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



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.

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.”

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.

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.

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.

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.


Imo massacre: Armoured vehicles procured for police used to rig elections – LP



Labour Party, palpably in anguish at the slaughter of eight soldiers in Imo State on Tuesday by some rampaging gunmen, has raised questions over the whereabouts of the nine Armoured Personnel Carriers (APCs) Athan Achonu, it claimed its governorship candidate for the November 11 election, repaired and donated to the authorities in the state.

The party, all but called out the leadership of the Imo State Police Command, to whom they claimed the equipment were handed over, alleging that the last time they APCs were seen was during the last general elections, where they were used by members of the All Progressives Congress (APC), the party in power in the state to snatch ballot boxes for candidates in the national and state assemblies.

The claim, was made when Nick Opara-Ndudu  and Nnaemeka Onyeka Obiareri , chieftains of the party appeared as guests on The Morning Show, a breakfast programme on Arise Television to sell the candidacy of Achonu, whom they said would never have allowed the type of insecurity in the state to endure under his watch.

Both men, who said that Achonu, whose highest political office so far, was his short stint in the Senate, where he served via the 2015 election before he was removed through the courts, remained the only solution not to the insecurity, in the state and even the South East,  but the one to rescue the people from years of underdevelopment from poor leadership.

Obiareri, spokesman of the LP in the state, argued that if the APCs had been in place, Tuesday’s incident in which the military men were killed alongside some policemen and officials of the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), would probably not have happened, said a check on the social media would reveal how they were used by party men of the APC for rigging the 2023 general elections.

He said: “The military men that were killed if they had armoured vehicles patrolling, they wouldn’t have been shot by those criminals. Athan Achonu, go and confirm from Innoson, paid hundreds of millions of naira to Innoson, Innoson is still alive, you people can still go and interview him, to repair nine armoured vehicles for the police. Five were supposed to be in Okigwe zone. Till today, we don’t know where those nine armoured cars are.

“If you go to Youtube, you’ll see Youtube record of members of the House of Assembly in Imo State using those APCs to carry ballot boxes. It’s there on Youtube, you can search it out. What Athan Achonu will do is very simple. Every local government area will have one humvy vehicle for the police. Police stations had been totally burnt in Imo State and Athan repaired most of those police stations.

“Then, there will be community vigilante. We’ll train those 50 youths per community – train them, equip them and arm them. They should guard their communities. When you have over 50,000 hectres of land, reclaimed from the bandits, and you have youths who are not only just farming, but who are trained to protect their communities, they’ll do the job.

“Then, we have to set up a security trust fund. Ndi-Imo are not scared. As at today, there are some communities in Imo State, where bandits – unknown gunmen, are ransacking and collecting levies from the communities. Basically, Athan Achonu will provide training, recruitment for people donated by the communities. Communities know those who are the terrible ones in their midst. And I tell you, in six months, they will flush them out.”

Opara-Ndudu, who dismissed the claim by the state governor, Hope Uzodimma that the carnage and other killings in the state were politically-motivated, blamed the governor for misplacing his priorities and failing to provide jobs for the teeming youth population in the state, questioning why nobody had been arrested and prosecuted fully in the courts if the insecurity in the state was all about politics.

Hear him: “The security problem has to do with objective conditions in the state. The young people are frustrated. The government is not making any investments in the areas that are required. We’re busy pursuing projects that are designs in deception. Look at the roads that are being done in Imo State, you know for you to deal with the problem of poverty and other economic challenges, you have to deal with the problem of infrastructure.

“In Imo State, the government has dedicated all of its time and half of its time to reconstructing federal roads without any attention – little or no attention paid to the rural areas. If you go to length and breadth of Imo State – Ngor Okpala, Ezinifte Mbaise, even in the governor’s local government – everywhere in Imo State, you find that the rural areas are looking desolate and abandoned.”

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Police find body of missing female student dumped in the bush, vow to get killers



Operatives of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), command, have vowed to fish out the killers of a university student, Blessing Karami, whose body was said to have been picked up from the bush days after she was declared missing on September 11.

The FCT police, which released the painful news on Thursday, said in a statement by its spokesman, Josephine Adeh that the remains were found in the woods in the Karimu area of the city.

The police spokesman acknowledged that her disappearance was reported to the police authorities last,  Thursday, September 14 added that 26-year-old Blessing, a student of the National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN), was declared missing after leaving her place of work in Garki, Abuja.

She said in the statement: “The body of Blessing Karami Moses, a 26-year-old woman who had been missing since September 11, 2023, was tragically discovered in a wooded area in Karimo. Her disappearance was reported to the authorities on September 14, 2023,” the statement read.

She said Commissioner of Police, FCT, Haruna Garba, had directed that command should conduct a thorough and impartial investigation into the circumstances surrounding the incident, adding: “While we are working closely with the Abuja Environmental Protection Board (AEPB) to facilitate the respectful retrieval of the decomposed remains acknowledging the sensitive nature of this task, we will continue to provide updates to the public as our investigation progresses.”

Adeh, a Superintendent of Police (SP), also commiserated with Blessing’s family and loved ones over the incident.

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Ogun cult massacre: DSS raid home, pick up PDP lawmaker, five others



Damilare Bello Mohammed, a serving member of the Ogun State House of Assembly (OGHA), is currently telling operatives of the Department of State Services (DSS) his side of the story, after he was picked up over his alleged involvement in the rival secret cult clashes that occurred in Sagamu town.

Mohammed, recently elected on the platform of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) to represent Sagamu State Constituency 1, was picked up on Wednesday by the agency over the incident in which at least eight persons were killed last weekend during the violent clash in the town, alongside five other suspected cultists allegedly involved in the cult violence.

The five other suspects; Debbo Animashaun, Bamidele Saheed, Ismaila Onitire, Adewale Otesanya and Tobi Owoade, were arrested by the DSS operatives during a sting operation after a tip-off at the early hours of Thursday within the residence of the lawmaker.

Lekan Adeniran, spokesman to Dapo Abiodun, the Ogun State governor, announced the development in a statement on Wednesday, saying the secret police tracked the six suspected cultists to the official residence of the lawmaker.

Accusing the lawmaker of providing shelter to the cultists, Adeniran, said in the statement, that the suspects were presently undergoing interrogation in DSS custody after many dangerous weapons, including guns, were recovered from them.

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