Kenyan crackdown on religious sect

At least 100 members were arrested by Kenyan police

BBC/November 22, 2001
By Noel Mwakugu

Nairobi -- Police in Kenya have arrested more than 100 followers of the Mungiki religious sect.

The arrests are part of a crackdown on the sect members who have been battling to control public transport termini in Nairobi.

Also arrested is sect leader Ibrahim Ndura Wariunge, whom police say will be charged with various offences after he issued a statement denouncing the police.

Trouble between the police and followers of the Mungiki sect began two months ago, after they violently took control of several public transport termini in Nairobi's suburbs.

At least 12 people were killed in the clashes, six of whom the Mungiki admitted were members of their sect.

'Traditional' values

Followers of the religious group, which advocates traditional African values, have long been engaged in battles with groups of young minibus touts - popularly known as kamjesh - whom they claim are behind the rise of insecurity in Nairobi.

The sect is battling to control the city's public transport terminals. The sect members were rounded up in Dandora, Kasarani, Kayole and Kariobangi estates, where they have a strong following.

Mr Wariunge claims that the sect, whose male members identify themselves with dreadlocks, has recruited hundreds of ex-police and military personnel.

On Tuesday, a team of officers ransacked his house just outside the capital city, in search of weapons and other items related to the sect.

Police commissioner Philemon Abongo has admitted that the force is concerned about the movement's activities and has assured Kenyans that they will contain it.

Controversial movement

The Mungiki movement is believed to have started in 1980. Its leaders claim they have more than four million members, mostly comprising jobless youth on the streets of the capital.

The sect claims to have more than four million members. Its followers reject Christianity as a foreign, imposed religion and claim it is against their forefathers' beliefs.

It has consistently been refused official recognition by the government, due mainly to its highly controversial practice of female genital mutilation.

Followers of the sect are bound by a traditional oath of secrecy, which the mainstream Christian churches have denounced as evil.

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