President William Ruto has appointed a Commission of Inquiry to investigate suspected killings in Shakahola Forest where 110 bodies have been retrieved from shallow graves.
The President also appointed a taskforce to review the legal and regulatory framework governing religious organizations.
"President William Ruto appoints a Commission of Inquiry on the Shakahola Tragedy. The Head of State has also appointed a Taskforce to review the legal and regulatory framework governing religious organizations," State House Spokesperson Hussein Mohamed said in a tweet.
The President's action comes days after Senate elected Tana River Senator Danson Mungatana as the chairperson of the Senate Ad Hoc Committee to investigate the proliferation of religious organisations and the circumstances leading to the deaths of 110 people in Shakahola.
The committee was established to investigate the circumstances that led to the deaths of the faithful of the Good News International, linked to disgraced Pastor Paul Makenzie was established after senators adopted the motion brought to the House by Majority Whip Boni Khalwale (Kakamega).
It will also investigate the role played by Makenzie, his pastoral team and the Kilifi County security committee in aiding and abetting the deaths of the church’s followers.
The committee is set to start its public hearings next week with a date with the Interior CS Kithure Kindiki, Attorney General Justin Muturi and the Registrar of Societies in the Office of the Attorney General.
Among the issues the committee will seek to establish from the officers include the registration status of religious organizations and the mitigation measures of the current case and regulations, if any, in use to control religious entities and their activities.
It will then move to Kilifi County where it will meet the county government and its leadership, the county commissioner and the county security team after the victim of the affected families.
The Ad hoc group will conduct a site visit to Shakahola Forest, and meet victims of the affected families and visit the New Life Prayer Centre, in Mavueni, Kilifi County linked to Pastor Ezekiel Odero who is currently in custody awaiting to be arraignment.
Mungatana’s panel will hold meetings with religious organizations, in which they will discuss measures that can avert religious extremism.
Some of the organizations are NCCK, Hindu Council of Kenya, SUPKEM, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops, and other religious organizations and traditional groups.
It will invite members of the public with information to submit their views on the matter to the committee.
While adopting the members of the committee, the senators charged that people who are owners of churches, should not be given licenses to run TV stations which they use to spread their gospel of doom.
“If Yesu of Tongaren is the problem, come for him. If you are coming for Yesu of Tongaren, this is the time. People like so-called Dr Owuor should also be probed.
"How can somebody, stand at a marketplace, for two three, four months, and people keep on dropping their offerings, ends up by a public address system, all over sudden before you know it, he has bought a vehicle before you know it, they have opened a church, before you know it he has opened a TV station. This must stop,” Khalwale said.
The Kakamega lawmaker, further questioned how the religious leaders could indoctrinate children as young as two years old to fasting.
“How can a two-year-old is denied food in the name of fasting beats logic. This committee owes the 53 million Kenyans a report that never again, will a Christian child, never again will a Muslim child, never again will the child of this country, be denied an opportunity to drink water, to eat food in the name of religion,” said Khalwale.
Khalwale, while moving the motion, supported the call by Catholic Archbishop Anthony Muheria that a financial audit should be conducted on all religious leaders.
“It is refreshing that one of the senior Bishop in one of the churches, has called for an audit- financial audit of leaders of churches. You can see they are opening the door for us. If you do a financial audit, the one who was arrested today, in the name of Ezekiel Odero, if you go to his compound it is like you are in Los Angeles. This must stop. Don’t give us a report that will suggest in any way, selective justice,” Khalwale told the members.
“In exercise of its oversight function, the Senate resolves to establish an Ad Hoc committee to investigate the circumstances leading to the death of the followers of the Good News International Church led by one Paul Mackenzie Nthenge in Shakahola Village, Kilifi County,” reads part of the motion.
The team will also investigate the role played by Mackenzie, his pastoral team, and the Kilifi County Security committee in aiding and abetting the deaths of the followers of the Good News International Church.
In addition, the committee will also be charged with the responsibility of establishing through the office of the Registrar of Societies, the number and activities of religious groups in the country including their registration and compliance status, and audit the legal and registration framework for religious organizations in the country.
The committee will also make any other recommendation that will prevent religious organizations from extreme indoctrination of their followers including radicalization, spiritual and financial exploitation.