KNCHR says arrests made at Shakahola scaring away survivors

The Kenya National Commission on Human Rights has faulted the government over the Shakahola graves operations saying that the arrest of people in the forest was scaring away would be survivors.

According to the commission, the operations in Shakahola were more focused on exhumation of bodies and arrests instead of rescuing survivors, hence making would be survivors retreat deeper into the thickets.

“Reports that come to the commission suggest that there are many people still in the forest and because of fear of arrest they have resided deep into the forest,” Prof. Marion Mutugi, a commissioner at KNCHR, said at a press briefing in Malindi town on Wednesday morning.

She recommended a change of strategy to focus on the rescue operations with official statements indicating that more than 500 people might be trapped or hiding in the 800 forest far.

“We recommend that there be a review of priority to focus on rescue of the living and in this regard we call upon a strategy that facilitates saving the lives of radicalised, indoctrinated persons in the forest. This should involve allaying their fears that they should be treated as survivors and not suspects,” she said.

She commended the local community, the Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) and the media for whistle blowing the Shakahola tragedy.

“We wish to note that it is the CSOs, members of the community and the media that brought this issue to the forefront and we however, note that improvement of this situation that is currently allowing some access and we encourage continuity to provide transparency and verification of what is happening on the ground,” she said.

The commission has also called upon religious organisations to stop doctrines that may lead to harm of the people and especially children.

“Fasting is a common feature encouraged by various religions but we note that there is no religion that propagates this to a point of death. Such religious practices and other self-denial should not extend to children,” she said.

Prof. Mutugi called for investigations on all religious activities in the country pointing up the Vumbu incident in Kwale that cropped out recently.

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