Police killings continue in Mungiki war

As Kenya’s police maintain a policy of targeted assassinations in its war against Mungiki, the mutilated bodies of abducted victims continue to be uncovered in forests and morgues around Nairobi.

According to the Daily Nation, a bus driver whose arrest was filmed by the paper’s staff has been found dead. Mr Peter Maina Wachira was found strangled alongside his tout Peter Mwangi less than 24 hours after they were arrested at the Muthurwa bus terminus in Nairobi.

Records at Nairobi’s City Mortuary show the two bodies were delivered in a police vehicle and booked as those of, “unknown persons.” Further investigations by the Daily Nation led reporters to a settlement near Ngong town. Apparently, the bodies were found by children as they walked to school one morning.

The police admit arresting the two men but deny involvement in their deaths. Polices spokesman, Eric Kiraithe, said relatives of the men could institute an inquest by making a formal request to the police.

According to human rights organizations, close to 1,000 young men have been tortured, killed and dumped in bushes by the Kenya Police for alleged involvement with the Mungiki sect. Police say the use of force is justified because they are fighting an illegal, criminal organization.

The Mungiki, popular with disillusioned young people from the Kikuyu ethnic group, calls for a return to traditional African culture. It despises Christianity as a colonial religion. In the slums of Kenya’s cities and in rural squatter settlements, Mungiki has grown by providing casual jobs, protection, housing and other social services. Since it began in the mid 1980s, the group’s membership is now estimated at the lower millions. It has become a formidable political and quasi-militia force that has drawn the wrath of the State security machinery.

Kenya’s government declared war against the group in mid 2007. Since then, dozens of police and government administrators have been killed by suspected Mungiki. On its part, the Kenyan police have been accused of abducting and killing thousands of youths. Many other young people have simply been made to disappear.

The Kenya Police force, however, faces little condemnation for its actions. Because Mungiki is largely drawn from the Kikuyu ethnic group, inter-ethnic rivalry in Kenya means that the rest of Kenya has no sympathy for the suffering of Kikuyu youth.

Mungiki’s leader, Maina Njenga, is serving a five year jail term on weapons and drugs charges. Mr Maina says the police falsified the charges against him. Earlier this year, his wife, Virginia Nyakio, was abducted, raped and beheaded by persons believed to be working for the security services. Mr Njenga has vowed not to allow the funeral of his murdered wife until the government drops all charges against him.

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Commuters stranded as Eastlands matatus strike again

Thousands of commuters from Nairobi’s Eastlands were stranded today as matatus went on strike.

There were conflicting reports concerning the cause of the latest matatu strike. Police say that matatu operators fear for the safety of their vehicles following renewed threats from the Mungiki to extort money from their business. On the other hand, some matatu operators say the strike is to protest the relocation of their vehicles from the city centre to the new Muthurwa terminus. Matatu operators wonder why they are being blocked from accessing the city centre while City Hoppa, KBS and Double M buses are moving freely.

By mid-morning, rumours started spreading that buses from the three companies may be attacked. Consequently, there was a heavy presence of police and paramilitary GSU officers on major streets of Nairobi to counter any attack.

Commuters were forced to walk long distances to access public transport. The alternative is to board  Double M buses from Muthurwa, and thereby incur additional costs at a time of high inflation fuelled by rising oil and food prices.

The government has been heavily criticized for its decision to bar public transport vehicles from Eastlands from getting into town.

Eastlands matatus back in town

A controversial decision to send all Eastlands matatus to the new Muthurwa terminus appears to be hitting a wall, as matatu operators get court orders allowing them back into the central business district.

A matatu picking passengers on Tom Mboya street, Nairobi

An Embakasi matatu picking up passengers from Nairobi’s Tom Mboya Street.

Matatus from Embakasi, Maringo, Buruburu and Outering were the first to obtain court orders temporarily allowing them to operate into the city. Lately, Kayole buses have also won similar orders and are now back to their former terminus at OTC. Indeed, many people from Eastlands no longer have to walk to Muthurwa to catch public transport. If anything, the court orders seem to have given matatu operators the leeway to collect passengers from virtually any street corner.

Double M, Kenya Bus and Citti Hoppa buses continue operating within the city centre because other routes that they ply, such as Kawangware and Ngummo, are legally allowed through the city. However, buses from the three companies operating to Eastlands routes often sneak into town through the industrial area or Majengo estates. Once in town, police don’t bother with them.

The Muthurwa terminus hasn’t been left deserted though. Matatus to Industrial Area, Umoja, LungaLunga, Komarock and Njiru/Ruai still operate from Muthurwa. From recent developments, its just a matter of time before they too go to court and are allowed into town.

Meanwhile, the Nairobi City Council and the Transport Licensing Board (TLB) have said that they will no longer recognize Eastlands routes ending within the city centre. Since the TLB is the legal body authorized to register matatus, the move is seen as an attempt to beat legal challenges launched by matatus against moving to Muthurwa.

Early this year, the Nairobi City Council and the Ministry of Local Government ordered that all Eastlands matatus move their operations to the Muthurwa terminus. Local Government minister at the time, Mr Uhuru Kenyatta (now Deputy Prime Minister) said the decision was meant to ease traffic congestion in the city. However, commuters and matatu operators criticized the move as inconsiderate and ill-planned. Not only were commuters forced to walk longer distances, but the Muthurwa terminus is still under construction with piles of soil everywhere.

Matatu operators claimed that the move was a ploy by Uhuru to convince hawkers to move from the city streets and into the Muthurwa hawkers market. What better way to do it, asked the matatu operators, than to create a captive market. If that really was the government’s intention, then it worked like magic. No sooner than matatus were forced into Muthurwa than all hawkers left city streets for their new market.

Nairobi is increasingly suffering from traffic congestion due to slow expansion of city streets. Many roads in Nairobi were planned and built by British colonialists back in the 1950s and 60s. By opening the Muthurwa terminus, the City Council hopes to move matatus from other parts of Nairobi to parking bays previously occupied by Eastlands matatus. For instance, South B route 11 will begin operating from the Central Bus Station. However, with continued resistance from Eastlands matatus, the City Council may have to wait a little longer to implement its plans to end the chaos currently on the streets of Nairobi.