Mungiki assasinations continue, police blamed

Dramatic murders of top Mungiki leaders continued this week inspite of peace gestures by Prime Minister Raila Odinga as police denied involvement in the assassinations.

The Chairman and Treasurer of the Kenya National Youth Alliance were gunned down last Tuesday at Uplands after a car chase on the Nairobi – Naivasha highway. The Kenya National Youth Alliance (KNYA) is Mungiki’s political wing. Mr Charles Ndung’u Wagacha and Mr Naftali Irungu were said to be on their way to the Naivasha Prison, where Mungiki leader, Maina Njenga is serving a jail term.

Relatives of the two KNYA officials immediately blamed police for the killings. However, police spokesman, Eric Kiraithe, denied the claims. Police say that the recent mysterious deaths of Mungiki leaders are a result of infighting between various Mungiki factions over control of funds. The Mungiki leadership have, however, denied reports of a split within their ranks.

According to relatives, Mr Wagacha and Mr Irungu were driving to Naivasha Prison to consult with Maina Njenga over possible talks with the government, proposed by Prime Minister Odinga. The relatives say that elements in the government are using the police to ensure negotiations fail, hence the killings. At least 500 bodies of suspected Mungiki members have been discovered in thickets outside Nairobi in the past one year.

Prime Minister Odinga offered an olive branch to the Mungiki soon after he was sworn into office a couple of weeks ago. However, President Mwai Kibaki yesterday said that it was, “useless” for people to join what he referred to as “groups.” The President was addressing a Labour Day rally at Uhuru Park. The police have vowed to continue the war against Mungiki terming it a terrorist organization.

Public opinion in Kenya is split between those calling for dialogue with Mungiki and those insisting on tough measures. Being a predominantly ethnic Kikuyu phenomenon, the Mungiki has little sympathy among the rest of Kenya’s ethnic groups. Majority of Kenyans associate Mungiki with extortion, crime and murder. However, the Kikuyu say that the Mungiki is a consequence of poverty and hopelessness among youth in squatter camps and urban slums.

Also this week, bodies of two other Mungiki officials abducted in Nairobi were found at the Machakos Hospital mortuary. There was no explanation as to how the bodies got there.

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