Psychiatrists are urging the government to implement measures aimed at rehabilitating and reintegrating survivors of the Shakahola tragedy back into the community. Boniface Chitayi, the President of the Kenya Psychiatric Association, is also calling for stronger mental health support services to be provided to the survivors, their relatives, and those who have lost loved ones in the incident. Chitayi emphasizes the importance of extending mental health support to the professionals involved in the rescue operations, exhumations, reporting, and overall support.
The association criticizes the government’s decision to press charges against the survivors, arguing that they cannot be held fully responsible for the atrocities committed at Shakahola and should not face punishment. Chitayi acknowledges that individuals can be misled and influenced by charismatic leaders, leading them to engage in behaviors that defy cultural norms and harm themselves and others. The association is closely monitoring the ongoing investigations into the activities of the sect responsible for the tragedy and awaits the final outcome.
Meanwhile, a Shanzu magistrate court has directed that 64 out of the 65 followers of cult leader Paul Mackenzie, who had been on a hunger strike, be taken to a rescue center in Kilifi. These individuals were rescued from the bushes of Shakahola between May 20 and June 10. Upon their rescue, they were found to be in critical condition, showing signs of starvation. Following medical treatment, they were taken to the rescue center.
Overall, there is a pressing need to prioritize the rehabilitation and reintegration of the survivors into society and provide comprehensive mental health support services to all those affected, including the professionals involved in addressing the aftermath of the tragedy. The focus should be on understanding the complexities of group dynamics, the influence of charismatic leaders, and the potential for individuals to be misled rather than solely attributing blame to the survivors themselves.