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Leader of deadly Kenyan cult group in mass starvation saga, dies in detention

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Joseph Juma Buyuka, one of the 30 persons fingered among the Kenyan cult group, led by Paul Mackenzie, has reportedly died in custody after staging a 10-day hunger strike while in custody, prosecutors informed a Kenyan court on Wednesday.

The leadership of the group, which faces charges related to the deaths of more than 300 people who were told to starve themselves to death if they wanted to go to heaven, had been promptly arrested by security operatives in the country.

The deceased had been in police custody for more than 60 days while the Kenyan criminal investigators continued with the probe and exhumation of bodies around Shakahola forest on the outskirts of Malindi in coastal Kenya, where police first discovered bodies in April.

A prosecutor in the Mackenzie case, Jami Yamina, informed the Mombasa court on Wednesday that the deceased identified as Joseph Juma Buyuka was among the Mackenzie followers who had staged a 10-day hunger strike while in custody.

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Al Jazeera, quoted him as saying: “The [Mackenzie] aide had declined to eat and drink while being held at Watamu Police Station,” adding that he died two days ago from complications arising from hunger strike and starvation, while undergoing treatment at a hospital, though a postmortem report, was being awaited.

The prosecutor, who stated that the autopsy report would be presented to the court after the postmortem was conducted, added that two other suspects, Evans Sirya and Fredrick Karimi, who were also admitted on the same day, were still critically ill in the same hospital, adding: “We [the state] shall file a medical report on their progress with the court within a week. After the postmortem on Buyuka is concluded, we shall also produce the report.”

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Together with 15 other suspects, Buyuka appeared in court emaciated and unable to stand or walk. The investigating officer informed the court at the time that the suspects had staged a hunger strike.

In Kenya, suspects are held in cells at police stations until they are arraigned in court. Last week, the prosecution team asked the court that the sixteen suspects be moved from the police station cells to a government prison where they would be force-fed food. The request was granted.

When they appeared in court last week, Buyuka, Karimi, Sirya and two others promised the Shanzu Senior Principal Magistrate Yusuf Shikanda that they would resume eating and cooperate with the police, a court official told Al Jazeera anonymously.

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BBC, which reported on Wednesday, that the judge asked the prosecutor to present a medical report of all the 30 suspects in custody today, said that so far, the death toll from the mass starvation episode has hit 336, with at least 93 bodies retrieved in the 10-day third phase of the exhumation exercise that started on 6 June and stopped on 16 June.

Rescue of survivors and exhumation of the dead is continuing in phases. The morgues in the area have surpassed their capacity, prompting the postmortem and transfer of bodies in phases.

The third phase of the postmortem exercise on the bodies already exhumed from the vast 325-hectare Shakahola forest was expected to start on Wednesday, the report said, adding that the survivors would be meant to undergo mental health assessments

The government-authorised rescue began on 13 April after two children were reported to have starved and suffocated to death by their parents on Mackenzie’s advice on 16 and 17 March 16.

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Mackenzie, the head of the Good News International Church, has been accused of indoctrinating his followers, asking them to abandon “earthly life” and meet at his farm in a village called Shakahola in Kilifi county for a fast “to meet Jesus”, leading to the mass deaths.

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While starvation appears to be the main cause of death, some of the victims – including children – were strangled, beaten, or suffocated, according to the chief government pathologist Johansen Oduor.

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Soyinka, terror to dictators, face of democracy – Tinubu

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President Bola Tinubu, spared no nice words in showering accolades on Wole Soyinka, Africa’s first Nobel Laureate on Literature, extolling his democratic credentials, ending it all with the renaming of the National Theatre as The Wole Soyinka Centre for Culture and the Creative Arts, in honour 90th birthday of the celebrated playwright, novelist and activist.

The President’s sentiments, on Soyinka, a professor of literature, globally celebrated essayist, actor, singer, composer, and documentarian, who brought great honour to Africa and Nigeria when he won the coveted prize in 1986, was conveyed by Ajuri Ngelale, his spokesman in a statement, ahead of the birthday on Saturday, July 13.

Describing him as one of the finest minds of his generation; conforming to the highest standards of human enlightenment, but unyielding to injustice, oppression, and base impulses, Tinubu hailed his long-time friend, with whom he was in the trenches some three decades ago, during the June 12, 1993 struggle.

The statement, which stressed that Tinubu also hailed Soyinka as one of Nigeria’s living repositories of history, knowledge, and courage, and commended him for his valiant efforts in the trenches for the nation’s future both as a pro-democracy champion and as a trenchant voice against corruption and maladministration over several decades, recalled the days of the struggle.

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His words: “Our paths crossed during our just struggle for the enthronement of democracy in Nigeria following the annulment of June 12, 1993 presidential election. When faced with a trial in absentia and death sentence by the military regime at home, he galvanized opposition in exile through NALICON and NADECO. His global stature made him the face of our struggle to validate June 12 and restore democracy in Nigeria.”

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Wishing him many more years in good health and creative fulfilment as a global force for change, he added: “Today, I join the world to celebrate his profound influence on generations of writers, scholars, and activists who have been inspired by his work. I celebrate him for giving us the spark to fight and confront military dictators in our country.

“I am, accordingly, delighted to have the honour to announce the decision of the Federal Government to rename the National Theatre in Iganmu, Surulere, as The Wole Soyinka Centre for Culture and the Creative Arts.”

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S’Court: No more allocations to 37 Development centres in Lagos, others  

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The 37 Local Government Development Centres (LGDC), created in Lagos in 2003, during the tenure of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, as Governor of the state, may have been dealt a hard blow, as they will no longer be captured in the funding bracket of the state, going by the interpretation of Thursday’s ruling of the Supreme Court, by some legal minds.

One of those who believe that by the judgement, the councils have lost their source of funding, following the pronouncement of the courts that allocations from the Federation Account be paid directly into the accounts of recognised entities is, Mike Ozekhome, Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN).

Lagos has 20 local governments originally created by the Federal Government, while the 37 LGDCs, were created by the Tinubu administration, in a bid to further take governance to the grassroots, a development, which led to a bitter feud between the government and the Federal Government under the President Olusegun Obasanjo.

In fact, throughout the period Obasanjo was in power after the creation of the LGDCs, the state was denied its council allocations, as a punishment to the state, following the former President’s aversion to the move.

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It was only the government of Umaru Yar’Adua, Obasanjo’s successor, who released the entire entitlements to the state, when he assumed power in 2007, after the state had funded the councils from its own resources for four years.

Ozekhome, a renowned constitutional lawyer,  who was a guest of The Morning Brief, a breakfast programme on Channels Television, on Friday, told his host that Thursday’s apex court judgement on the autonomy of the councils, made it clear that the Federation Account Allocation Committee (FAAC) would not send funds to local government areas headed by caretaker committee chairmen, or development centres.

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Hear him: “The judgement of the government is clear. If you want to receive funds from the federation account, then conduct an election. If what you have in place is a caretaker committee as local government chairman, be sure that it will not have money from the federation account.

“What this law is saying is that if you are not a democratically elected local government council, you cannot have this money under section 162 subsection 5 and 6 of the 199 Constitution. So, what it means is that money should now be ploughed to those local governments that are in existence democratically.”

The only remedy, he stated was for the state to find ways of funding the development centres from the allocations of the councils, adding: “They can do that internally to share. That is their internal business. Nobody can control that one. But for now, the money can only go to those local government areas named in the constitution. Don’t forget they are even named in the constitution, 774 local governments. If you want money from the federation account, such councils must be democratically elected.”

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The apex court not only endorsed full local government autonomy and ordering that funds from the FAAC be paid directly to their accounts, but also barred governors from henceforth dissolving democratically elected officials for local governments adding that doing so would amount to a breach of the 1999 Constitution.

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Tinubu completely caged, now surrounded by thieves, Ndume insists

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Ali Ndume, Senator representing Borno South at the National Assembly, on Thursday dug deeper in his earlier revelations putting Nigerians on notice that President Bola Tinubu is currently under a cocoon thrown around him by his aides, who have used the opportunity to mindlessly fleece the national till.

A guest of Prime Time, a current affairs programme on Arise News Network, Ndume, Chief Whip of the Senate, told his host that the seat of power has now been captured by “kakistocrats” – a government run by the worst, least qualified, or most unscrupulous citizens and kleptocrats – one run by thieves.

Absolving Tinubu of complicity in the alleged massive thievery he alleged that the Presidential Villa and top government bodies have become, he said: “The government is also populated by kleptocrats, but unfortunately that is not what the President is up to. He really meant renewed hope, but you can only do that when you have people around you that are on the same type of thinking.”

Ndume one of the longest serving members of NASS, explained that much as Tinubu, whom he described as a close political associate and a democrat, would always be quick to act on any act of malfeasance that came to his attention, such as his recent repudiation of the Cyber-crime bill, the said unscrupulous aides, had been doing much to keep him away from some critical information.

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Hear him: “When the president realised that he had not heard about it, he quickly suspended it.” He highlighted the significant challenge of hunger and food scarcity, mentioning that inflation has risen to 40%. In some places, even with your money, you won’t find the food items you want to buy, which is very dangerous..

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“Nigeria has never been included among countries facing severe food crises or food insecurity, but recent UN and World Food Programme figures rank Nigeria as a hotspot. For people like me, I have to be scared because I’m 64 years old with 10 children, 20 grandchildren, and I don’t have a passport or visa to anywhere.

“Some Ministers only meet the president during council meetings and that the President is often the first to leave. I’m the chief whip, and if the chief whip can’t have access to the president, the new senators won’t have access either. During the time of President (Olusegun) Obasanjo’s administration, any senator could see the president within 24 hours.

“President Tinubu is caged in. There are no visible efforts by the government to address pressing issues like climate change. The President has to harness Nigeria’s natural and human resources. He must get the right people into office and dominate his government with democrats. The president needs people who will realise his dream and tell him when something is wrong.”

Ndume who also bemoaned the effect of the removal of the fuel subsidy, argued that much as it was a good move to eliminate corruption and allow savings to benefit the people, measures must be taken to cushion such effects, like the introduction of food stamps, adding that presently the anger of Nigerians over their parlous situation could snowball into uncontrollable conflagration.

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