Outlawed Sect in fresh threats

An outlawed political and religious sect engaged in nationwide riots across Kenya today, creating tension in the country in the midst of popular discontent with the country’s leadership.

Members of the Mungiki sect were protesting the gory murder of the wife to their jailed chairman. The riots in Nairobi, Naivasha, Nakuru, Eldoret and parts of the Central Province began as early as 5am, catching commuters by surprise. The main highway linking Nairobi to Western Kenya and Uganda was blocked at Naivasha. Parts of a railway line at Dandora, east of Nairobi, were vandalized by irate mobs. By mid-morning, police had shot dead at least 15 youths in various towns for participating in the riots. Several others were placed under arrest.

Mrs Virginia Maina’s decapitated body was found dumped in the Aberdare forest on the 10th of April along that of her driver. Mrs Maina was wife to Mungiki national chairman, Maina Njenga who is serving a jail term for activities related to the group. Mrs Maina and her driver were carjacked in Nairobi two days earlier. Most observers believe the killings were executed by persons allied to state security forces. The East African Standard reports of evidence that Mrs Maina had been gang-raped in circumstances surrounding her murder.

In the past year, the Kenya Police is accused of having abducted and secretly killed at least 500 people it claims were members of Mungiki. The bodies are usually found dumped in forests, hands tied and with obvious signs of torture. Police have denied involvement in the murders, saying the killings were a result of conflict within the Mungiki.

The Mungiki is a quasi religious-political and cultural organization drawing its membership from disaffected youth mostly from the Kikuyu ethnic group. It advocates a return to traditional African values to combat what it calls the moral decadence of Westernization. Sociologists say that groups like Mungiki become very appealing to youths faced with rapid globalization, massive inequalities, unemployment, poverty and state oppression, all of which are present in Kenya in various degrees. Groups like the Mafia of Italy have similar roots with the Mungiki of Kenya.

With a membership estimated in the lower millions, the Kenya government’s tactics of targeted assassination against the Mungiki will probably fail to crush the group. The riots of today indicate that without dealing with poverty, inequality and state brutality, groups like Mungiki can only gain more recruits and further weaken the credibility of the state in an already fragile nation.

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