GSU commandos raid Mungiki nerve centre

The Standard, Kenya/October 7, 2005
By Cyrus Ombati

Police yesterday arrested 18 suspected members of the outlawed Mungiki sect following a commando strike at a palatial house in Kitengela where it is believed they had set up base.

The commando wing of the General Service Unit – donning masks and bulletproof jackets– descended on the house in the bushy outskirts of Kitengela town on Wednesday evening and laid siege. They all wore night-vision goggles.

In what appeared looked like TV clips from war-torn Iraq, the commandos struck at the house owned by the self-proclaimed Mungiki chairman, Maina Njenga.

Inside, they found the movement’s flag and outside was a flower-lined oathing shrine with flowers arranged in the sect’s green, black and red colours.

The GSU unit is a highly secretive and elite outfit and hardly appears in public. Theirs is a stealth operation and their jet-black uniforms, guns and knifes are distinct.

They had monitored the house under cover for over 18 hours before the order to strike was issued.

When they broke down the doors, they found expensive leather seats in a huge lobby, arranged in a conference style, with the chairman’s position clearly defined.

There was also tobacco snuff, sheep dung, traditional brews and the offertory cloth-bag. There was a mixture of various boiled fruits cooling in a sufuria, a Kikuyu Christian hymn book and slaughtered sheep.

The sect has been blamed for some of the country’s most brutal killings, often featuring beheadings.

The commandos led by a former Presidential Escort Commander, Mathew Iteere, cut through the wire-meshed fence and caught the suspects by surprise.

However, their main target, Njenga, was not home when the crack squad burst in. The half naked suspects were found in what they called the ‘cleansing’ room.

Also overseeing operation was the Director of the Criminal Investigations Department, Joseph Kamau.

The mansion is partially complete, but bear’s the aura of a millionaire.

The two senior officers said the suspects were planning to commit "a serious crime" in the city ahead of the coming referendum.

Four officers from the National Social Intelligence Service later joined the team and took notes as they interrogated a woman found in the house.

The woman told police that several prominent personalities have been visiting the compound, but the only person she knew is a former MP from Central province.

She said about 2,000 people converge at the compound every weekend for cleansing purposes and that they sometimes circumcise women in the palatial house.

Last night, Njenga denied organising the oaths and turning his home into a Mungiki base. He claimed the raid was staged after announcing his underworld organization was in the Orange team.

"We are no longer called Mungiki. We are Kenya National Youth Alliance and our agenda is to empower the youth. This is intimidation to stop us from voting against the flawed constitution," said Njenga on phone.

The commandos broke into all the 10 rooms searching for weapons and other evidence against the followers.

They moved from one point to the other in groups of three while holding their automatic weapons.

Last evening, the officers were still guarding the home.

Inside the house, the officers found flags bearing the sect’s colours, several membership cards, baptism certificates, still cameras, snuff and the party constitution.

Police also seized photographs belonging to several members who had met there three weeks ago.

Police spokesman Jasper Ombati said the issue was being taken seriously and promised to arrest those linked to the sect.

Locals claimed they had been seeing suspected Mungiki members there. "They come here regularly and we sometimes go there to fetch water. We have no problem with them," said a villager.

Police said the Government had seized the 10-bedroom mansion built on a seven-acre piece of land within Kajiado’s Nguruka area.

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