on Tuesday, August 1.
Paul Mackenzie and other co-accused persons arrive at the Shanzu magistrate's court on Tuesday, August 1.

After spending 156 days in police and prison custody since his arrest on April 15, cult leader Paul Mackenzie is today (Monday) expected to be brought back at Shanzu Magistrate Court.

The biggest question in the people’s minds; will the Directorate of Public Prosecutions and the Directorate of Criminal Investigations be ready to charge Mackenzie and his co-accused with the deaths of more than 429 people, whose bodies have been exhumed from the now infamous Shakahola Forest.

The numerous times Mackenzie, his wife Rhoda Maweu Wambua and the 27 other co-accused persons have been brought before the Shanzu Court, the prosecution has always asked for an extension of the detention period to complete the probe into the deaths.

Mackenzie and the co-accused are facing at least 12 charges including terrorism, murder, counselling and aiding suicide, abduction, radicalisation, genocide, crimes against humanity, child cruelty, fraud, and money laundering.

However, they are yet to be formally charged.

On May 2, the State had asked to be granted 90 days to finish the probe into the killings of the hundreds of members of the Good News International (GNI) at the vast 800-acre Shakahola Forest.

However, the Shanzu Senior Principal Magistrate Yusuf Shikanda, who has been handling the case, granted the State only a 30-day period to detain them.

On June 2, after the expiry of the initial 30 days, the DPP and DCI applied for an extension of custodial orders of another 60 days.

However, before the court could deliver a ruling on the new application, Mackenzie and his co-accused staged a 10-day hunger strike while in prison custody.

On June 14, when the suspects were brought to Shanzu Court for the hearing of the application for the extension of the detention period, they were visibly weak after a gruelling 10-day starvation.

Their skeletal frames were painfully evident through their emaciated skin and they could barely stand and would occasionally stumble.

Five days later on June 19, one of the suspects, Joseph Buyuka died while in custody after participating in the hunger strike.

Assistant Director of DPP Jami Yamina informed the court that Buyuka had succumbed due to starvation while undergoing treatment at Malindi Subcounty Hospital.

“Joseph Juma Buyuka has been reported dead. He died two days ago at Malindi Hospital, in what is believed to be complications from a hunger strike and starvation, but we will await a postmortem report,” Yamina said then.

Buyuka was then in the custody of Malindi GK Prison with Mackenzie and the other co-accused persons.

His death and the effects of the 10-day hunger strike dragged the case for 30 days.

On July 3, the Shanzu Court granted the State the 60-day period they had asked to continue holding the suspects.

The 60-day detention was, however, backdated to run from June 2, when the application was first made, directed Shikanda.

However, in a dramatic turn of events, Shikanda on the same day released Mackenzie’s wife on Sh400,000 bond terms.

Maweu, who was first arrested on May 2 after being linked to the cult practices of her husband at Shakahola forest, had stayed behind bars for 62 days.

She was released on a personal bond of Sh100,000 together with a bond of Sh300,000 with a surety of a similar amount.

Maweu had been arrested together with her two-year-old minor, and there was a need for the minor to be medically examined to ascertain whether the child had been exposed to any form of neglect or abuse, said Shikanda.

He said then there was no report on the status of the child had been presented by the State in whatever form before the court, and there was no affidavit supporting the extension of the detention period of Maweu.

“It would appear that her undoing was to be the first respondent’s (Mackenzie) wife. It is only mentioned that she is believed to have resided with the Mackenzie at Shakahola,” Shikanda said.

“There is no allegation that she was involved in any of the impugned acts. If her only sin is being the first respondent’s wife, then her continued detention would be unwarranted and unfair.”

Further to the bond terms, Maweu was required to visit a police station as may be directed by the investigators.

On August 2, after the 60-day detention period for Mackenzie and 27 others came to an end, Yamina made yet another application to continue holding them for another 47 days.

On August 10, Shikanda granted the State the 47 days that they had requested. In his ruling, he directed that the seven-week detention period will run from August 2.

Shikanda said Mackenzie and his co-accused had entered into Kenya’s history books for the longest pre-charge detention sanctioned by a court since the promulgation of the Constitution of Kenya in 2010.

According to Shikanda, the decision to continue detaining Mackenzie is because there is the likelihood that they will hamper the investigation.

The DPP had submitted that there is uncontroverted evidence indicating that the suspects caused the disappearance of their own children and have failed to account for them.

“Given the circumstances, if the respondents are released at this stage on whatever terms, bearing in mind the nature of the allegations against them, witness interference is likely,” ruled Shikanda.

Today, the whole world will watch to see whether the DPP will officially charge Mackenzie and his associates or ask for another continued detention.

Under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA) the Court can continue extending the detention period for the suspects for up to 360 days.

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