When Philip Onyancha was a Form One student at Kenyatta Mahiga High School in Nyeri, then President Daniel arap Moi appointed a commission to inquire into devil worship in Kenya.
At that time, the country was throbbing with claims of widespread devil worship with some reports linking the practice to people in high places.
The commission headed by Archbishop Nicodemus Kirima, was appointed in March 1995 when Onyancha was in his first term in secondary school.
For his efforts in trying to literally unearth the devil, Archbishop Kirima and his commissioners were derided by critics who disparaged their report when it was published in 1999.
Onyancha, who has sensationally claimed to have killed 17 people, has claimed his actions are a result of a cult into which he was inducted while in high school.
In the context of the findings and recommendations of the Kirima Commission, perhaps the inquiry had merit. The commission reported that it had found evidence of students who were occultists.
“The members consider themselves above the law and are organised into cults. Evidence of such Satanism was found in schools which the commission visited,” the report stated.
The team had been established to investigate whether there were devil worship cults in Kenya and whether they were linked to drug abuse and other anti-social activities.
The commission traversed the country recording views of the public, religious and political leaders, students, teachers and heads of educational institutions.
It presented its report to the President towards the end of 1995. Nothing was heard about it until a year later when Mr Moi said it would not be made public because it contained sensitive information.
This, in turn, fuelled speculation with claims in Parliament that the government was reluctant to publish the report because it had fingered prominent people.
The report was not made public until 1999 when the Nation published parts of the findings that had been selectively released to religious organisations.
“Devil worshippers are usually wealthy and prominent people who drive expensive cars. Some of them own large commercial enterprises,” the report claimed.
The report said devil worshippers use their wealth to attract new members and gave graphic details of initiation rites including eating human flesh and licking blood.
“Recruitment is clandestine with prospects unaware that they are being lured into a cult. Members are taken to secluded places at night with initiates stripping naked in front of other members,” the commissioners found out.
It went on to say that prayers were conducted by a high priest in a “strange language” while incisions were made in the initiates to draw blood which was mixed with other substances and given to the recruits.
The report said satanism had infiltrated Kenya’s schools and colleges to the extent that it could derail the country’s national objectives.
“If not checked, it could wreck the country’s educational programmes. Headteachers and their staff do not understand the significance of the features of devil worship and regard problems with students as simply poor discipline, ” said the report.
In the case of Onyancha, his former teachers at Kenyatta Mahiga said he was a bright student for the first two years, but his performance declined in the final two. It is not clear if the school made any effort to investigate the cause.
The report said some satanists had even infiltrated the Kenya Students Christian Fellowship to recruit members.
“It was found that some headteachers were lax in control of visitors to schools, some of whom were suspected to be supplying students with drugs,” the report said.
The commissioners recommended: “Since the youth constitute the most important human resource in any nation’s development process, they must therefore be protected from any inherent dangers which are likely to affect their educational, cultural and social well-being.”
The commission recommended the setting up of a special police force to investigate cultic crimes.
The report said that there was a convergence in the details given by devil worshippers.
“The witnesses had unshakable confidence in what they said despite the mind control techniques applied in initiating them to devil worship,” the report said.
The presence of scars, tattoos and other marks on the bodies of the former members of the cult which they showed to the commission confirmed that they had been members of the cult. Various forms of paraphernalia were found in their possession. Some also spoke of use of symbols, signs, and codes for communication purposes.
“From all the evidence presented, the commission is of the opinion that the cult of devil worship exists in Kenya both in the learning institutions and the society.”