Everyone, including the police, was taken aback by the new-look Mungiki Sect during a meeting of members and officials at Thika last week.
All the speakers sounded like they had been born again. They were unusually law-abiding, peaceful and conciliatory in their political utterances.
Like their national co-ordinator, Mr Ibrahim Ndura Waruinge, the hundreds of sectarians exuded confidence and pride as they trooped, cycled and rode to the industrial town's Starehe grounds, while local traders took no chances and closed shop in case there was a violent confrontation between the visitors and police.
Since it came to the limelight five years ago, Mungiki has been one of Kenya's most controversial religious sects, demonised by all and sundry. Mainstream Church leaders, the authorities, and President Moi have described it as "illegal, Satanic and violent", viewing it as a sinister, anti-Government movement motivated by tribal atavism.
On the other hand, it has been supported to the hilt by a few MPs from Kikuyu-dominated areas in Central Province, parts of Rift Valley and Nairobi. Thus, to many Kenyans, the sect is a Kikuyu movement with a hidden political agenda.
This view is vehemently opposed by the sect's leadership. It has always taken great pains to explain that it is a peaceful religious sect with a cultural essence to its teachings.
Some of the sects' outward practices include wearing dreadlocks, promoting female genital mutilation (FGM), and allowing members to take the snuff openly. As a result, the authorities have always described it as an illegal organisation and disrupted all its meetings.
Yet the Thika venue was very well-organised. Mungiki flags flew high, its youth league dressed in uniform with matching hats with Mungiki colours.
Before the speeches started, the national co-ordinator was invited by a youth league leader to inspect a guard of honour. For the next five minutes, he did just that as the members sang the National Anthem in Kiswahili.
But was not a surprise when Mr Waruinge announce at the climax of the meeting that the sect would be transformed into a political movement - not a party - targeting 150 of the 210 constituencies through the various parties. Though he had no evidence, he claimed the movement had set aside Sh80 million for the purpose.
To show they are serious about plunging into politics on their own, the sect allowed no sitting MP or civic leader to address the historic meeting.
Said Mr Waruinge: "We will not form a political party, but will ask our members to support one of our own in the existing parties in their respective areas. We will not support any sitting MP either."
Mungiki will not spare the presidential berth either and insists that whoever they back will have to be aged 45 years and below and with a national outlook.
The big surprise of the day was that the Thika police allowed the sect to hold what the co-ordinator described as an "annual delegates' meeting" to chart out its future stand in the socio-political landscape.
To observers, the sudden Government turnaround to allow Mungiki to hold a meeting, especially one with such a strong political agenda, raised eyebrows, to say the least.
According to Waruinge, they had invited over 4,000 delegates who were expected to travel from all over the country to attend the meeting and pass resolutions. He insisted they were self-sponsored and that "Kanu had nothing to do with it".
The only hitch the sect members experienced with the authorities was when three of their mini-buses were impounded earlier in the morning, following an apparent communication breakdown between the police boss and Mr Waruinge.
Besides that, the meeting went on smoothly. At times it resembled a Kanu rally as the lyrics to familiar tunes were changed to fit the occasion. A women's group even sang the Kiswahili song Tawala, Rais, tawala ("Rule, President, Rule") usually sang by school choirs to praise President Moi.
In his keynote speech, the leader bashed Mr Mwai Kibaki, the official leader of the opposition in Parliament, and the Kikuyu-based Gikuyu, Embu and Meru association (Gema). Many observers believed he had been sent and financed to do just that, with the aim of eroding the influence in Central Province of Mr Kibaki's Democratic Party.
Was it any surprise then that they praised President Moi for announcing that he was ready to step down next year in favour of a young contender to replace him?
Said Mr Waruinge: "Mungiki will only support anyone over 45 years of age for the presidency. The person must be a nationalist and accepted to most Kenyans."
To many observers, Waruinge's latest move bears a lot of similarities with Mr Ngonya wa Gakonya's Tent of the Living God sect, which was very vocal against the Government before the first multi-party elections in 1992, but which faded away as soon as Kanu romped home.
So as the clock ticks closer to Next Year's General Election, It will be interesting to see where this born-again movement heads, whether its enigmatic leaders will be able to hold the flock together in pursuit of a political pipe dream.
DP leader Mwai Kibaki is too old to lead and should quit politics, it was claimed
yesterday.The Mungiki sect national coordinator, Mr Ibrahim Ndura Waruinge, said his members will not support Mr Kibaki next year because of his advanced age.
Instead, he said, the sect will support any youthful candidate aged below 45 years "because the old guards have messed the country."
The sect leader lauded President Moi for announcing that he would hand over to a younger leader next year.
"We oppose politics of division and will neither support Kanu nor the opposition parties. We will back the best candidate for a government of national unity. If President Moi steps down because of age why should Mr Kibaki and Mr Njenga Karume contest?" he quipped.
Mr Waruinge was speaking during the sect's delegates meeting at Starehe grounds in Thika town. He denied that the meeting had the blessings of Kanu saying they would hold others in Nyahururu, Molo and Mombasa before the end of the year to sell their political ideologies.
He said the Mungiki sect stands for national unity and was opposed to tribal groupings like Gema.
Ironically, the four-hour rally ended with members praying and singing in Kikuyu facing Mount Kenya.
Women sat on the ground during the prayers as the men raised up their hands in the air and chanted "Thai! Thai" (peace! peace!)
Mr Waruinge said they will not sit on the fence and watch the country go to dogs.
He announced that the sect would be transformed into a political movement and field civic and parliamentary candidates in the next elections.
He claimed members had raised Sh800 million for the campaigns.
Mr Waruinge said his members would seek election it through existing popular parties in their respective areas. He said they had already identified 150 youthful members who are interested in ousting sitting Members of Parliament.
Mr Waruinge said he would take on the Molo MP, Mr Kihika Kimani of DP, but was quick to announce that Mungiki will not back any of its members for the presidency. Earlier, Mr Waruinge had threatened to lead the members to the police station to secure the release of two vehicles which were impounded while transporting delegates to Moi Gardens where the meeting was scheduled to be held before it was shifted to Starehe grounds.
Earlier, Thika police had impounded three mini buses transporting Mungiki delegates to the Moi Gardens where the meeting was earlier announced to be held.
Two of the two vehicles were towed to the station as officials of the sect led by Mr Waruinge argued with the police over the last-minute change of venue.
The sect later agreed to shift to the Starehe Gardens, about 1Km. away, after they wee told by the Thika police boss boss, Mr Charles Mukungi, that that venue had been booked by a Christian organisation daylong crusade.
Traders in the busy Jamhuri and Mukiritu markets in the industrial were forced to closed their business fearing possible riots and looting.
Later addressing the meeting at Starehe Gardens, Mr Waruinge threatened to lead his members to the police station to secure the release of the impounded vehicles.
Mungiki Movement (Kenya) Updates 2001
[Home Page] [Cos'è il CESNUR] [Biblioteca del CESNUR] [Testi e documenti] [Libri] [Convegni]
[Home Page] [About CESNUR] [CESNUR Library] [Texts & Documents] [Book Reviews] [Conferences]