More killings feared as Kibaki vows new Mungiki war

President Mwai Kibaki has vowed to crack down on the Mungiki sect even as torture and disappearances undermine ongoing government efforts of eradicating the sect.

The President is enraged by the killings of at least 10 people in his parliamentary constituency. The dead are believed to have been executed by Mungiki adherents, who are known for demanding protection fees from retail business, land owners and transport operators across Central Kenya, Nairobi and parts of the Rift Valley.

Since June 2007, at least 600 youths have been killed for alleged involvement with Mungiki. Scores of others have simply vanished after they were arrested.

Survivors and civil society accuse the Kenya Police for the deaths and disappearances, a claim the police Commissioner has denied several times. However, former internal security minister, John Michuki, was quoted last year saying that funerals of Mungiki youth would become a common occurence.

Mungiki is an underground movement among the Kikuyu ethnic group, drawing its membership from youths in squatter settlements and urban slums. The group advocates a return to Kikuyu traditional customs saying that modernity has failed to ease human suffering.

Mungiki leader, Maina Njenga, is serving a jail sentence for drugs and weapons possession but the sect describes the charges as a fabrication meant to curtail its activities.

Njenga began Mungiki in the mid 1980s in the Rift Valley province. His movement grew in numbers in the 1990s following clashes inflicted on the Kikuyu by forces loyal to President Daniel arap Moi.

The 1990s were a period of rapid economic liberalization in Kenya coupled with globalization, resulting in massive unemployment coupled with the loss of societal values. Rising crime and crumbling state authority added to the difficulties.

Within the shanties of the Kikuyu homeland and the capital city Nairobi, Mungiki restored order and provided basic social services in exchange for protection fees by households and businesses. By the early 2000s, Mungiki membership was estimated at over 1 million.

Since then, the Kenyan government has worried over the motives of Mungiki and sees the sect as a threat. Sections of the government are convinced that Mungiki’s goal is to capture power through its political wing, the Kenya National Youth Alliance.

Mungiki is not a movement of angels either. Dozens of people have been killed by the sect for either exposing the group’s secrets or refusing to pay protection fees. Mungiki does not allow revocation of membership and recruitment procedures are rather nasty.

Whereas President Moi kept the group in check through negotiation, his successor President Mwai Kibaki has pursued a hardline stance. Ironically, Kibaki is also a Kikuyu whereas Moi was not.

Being a phenomenon of the underclass, Mungiki does not enjoy the complete loyalty of the Kikuyu. Majority of upper and middle class Kikuyu support Kibaki’s crackdown against Mungiki, leading many social commentators to draw similarities with the Mau Mau war of the 1950s. Like Mungiki, Mau Mau drew its membership from the poor whereas the educated Kikuyu working for the colonial government opposed it.

Incidentally, John Michuki, the man who predicted Mungiki funerals in 2007 worked as a colonial administrator in the 1950s where he was tough against Mau Mau. Its worth noting that Mungiki draws its inspiration from the Mau Mau rebellion.

The rest of Kenya’s ethnic groups fear Mungiki and support the government’s campaign despite the violations of human rights. With Mungiki’s membership being exclusively Kikuyu, the rest of Kenya’s tribes see the group as an ethnic militia championing Kikuyu interests.

Consequently, there has been little condemnation of the government from the rest of the population. However, this apathy may change as the Kenyan government spreads its tactics to other parts of Kenya.

Security operations in Mount Elgon and the Somali border have been marred by similar allegations of torture, death and disappearances. It may seem as though the Kenyan government is adopting tactics last seen in Latin America back in the 1970s.

Perhaps, Kenyan leaders and security chiefs should familiarize themselves with ongoing legal procedures in Latin America. More than 30 years after the era of leftist groups and right wing paramilitaries (usually backed by military governments), trials are currently underway for those responsible for the disappearances.

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Prominent careers in political toilet

The Waki Report on post election violence has consigned the careers of Kenya’s top politicians into the toilet of collective memory among the citizens of the republic.

Indeed, the post election violence that killed at least 1,000 Kenyans and made half a million refugees in their own country has irredeemably tainted Kenya’s top political leadership.

Citizens across the republic are pondering in groups how they could have allowed themselves to be manipulated by a conniving class of political hypocrites who are now engorging themselves on the country’s meagre riches, while belching out incredible statements of forgiveness.

For the past five years, Kenyans were fed an endless diet of ethnic hatred by politicians unable to see far beyond their distended bellies. Ethnic groups were incited against each other, and made to believe that their poverty and misery was caused by the opposing side. Come the elections of 2007, five years of instigation erupted into an orgy of violence.

State authority collapsed in most parts of the country, especially the Rift Valley, Western and Nyanza provinces. Government offices were looted, police officers killed and infrastructure blown up. Thousands of people were attacked, raped and killed as property went up in flames. The blame for the near collapse of Kenya falls on the political classes, whose selfishness has astounded the international community.

Now, the chickens are finally coming home to roost for Kenya’s cruel and corrupt leaders thanks to the Waki Report on post election violence. Of course, the political players would rather turn the Waki Report into toilet paper, but it is they who are going down the political sewer tubes, hopefully, for good.

As the Waki Report explains, President Mwai Kibaki cannot escape blame for the sorry state of affairs Kenya finds itself entangled in. His weak leadership allowed the rise of demagogues across the ethnic divide who exploited the resultant vacuum to raise hateful temperatures. Kibaki’s behavior can be described as negligent at best and incompetent at worst.

In the future, Kenyans will remember Kibaki more for his weak leadership than for anything else. Kibaki spent his first term in office trying to make the economy grow, which it did briefly in 2006 – 2007. However, all that growth was destroyed within the first three months of 2008, in effect negating all of his handiwork.

Kenyans will recall Kibaki as a leader who failed to unite the people, who allowed corruption to fester during his term of office, and who allowed impunity to rule. The deaths of 1,000 people in ethnic clashes will forever blot all recollection of his memory. The callous killings of 500 Kikuyu youths for alleged Mungiki membership will not be forgotten any time soon. If anything, the only reason the Kikuyu voted for Kibaki was because there did not exist a viable alternative.

And the reason why that alternative did not exist was because Prime Minister Raila Odinga was making bellicose statements that only added to ethnic incitement in the country. Moving across Kenya describing the Kikuyu as “adui” or enemy is not exactly the hallmark of a statesman. Raila and his ODM party made the Kikuyu a scapegoat for all of Kenya’s problems.

The violence of 2008 was largely the consequence of such loose, irresponsible talk. Though Kenyans are credited for having short memories, its highly unlikely that Raila can comfortably win the country’s presidency because of his recent past. Hardly surprising then, that his lieutenants are proposing that the president be elected by parliament. Its easier to convince 222 legislators to vote for you than to campaign for votes among 18 million voters. For that, Raila’s place in the political toilet is guaranteed.

It is impossible for the likes of Uhuru Kenyatta, William Ruto, Najib Balala and Musalia Mudavadi to make it into the presidency. Their reputations have irredeemably been scorched through their links to violence. Even though they may not have engaged in actual acts of violence against other Kenyans, the fact that they did little to stop it implies guilt by association. Instead of stopping violence in their constituencies, they kept quiet. Mudavadi even went for holiday at the coast.

Kenyans should realize that the path towards achieving justice for the victims of violence will not be easy. The guilty parties have in their control vast wealth and power which they will use to frustrate prosecution. In any case, the Attorney General is one of their own and he has already described the Waki Report as lacking in evidence.

Faced with the prospects of international prosecution, the Kenyan ruling elite is banding together while calling for a “homegrown” solution. Political entities named in the Waki Report should not be allowed to continue with their endless proselytizing at the expense of innocent lives among the majority poor.

Just a few months ago, clarion calls of, “No justice, No peace” rent the air as the political elites exploited ordinary citizens in the battle for state control – and the rewards that go with it. At the time, intellectual mercenaries-for-hire wrote acres of newspaper columns trying to explain that the absence of war was not peace.

Now, the same same intellectuals are trying to justify the inexcusable, claiming that prosecuting the masterminds of post election violence will disrupt peace and spark off fresh chaos. If these academics could not value peace early this year, why is peace suddenly so important to them now? For behaving like characters of loose morals who will do anything for small money, these pseudo intellectuals have earned their place in the national toilet.

Amidst the recriminations of Kenya’s zero leadership, who will be the winner? For once, the ordinary Kenyan has seen that the political class do not care about the people’s interests. The exposure of the rotting carcass of Kenya’s leaders is good news for those hoping for a leadership revolution in the country.

A new class of fresh, untainted and committed persons is sorely needed to lead the people into an epoch of unity and prosperity for all. The Waki Report should be the starting point for the much-needed political purge. Yes, it will be painful but what is the alternative?

Police death squads exposed in Mungiki war

A government human rights body has implicated Kenyan police in the abduction, torture and execution of at least 500 young men. Scores of others arrested from their homes cannot be found.

In its report, the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights says that top political leaders working with police commanders were aware of the death squads. Last year, Cabinet minister John Michuki, predicted that there would be “many funerals” of Mungiki members.

The report further accuses police officers of kidnapping, torture and extortion on the pretext of anti-Mungiki operations. For the unfortunate victims, payment of a ransom was no security against death. The commission has documented cases where individuals were hunted down and killed after paying ransom.

Mungiki, popular with disillusioned youth from the Kikuyu ethnic group, is calling for a return to traditional African spirituality. It despises Christianity as a colonial religion. In the teeming slums of Kenya’s cities and in rural squatter settlements, Mungiki has grown by providing casual jobs, protection, housing and other social services.

The Mungiki are calling for a generational change in Kenya to pave way for youthful leadership. According to Mungiki, Kenya’s current leaders are remnants of, “colonial home-guards.”

Since its beginnings in the 1980s, the group’s membership has grown to the lower millions. It has become a formidable political and quasi-militia force that has drawn the wrath of State security machinery. Kenya’s government declared war against the group in mid 2007.

The Kenya Police force, however, faces little condemnation for its actions. The ethnic affiliation of Mungiki has spawned fear of Kikuyu nationalism in the rest of Kenya’s tribes, especially after political and ethnic clashes earlier this year. Consequently, there has been no criticism of police tactics against Mungiki.

Mungiki’s leader and founder, Maina Njenga, is serving a five year jail term on weapons and drug possession charges. Mr Njenga says police falsified the charges against him. After his arrest, the state turned Mr Njenga’s mansion in Kitengela into a, “police station.” Kenyan police rarely confiscate property from criminal suspects.

Earlier this year, Njenga’s wife, Virginia Nyakio, was abducted, raped and beheaded by persons believed to be working for the state. Within a few days, two top officials of the Kenya National Youth Alliance – Mungiki’s party – were gunned down by unidentified people along the Nairobi – Naivasha highway. The two were on their way to see Mr Njenga in prison. One of the dead was a brother to Virginia Nyakio’s driver. According to eye-witnesses, the gunmen in the daylight shooting first identified themselves as police.

Mr Njenga has vowed not to allow the funeral of his murdered wife until the government drops all charges against him. Her body has been lying in a morgue ever since.

In April, Mungiki engaged riot police in national demonstrations to protest constant killings. Railway lines were uprooted and national highways blocked. The violence ended when Prime Minister Raila Odinga offered to negotiate with them. Police withdrew from Maina Njenga’s mansion in an apparent goodwill gesture from the government. Television footage showed the building suffering from extreme vandalism. Apparently police officers lit cooking fires on the living room floor.

The report by the Kenya National Human Rights Commission accused police of using unmarked vehicles to abduct Mungiki youth, most of whose bodies have been found in woodlands outside the capital city. Police deny they are involved in the killings. However, in parts of Central Province and in the slums of Nairobi, young men live in fear of abduction.

Public opinion in Kenya is split between those calling for dialogue with Mungiki and those insisting on tough measures. Majority of Kenyans associate Mungiki with extortion, crime and murder.

Numerous scholars and journalists have attempted to analyze Mungiki. The explanations of the Mungiki phenomenon are as varied as the number of papers and press articles about the group.

However, all agree that the Mungiki is a product of a dysfunctional society and without a change in the way Kenya is governed, Mungiki is likely to become a much bigger and dangerous phenomenon.

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.

Mungiki funerals blocked by police

Weeks after they were killed, three prominent Mungiki members are yet to be buried as their families decry constant police harassment.

And yesterday, hundreds of heavily armed police raided the Kitengela home of Mungiki’s jailed leader, apparently to block relatives from preparing the funeral of his murdered wife.

Virginia Nyakio, wife to Mungiki leader, Maina Njenga, and her driver were abducted in Nairobi. Their badly mutilated bodies were found in the Aberdare forest. Within a few days, two top officials of the Kenya National Youth Alliance – Mungiki’s party – were gunned down by unidentified people along the Nairobi – Naivasha highway. The two were on their way to see Mr Njenga in prison. One of the dead was a brother to Virginia Nyakio’s driver. According to eye-witnesses, the gunmen in the daylight shooting identified themselves as police. On their part, Kenya’s police commissioner says his force does not participate in criminal activities.

Following the murder of his wife, Mr Njenga vowed to bury her at the Kitengela grounds. Her body is still lying at a funeral home. What makes the saga intriguing is that after his arrest, the state turned Mr Njenga’s mansion into a, “police station.” In April, Mungiki engaged police in national demonstrations to protest the killings. The violent clashes ended when Prime Minister Raila Odinga offered to negotiate with them. Since then, police withdrew from the mansion in an apparent goodwill gesture from the government.

However, the breaking up of yesterday’s funeral preparations may harm the government’s negotiations with Mungiki, setting the stage for further confrontations.

The other two men have not been buried either as constant police raids at their homes frustrate funeral arrangements. Neighbours are scared of being associated with Mungiki, according to a report in the Daily Nation.

Mr Njenga, is doing time at the Naivasha Maximum Prison for weapons and marijuana possession. His followers say the charges were fabricated by the Kenyan government to thwart Mungiki’s political ambitions as expressed through the Kenya National Youth Alliance (KNYA).

The Mungiki and the KNYA are calling for a generational change in Kenya to pave way for youthful leadership. According to Mungiki, Kenya’s current leaders are remnants of, “colonial home-guards.”

The Mungiki has called for a return to traditional African values, and is popular with disillusioned youth mostly from the Kikuyu ethnic group. However, the ethnic affiliation of Mungiki has spawned fear in the rest of Kenya’s tribes, especially after political and ethnic clashes earlier this year. Because of this, there has been muted condemnation of police tactics against Mungiki.

Mungiki making news in Kenya

The Mungiki phenomenon will continue to influence Kenya’s politics and social life if daily media headlines are any indicators.

Hardly a day goes by without some major news event concerning the Mungiki. This week, it has emerged that the Kenya Police have finally left a mansion in Kitengela built by the Mungiki. The police had converted the house into a “police station” after arresting Mungiki leader, Maina Njenga in the premises several years ago.

In Kenya, the police rarely confiscate property in such a manner. Indeed, the action was among the major grievances that drove the Mungiki into nationwide protests in April this year. By returning the ownership of the building to the Mungiki, the government may be signaling a softening in its stance towards the group. Television footage shows the building suffering from extreme vandalism. Apparently police officers lit cooking fires in the expansive living room.

In the past one week, political leaders from the Central Province have called for negotiations with Mungiki and the release of Mr Njenga. Mr Njenga is in jail for possession of firearms and marijuana. His followers say the charges are false.

On his appointment in April, Prime Minister Raila Odinga said he was willing to begin negotiations with Mungiki. However, Internal security minister, Prof George Saitoti, has said the government will not talk to Mungiki. This followed criticism of proposed Mungiki talks by politicians from Kalenjin dominated areas following the arrest of youths linked to ethnic clashes earlier this year. The Kalenjin politicians argue that were the government to talk with Mungiki, then Kalenjin militia should get amnesty from prosecution.

The military operation against the Sabaot Land Defense Force in Mt Elgon may be influenced by the manner in which the government handles the Mungiki issue. Critics of the military campaign are concerned over the apparent double standards in dealing with militia groups.

Mungiki say they have also borne the brunt of state security forces. Hundreds of bodies of suspected Mungiki members have been found in morgues and forests on the outskirts of Nairobi in the past year. Police deny they are involved in the killings. However, in parts of Central Province and in the slums of Nairobi, young men live in fear of the police.

There have been numerous feature articles in local and international press all attempting to analyze the Mungiki. The explanations of the Mungiki phenomenon are as varied as the number of articles about the group. However, all agree that the Mungiki is a product of a dysfunctional society and without a change in the way Kenya is governed, the Mungiki is likely to become a much bigger and potent force.