Outlawed sect's legacy of murder and mayhem

Sunday Nation/January 12, 2003
By Sunday Nation

The government order to crack down on the Mungiki terror gangs came at the height of several cases of violence and murders allegedly committed by the sect followers in Rift Valley, Central Eastern and Nairobi provinces.

The worst of the recent cases was in Nakuru last week where 32 people were killed in two separate raids. Two others were killed in Murang'a district.

Only last month, another two people were killed and seven houses burnt at Karia village in Githunguri, Kiambu district, at the hands of a rampaging Mungiki mob.

The Karia raid was in revenge for the death of the youth who they had come to bury and who was a sect follower.

Then, like in numerous occasions in the past, police stood by as the enraged mob unleashed terror on the village.

Police had herded all the villagers at the local shopping centre and acted as a buffer zone between them and the marauders.

The sect, which has been synonymous with violence, has been rubbing shoulders the wrong way with the law since its activities came to the surface in the early 1980s.

In its formative years, the organisation received round condemnation from the church, political and government leaders.

They described it as "retrogressive, backward and dangerous" in its activities.

Controversial politician Kihika Kimani, a man who has never over the years steered clear of making the sect a pet subject, has at one time threatened to unleash their terror on his perceived enemies.

In 1997 he told a rally at Sipili in Laikipia district that the sect was a brainchild of some scholars in exile who wanted to subvert the government.

Mr Kimani said, then, the sect had recruited 800,000 members and was out to enlist 1.5 million.

And only last year, sect chairman Maina Njenga said the sect had a following of 2.5 million.

Two years ago, before retired president Moi at Afraha stadium in Nakuru, 50 Mungki members confessed having allegedly taken an oath to destabilise the government. The then head of state proceeded to pardon them alongside others who had been arrested in Embu district.

And when some sect members visited Moi at his Kabarak home, near Nakuru, they told him that they planned a revolution in the country.

They went on to tell Moi that forced female circumcision, taking snuff and praying while facing Mt Kenya were some of the sects characteristics.

In 1999, 15 female teachers in Thika failed to report to school after Mungiki members threatened to circumcise them.

The two years ago, the sect's National coordinator Ndura Waruinge , alleged that the group had recruited members of the Armed Forces but hastened to deny that they were involved in illegal activities.

In June 2000, about 100 members of the sect were said to be taking Islamic lessons in Nakuru with a Muslim cleric reportedly having supplied them with 500 booklets on Islam.

A group of them was to attack a police station in Murang'a and stole a gun from an officer on duty. It was recovered later.

Before that, a mob led by Mungiki followers had stripped and whipped women in Kayole whom they found wearing trousers.

When police raided the hide-out of one of the suspects, they discovered firearms,, electronic goods, police uniforms and thousands of litres of traditional brew.

In September 2001, leaders of the movement claimed they had raised Sh800million and planned to collect another Sh35 billion to finance their candidate in the just ended Election.

The sect members were to announce in March last year that they were to support Kanu presidential candidate Uhuru Kenyatta.

Mr Kenyatta who lost the battle for the presidency to Mr Mwai Kibaki went on to painstakingly disassociate himself from the sect.

Mr Kenyatta was even said to have played a major role in shutting out the sect's chairman Maina Njenga from contesting the Laikipia West seat on a Kanu ticket.

But even then, a week prior to the elections, Njenga held a closed door meeting with the retired president at Rumuruti state lodge whose deliberations were not known.

However, Njenga latter told journalists that his movement would still support Mr Kenyatta for the country's top job.

Police have in the recent past been accused of giving the sect members preferential treatment in the wake of Caribbean murders and even the uninterrupted demonstrations in the streets of Nairobi while armed with swords and other crude weapons to show solidarity with Mr Kenyatta.

Those so far arrested across the country are 128, who are expected to be arraigned in court tomorrow.

Some of those arrested earlier have already been charged in court following raids in Nakuru, Nyandarua, Laikipia, Nyeri and Nairobi.

Some 12 youths who police arrested in Nairobi where an oathing shrine at an hideout used by the sect members was smashed on Friday were suspected to have been involved in the Kiambu and Murang'a killings, police have said.

The suspects-all from Kiharu in Murang'a-were flushed out of a building still under construction in Mlango.

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