Five members of the outlawed Mungiki sect were yesterday acquitted of illegal assembly charges by a Nakuru court.
The sect's national chairman, Mr John Njenga Maina, Mr John Njuguna, Mr Joram Kiarie, Mr Nelson Munyiri and Mr Peter Njoroge were alleged to have committed the offence on October 27, 2000 in the town. They had denied the charge before Chief Magistrate Gladys Ndeda.
While discharging them, the magistrate said the evidence given in court had not proved that there was any gathering in the town on the day the offence was alleged to have been committed.
She added that the accused were pursued by the police after they received information that they were to hold a meeting in Nakuru town.
The police arrested them and searched their car, finding tobacco. The magistrate said there was no evidence to warrant the police action and that the accused did not have any reason to hold a meeting.
However, she warned them against celebrating their freedom in the court precincts.
Later, Mr Maina claimed that sect members were being targeted by the State for harassment. He told the authorities to dismiss similar cases against sect members that were pending in several courts.
"The State has been harassing and trying to intimidate us so that we do not enjoy our freedom to assemble," he complained.
He added that the sect would continue to hold demonstrations throughout the country to express its support for candidates it supported in the General Election.
Mr Maina said this year's elections should focus on personalities instead of political parties.
Uhuru denounces Mungiki, denies links with sect's members
Cabinet minister Uhuru Kenyatta has denounced the Mungiki sect, saying that the members did not win his favour by holding a demonstration in city streets on Tuesday.
In an angry and sharp response to questions about his relationship with the outlawed group, Mr Kenyatta said his hopes to ascend to the country's presidency lay with the registered voters, and not the snuff-taking members of the outlawed group.
He denied having any links with the Mungiki, saying he had no control over any group that decided to demonstrate in his support. "How many people run up and down the Nairobi streets shouting support for A B or C?" he asked.
And as proof that there was no love lost between him and the group, Mr Kenyatta cited an incident two years ago where the group burnt his effigy "just outside my father's mausoleum!" . At the time, the Mungiki members who held a demo in the city were accusing him of being used by the government to harass and intimidate the sect.
He, however, said that while he was opposed to the demonstrations by Mungiki, he recognised their right to show support for anyone. "All Kenyans are free to support whomever they wish to support."
Mr Kenyatta's denunciation of Mungiki comes barely two day after 3,000 members of the controversial sect marched through the city centre to Uhuru Park, condemning opponents of Mr Kenyatta in the Kanu polls race.
They sniffed tobacco, wielding clubs and machettes and waved pro-Uhuru placards.
Meanwhile, Mungiki leader, Mr Maina Njenga accused Attorney General Amos Wako of "playing politics" by failing to take action when people "insulted" President Moi, or allowed hired goons to terrorised MPs and Kenyans to conduct their business freely.
He defended Tuesday's demonstration, saying it had been sanctioned by the authorities.
"Our demonstration was legal as we had received a nod from Nairobi PC Cyrus Maina and from Police headquarters. We informed them that our agenda was to hold a peaceful rally to popularise presidential hopeful Uhuru Kenyatta," he said.
He announced that similar demonstrations were planned in Nakuru, Nyahururu and Nyeri towns, and appealed to the government to set aside several cases against the sect leadership to allow them to extend their campaigns to Nyanza, Western and Coast provinces.
The sect was also planning to hold meet-the-people tours in other parts of the country to mobilise support for Mr Kenyatta.
Mr Njenga dared Kanu secretary general Raila Odinga and Westlands MP Fred Gumo to substantiate their claims that the group was behind the Karibangi killings early this year in which 23 people died.
"Why have they failed to record statements with the police stating our role in the Kariobangi killings?" he said.
He denied the group had received funding from President Moi or Mr Uhuru Kenyatta as alleged.
"We rely on contributions from our members who are scattered all over the country," Mr Njenga said during a press conference in Nakuru. He was accompanied by the Mungiki Rift Valley co-ordinator Mr Ruo Kimani Ruo among others.
"A-G Orders Arrest of Mungiki Followers"
Attorney-General Amos Wako yesterday ordered police to arrest and prosecute the people who took part in Tuesday's demonstration organised by the proscribed Mungiki sect.
Wako said Mungiki is among the 18 outlawed organisations and accused the police of negligence in carrying out their duties.
"For the police and law enforcement to stand by and witness offences being committed is a dereliction of their duties," Wako said.
He said the Mungiki movement together with 17 others were outlawed on March 15 this year through Legal Notice Number 42 in the Kenya Gazette.
Wako said the Legal Notice means that Mungiki together with 17 others are dangerous to the good government of the Republic of Kenya.
A special issue of the Kenya Gazette supplement number 20 of March 15, 2002, by the Minister of State in the Office of the President in-charge of internal security, Mr Julius Sunkuli, outlawed 18 vigilante groups under section 4(1) (ii) of the Societies Act.
The groups were named as Mungiki, Jeshi la Mzee, Jeshi la Embakasi, Jeshi la King'ole, Baghdad boys, Chinkororo, Amachuma, Banyamulenge, Talibans, Dallas Muslim youth, Runyenjes Football club, Kaya Bombo youth, Sakina youth, Charo Shutu, Kuzacha, Kamjeshi, Jeshi la Nazir and Kosovo boys.
Yesterday, Wako said: "In law the said societies became unlawful, consequently, criminal offences are committed by any person who manages or assists the management of the said unlawful societies," said Wako.
"Any person who is a member, or attends or allows a meeting of the said unlawful societies, incites or assists such proscribed societies to engage in any activity is committing an offence," he added.
In a hard-hitting statement, Wako said it is duty of the police and other law enforcement to prevent and detect crime.
He said the police are supposed to apprehend the offenders where crime has been committed and enforce the law.
"I therefore call upon the police and other law enforcement officers to ensure that they take timely and effective action when any of the unlawful societies engage in activities of any kind".
Wako said Kenyans have a constitutional right to support a candidate of their choice and to hold peaceful demostrations. He, however, pointed out that it is a criminal offence to abet a proscribed organisation.
"To exercise these rights as members of an unlawful societies is to commit offences for which they will be apprehended, tried, convicted and punished in accordance with the law," he added.
In a separate interview, Spokesman Peter Kimanthi said the police will investigate the circumstances under which the demonstration took place and those found guilty will be arrested and prosecuted. He said that Mayor Dick Waweru applied for a notification from the police to hold a demonstration which he was issued with, adding that if other groups hijacked it, the police are yet to investigate.
Kimanthi said that there are laws to be followed when people want to hold such activities, in which case the Mayor met and was allowed to hold a demonstration within the city.
He said the mayor will be charged because him together with Mungiki leaders Ndura Waruinge and Maina Njenga and others committed an offence contrary to law. However, the Nairobi Provincial Police Officer (PPO) Stephen Kimenchu said the police could not act because they were out-numbered by the demonstrators.
Elsewhere, legislators William ole Ntimama and Shem Ochuodho condemned the demonstration by Mungiki people, saying they made very dangerous threats, reports Ochieng' Ogodo.
Ntimama said it was a move in the wrong direction as inciting tribal animosity may lead to a volatile situation that those who are masterminding may not be able to control.
He said Molo MP Kihika Kimani and Juja MP Stephen Ndichu were setting Kenyans against one another and should be stopped as this may result in serious lawlessness.
"Setting Mungiki sect members against other Kenyans will affect the whole country. It will boomerang to all corners of the country and every body will be affected," Ntimama said.
Ochuodho said the incident could be a prelude to the tribal clashes like those that claimed the lives of hundreds, left scores maimed and displaced thousands before the general elections of 1992 and 1997.
He said Ndichu and Kihika should be interrogated thoroughly to unravel the mystery behind Mungiki so that the thuggery its members have been committing is not repeated.
The Rangwe MP said the Mungiki youths "who looked like a ragtag army invaded Nairobi and posed a serious security threat". "In any civilised society you can not accept such a group to give dangerous threats with impunity. It is also scaring away investors," he said.
However, two Members of Parliament from Thika District yesterday came out in support of the Mungiki march in support of Mr Uhuru Kenyatta, adds Eliud Miring'uh.
Gatanga MP David Murathe and Ndichu said the sect members demonstrated a high degree of discipline because they did not destroy property, or harass pedestrians and motorists.
But Kasarani MP Adolf Muchiri and his Embakasi counterpart, Mr David Mwenje, said the demo was in bad taste because the Government has already banned the sect, along with 17 others.
Speaking at Parliament Buildings, Murathe said the Mungiki sect members have every right to stage peaceful demonstrations in support of a presidential candidate of their choice.
"There was no bad incident like hooliganism, shop breaking, and looting. Nobody was touched and this appears to have disappointed many people," said Murathe. He denied claims the group was financed by the pro-Uhuru group to hold demonstrations in the city streets, but defended their right to hold such demonstration.
However, Muchiri condemned the demo, claiming that it was a recipe for chaos. Mwenje dismissed as unfounded threats by officials of Mungiki that they will ensure that some MPs lose their seats during the forthcoming General Election.
And former Law Society of Kenya (LSK) Chairman Gibson Kamau Kuria yesterday lauded the police force for acting constitutionally in allowing the Mungiki sect members demonstrate in the streets, writes Kurgat Marindany.
Kuria, however, criticised the force for failing to disarm the sect members and by enforcing the law in a discriminatory manner, contrary to the Constitution. He said in a statement that the good news for Kenyans and political actors is that on Tuesday the Constitution was applied correctly by the police, except for the failure to disarm those who were armed.
Kuria reiterated that demonstrations, placards, and speeches are different forms of expressing views, as long as the methods adopted do not encourage force and violence which may lead to conflict with authorities.
Kuria argued that the police's mistakes are their inconsistencies and discriminatory treatment of different political groups.
He claimed that in view of the Mungiki sect banning in March this year, the only reason why they were allowed to demonstrate was not because they were observing the Constitution, "which they did, but rather because the Uhuru candidature is supported by President Moi".
"Is Mungiki now legitimate?"
Yesterday's demo in Nairobi by the Mungiki sect, ostensibly in support of President Moi and political protégé Uhuru Kenyatta, only served to send the wrong signals to Kenyans.
Hitherto a convenient scapegoat for almost every national act of violence, this amorphous outfit has caused the Establishment so much trouble that it has banned it. It is thus a high level of cynicism for the authorities to allow such an organisation to take over Nairobi's streets.
On March 8, Police Commissioner Philemon Abong'o banned Mungiki and 17 other outfits, saying they were security threats. That followed an incident in Nairobi's Kariobangi area in which a gang slaughtered 23 people. This has been followed by many police vows to crack down on the sect. But we have seen no effort to do so.
The demo came in the wake of highly inflammatory demagoguery, and plain war-mongering by MPs Kihika Kimani and Steven Ndicho. On Saturday they promised to unleash mayhem - using Mungiki - on anyone heard "insulting" the President.
Ironically, neither Mr Kimani nor Mr Ndicho has ever been known to be particularly cosy with the mysterious sect. This introduces a second lesson Kenyans should learn from the demo.
The Government is obviously using double standards and selective application of the law when it comes to allowing politicians to hold meetings and say whatever they want and in whatever language.
Two examples will suffice. At the Saturday meeting, when the two MPs hurled vile epithets at opponents of their favourite politicians and advocated violence, it was obvious that they were breaking the law. Yet nothing has been done about it.
But when a day later Ugenya MP James Orengo tried to hold a meeting at Oyugis, Rachuonyo District, after fulfilling all the conditions, not only was it cancelled, he was also hurled into police cells.
Does yesterday's officially-sanctioned demo mean that Mungiki is now legitimate because its aims now coincide with those of the power centre? Does it mean that if a banned outfit reconstitutes itself for a "worthy" political cause, then it ceases to be illegal? Does it mean that, as such an organisation "protects" the President, it can do anything under the sun with arrogant impunity?
This is abuse of power. It is indefensible and a complete anachronism, especially in a sensitive election year. All violent language must be punished whether from Mr Oloo Aringo or Mr Stephen Ndicho. Otherwise, if the run-up to the elections degenerates into uncontrollable violence, the Government will be the culprit.
"Banned sect marches for Moi"
Several thousand members of the banned Mungiki sect have held a demonstration in support of Kenya's President Daniel arap Moi.
The sect, drawn mainly from the Kikuyu ethnic group, marched through Nairobi waving placards expressing solidarity with the president and his choice of Uhuru Kenyatta as his successor to fight for the presidency in elections due by the end of the year.
The president has been criticised within the within the ruling Kanu party over his endorsement of Mr Kenyatta.
Four other party leaders have put their names forward, including Vice President George Saitoti and cabinet minister Raila Odinga. They want a more open contest for the party leadership.
Tuesday's demonstration, which started from the Racecourse roundabout, was led by the sect's national chairman, Maina Njenga, and coordinator, Ibrahim Ndura Waruinge, according to Kenyan television.
The Mungiki sect has been banned since the government accused it of being a criminal organisation intent on causing tribal divisions and violence.
In the past, President Moi has made clear his dislike for the sect, calling it un-Christian.
The sect members say they are a religious organisation and are just trying to promote traditional lifestyles and values based on Kikuyu culture.
The Mungiki sect first appeared in 1980 and its leaders now claim to have four million members, mostly among jobless young people in Nairobi's slum areas.
One leader, Ibrahim Ndura Wariunge, said in November 2001 that the movement had been recruiting ex-policemen and soldiers.
The placard-waving sect members intended to march from the Racecourse roundabout to the mausoleum at the parliament building, where Uhuru Kenyatta's father and Kenya's founding President, Jomo Kenyatta, is buried.
The Kenyan riot police intercepted the marchers and directed them to Uhuru Park.
There were no reports of violence according to BBC reporters in Nairobi.
In the last 12 months the Mungiki sect has been involved in violent struggles with ethnic Luo residents in poor areas of the Kenyan capital and with people running private transport businesses.
In March this year, the sect's followers fought with Luo vigilante groups in Nairobi, leaving 20 people dead over a three week period.
In November 2001, the sect tried to seize control of public transport terminals in a number of the slums around the capital. At least 12 people were killed in the violence that accompanied the take-over attempt.
The sect has also clashed with the Kenyan authorities in the past over its attempts to harass and beat up women who wear trousers and because of its support for the Kikuyu traditional practice of female circumcision.
"Church Condemns Ndichu, Kihika"
The Catholic church has condemned calls by two MPs that they would mobilise Mungiki sect members if members of the public continued insulting President Moi.
Through Holy Family Basilica father, Emmanuel Ngugi, the church said the two do not deserve to be leaders if they could make the outbursts.
It was unwise for leaders to advocate for chaos to solve their differences and they should instead preach reconciliation to their electors and enemies, he said.
"Instead of planting seeds of hatred, our leaders should be on the forefront in stabilising peace in the country," he said.
The father was reacting to remarks made over the weekend by Juja MP, Mr Stephen Ndichu, and his Molo counterpart, Mr Dickson Kihika Kimani, that they will fight anyone opposing President Moi.
The church also announced that this year's second anniversary of the late father John Anthony Kaiser will be held on Saturday August 24 at St Francis Catholic parish, in Naivasha.
"Man jailed for taking Mungiki oath"
A member of the banned Mungiki sect who was found naked during an initiation ritual at Nairobi's Ngara Nyayo market last Friday, has been jailed for four years for taking an unlawful oath.
Mr Landry Sironga, who was charged along with 14 others, admitted before Makadara Principal Magistrate Wilbroda Juma taking an oath binding the group to take over matatu (commuter taxi) stages.
The court heard that police recovered three basins full of blood and some Mungiki related paraphernalia next to a bonfire.
Those who denied the charge were released on Sh100,000 bond each with a surety in the same amount. The case will be heard on September 4.
Mrs Juma said although Mr Sironga was a first offender, the issue of controlling matatu stages had in the past resulted in loss of human life.
The magistrate ruled Mr Sironga deserved a deterrent sentence to serve as a lesson to such offenders.
Inspector Philip Musyimi told the court Mr Sironga and his co accused were unlawfully taking an oath or an engagement purporting to bind them to take over matatu stages in Nairobi.
The police found over 100 people taking the oath. The suspects dispersed in different directions but some were arrested and taken to Pangani Police Station and charged with offence.
''There were running battles in the City's Nyayo market as Munguki militants who were joined by street urchins, pelted police with stones'', the court heard.
"Church Report Praises Some Mungiki Ideas"
Some beliefs of the Mungiki (a banned sect) are good, a church report has said.
The positive aspects include the preaching of self-reliance, hard work and independence among poor youth, the National Council of Churches of Kenya (NCCK) report says.
Releasing the survey results yesterday, the NCCK director of programmes, Mr Sam Kabui, said the sect's progressive ideas inculcated hope among the poor.
However, Mr Kabui said the sect also had retrogressive beliefs which should be condemned.
He cited female circumcision and tobacco-sniffing.
Mr Kabui said a survey on which the report was based showed that the Mungiki advocated freedom of assembly, which has sometimes been denied by the government.
"The sect members believe they have the right to assemble anywhere in Kenya without seeking authority from anyone," he said.
This, he added, was a right that should not be denied any Kenyan.
The report, titled Mungiki Movement in Kenya: Religio-Political Analyses, was commissioned by the NCCK.
Mr Kabui released it at the NCCK's fifth Central regional conference which ended yesterday at the Mathari Pastoral Centre, Nyeri.
He urged the government to conduct "proper investigations" to establish what had led to the formation of the sect.
He said Mungiki members had been dismissed and dealt with violently, adding that such action would not solve the problem.
The report, he said, took issue with the conversion of some Mungiki members to Islam, terming it "a marriage of convenience to fight Christianity".
Mr Kabui expressed concern over allegations that senior government officials were funding Mungiki.
He said even after more than 20 people were killed by sect members in Nairobi's Kariobangi estate earlier this year, not "a single member" was charged with the offence.
A participant said sect members in Laikipia recently seized a government house and converted it to a Kanu office but no one was arrested.
Mr Kabui said there was "general apathy" in the country, adding that matters were only investigated if there were "political stakes".
"Police Tell Mungiki: We're Ready for You"
Security has been beefed up in Kiambu District where followers of the unregistered Mungiki sect have threatened to forcibly circumcise women today.
Central Provincial Police Officer (PPO) Enock Cheserek yesterday said police are on high alert to ensure no woman is hurt by the sect members.
The PPO said tight security measures have been put in place to ensure that the activities do not occur and assured the women in the district to go about their business without fear.
He said police have intercepted leaflets which are being circulated in the district, where the sect members have threatened to invade girls' schools and circumcise the female students on July 7.
An unsigned leaflet, which the PPO availed to the Press, said the sect members will invade churches, schools and even homes to conduct the "cleansing ceremonies".
According to the statement, the sect members threatened to circumcise all the Kikuyu women in Kiambu aged between 18 and 40 years of age.
The group alleged that they were sent by God in a dream, to 'cleanse' the Kikuyu community from the social evils that had invaded the community.
They attributed the rise HIV/Aids pandemic to women who are not circumcised, saying they are more vulnerable to the disease.
They further threatened to launch tougher campaign against those who are against the activity saying they were a disgrace to the society.
They threatened to start with Hon Beth Mugo, Martha Karua and one of the Constitution of Kenya Review commissioner, Dr Wanjiku Kabira.
"They are not mature hence they need to set a good example to the fellow women by being circumcised," the statement read in part.
Chesereck, said police officers have been sent to various girls schools in the district to beef up the security adding that they have been instructed to deal ruthlessly with any sect members they came across.
He said the sect members had sent leaflets to many schools in the district and lamented the activities of the sect in the province.
"Man Killed As Mungiki Clash"
A man was killed during a bloody clash between two rival groups of the controversial Mungiki sect at Thika's Kiandutu slums yesterday.
Another Mungiki adherent was critically injured while dozens others escaped with slight injuries as the unprecedented battle spilled over to the neighbouring Pilot estate and the Jua Kali area.
Police said trouble began when some members of the sect living in the sprawling slums which has now been declared "Mungik land" armed themselves with swords and machetes to flush out some of their colleagues who have allegedly turned into robbers.
The other camp, however, ganged up to counter the attack, resulting in a bloody clash.
"Mungiki Youths Attack Matatus" by David Kanja
About 30 members of the unregistered Mungiki sect yesterday attacked drivers and touts at Wangige bus terminus after they refused to pay them Sh100 for each vehicle.
The sect members paralysed transport between Wangige and Nairobi following running battles between them and the touts.
The attackers, spotting dreadlocks, seriously injured a Nissan driver before they were overpowered by the touts.
The 8 am attack prompted the matatu owners to withdraw their vehicles from the route.
Kiambu OCPD Arthanus Munyagia said police officers have been deployed along the Wangige route.
Later during a meeting with Kabete MP Paul Muite and chairman of Wangige terminus John Wainaina, the OCPD promised to deploy police officers permanently at the terminus.
However, the matatu owners accused traffic police officers of harassing them and giving way to the Mungiki sect members to control bus stages.
"Rights Activists Decry Mungiki Circumcision Threat"
Women's human rights activists in Kenya have urged the government to take action against recent threats by a controversial sect to forcibly circumcise women in central Kenya. On Wednesday, Kenyan newspapers reported that some members of the Mungiki sect, had issued an ultimatum to women aged between 13 and 65 in the Kiambaa and Kikuyu divisions, both in central Kenya, who had not undergone the ethnic Kikuyu traditional operation to submit to it.
According to the East African Standard newspaper, the sect distributed leaflets giving women up to 7 July - also known in Kenya as "Sabasaba" (seven-seven) - to undergo the ritual, threatening that failure to comply would result in the forcible infliction of the operation. Sabasaba is usually celebrated by opposition groups to mark the introduction of Kenyan multiparty politics on 7 July 1992.
Sylvia Nyagah, legal officer for the Coalition on Violence Against Women (COVAW), a nongovernmental organisation dedicated to upholding the rights of women and girls, told IRIN on Thursday that COVAW was "exploring ways" by which members of Mungiki could be arrested and charged with inciting the public to commit "an unlawful act". "As far as we are concerned, the Mungiki group is unlawful. Now they are inciting people to commit something that is against the law."
Responding to the threat by the Mungiki, Martha Koome, chairwoman of the Kenya chapter of the International Federation of Women Lawyers (known by its French acronym FIDA), urged the police to take action against the group, which claims to have a large following throughout the country.
Koome said the group was illegal and the police "should not condone its totally unacceptable" activities, the EAS on Thursday quoted her on Thursday as saying. "Any attempt to force any child, or woman for that mater, into circumcision is a serious offence which should be met with the full force of the law," she said.
Female circumcision, also termed as female genital mutilation (FGM), of minors has been outlawed in Kenya under the a new children's legislation, which was adopted by parliament and became law in December 2001. According to Nyagah, the new Children's Act prohibits anyone from carrying out FGM on a female under 18 years old.
The government has, meanwhile, ordered a crackdown on the authors and distributors of the leaflets in the two districts, according to the Standard. Patrick Kaunda Maikara, the district officer for Kikuyu area, said the police had been directed to raid all the places mentioned in as venues for the performance of the ritual, according to the paper.
The Mungiki sect, whose members wear dreadlocks, and which claims to promote "true African values", emerged in 1985, according to researchers. It promotes FGM and the traditional Kikuyu way of worship - praying facing Mt Kenya. It also believes in oathing and sacrifices, according to the Apologetics Research Resources on Religious Cults.
Members of Mungiki also believe that, as genuine citizens disillusioned with perceived misrule, they must campaign for meaningful change in the running of the country's affairs.
Mungiki activities first came under the spotlight after its members reportedly stripped and beat up six women in a Nairobi suburb, allegedly for being indecently dressed. The incident drew outrage from the Kenyan public, which has since associated the sect with violence.
Subsequently, the Mungiki group was again in the news when it was held responsible for the killing of 20 people in clashes between the sect, whose membership is drawn from Kenya's largest ethnic group, the Kikuyu, and a vigilante group of ethnic Luos, in one of the city's slums.
The clashes, which took place on 3 March, ensued after the Luo vigilantes, calling themselves Taleban, had allegedly killed two Mungiki members the previous day. The Mungiki "national coordinator", Ibrahim Waruinge, was arrested soon after the killings, but later released without charge, according to local media reports.
"Stop Mungiki, FIDA Appeals"
Federation of Kenya Women Lawyers (Fida) Chairperson, Ms Martha Koome, yesterday urged police to stop the outlawed Mungiki sect members from carrying out their plan to circumcise women in Central Province by force.
Koome said the group was illegal and police should not condone its totally unacceptable activities.
She explained that the recently enacted Children Act provided for protection of children against any form of harassment and abuse and asked the police to execute the law to the full.
"Any attempt to force any child or woman for that matter into circumcision is a serious offence which should be met with the full force of the law," added Koome.
Koome was speaking to the East African Standard Kakamega office on phone. She was reacting to yesterday's press reports which indicated that members of the Mungiki sect had issued a three-month ultimatum to all women between 13 and 65 years who have not undergone circumcision to do so.
"Get Circumcised, Mungiki Sect Tells Women"
Members of the Mungiki sect in some parts of Kiambu district have issued a three-month ultimatum to all women between 13 and 65 years who have not undergone circumcision to do so.
The sect members have given women in parts of Kikuyu and Kiambaa divisions until July 7, commonly known as Sabasaba, to undergo the Kikuyu customary exercise failure to which they will perform it by force.
In a one page leaflet circulating in the two divisions and authored by unnamed sect members, they have vowed that the exercise must go on to mark Sabasaba celebrations.
At the same time the Government yesterday ordered a crackdown on authors and distributors of the leaflets.
Kikuyu District Officer, Patrick Kaunda Maikara, directed police to raid all centres named in the document.
He told a public meeting at Nyathuna trading centre in Kikuyu that the Government will not allow anybody to scare or threaten women.
The leaflets said that the operations will start at PCEA dominated areas of Mai-a-ihii, Gikambura, Kanyethi and Kangemi.
Those are the areas on which Christian missionaries from Scotland settled when they arrived in Kenya in mid 1850s.
"Kenyan Sect Banned by State but Defiant"
NYAHURURU, Kenya - Wearing tangled dreadlocks, 20-year-old Karimi Njau sniffs tobacco and quietly chants his morning religious greeting of "peace, peace."
But peace is the last thing many Kenyans would associate with Njau. He is a member of Mungiki, a religious sect blamed by police for hacking to death more than 20 people in a Nairobi slum, in some of the worst violence in the capital in years.
The slaughter, capping several years of rising prominence for the shadowy group, stoked fears among Kenyans that their relatively peaceful country is descending into a kind of anarchic criminality fueled by gangs beyond the control of the state.
Mungiki is even spoken of by some as a potential player on the political stage, due to alleged links to people with national influence. Police said the killings in March were done by Mungiki members retaliating for the deaths of two of their clan killed by a rival gang.
Mungiki denied involvement, but the government banned it and more than a dozen other militias to prevent further violence. Many followers went underground, frightened by police arrests.
But Njau and a group of 30 other members, mostly former street children dressed in ragged trousers and worn-out shirts, remain at the sect's headquarters in the dry and open fields of Nyahururu about 112 miles northeast of Nairobi.
Here a "Holy Priest," covered by smoke behind a charcoal cooker, dips a fly whisk in tepid water and special oil, then sprinkles the concoction on the heads of members in a cleansing ritual to strengthen their faith at this time of adversity.
Njau waxes philosophical when asked whether he thinks the government's crackdown signals the end of Mungiki.
"That is not for me to say. God is there to decide whether his mission can be stopped by a human being."
He raises his arms facing Mount Kenya, where the God of the Kikuyu's -- Kenya's largest tribe, from which most Mungiki members come -- is believed to reside. With his colleagues he sings "I place my hope under your wings Murungu (God)."
The Mungiki's spiritual founder, 34-year-old "Vicar General" Maina Njenga, dismisses the crackdown, maintaining that his movement was not responsible for the slum killings.
"Nobody can ban our movement except God alone, they will perish and leave us the way we are. We cannot be moved," he told Reuters. "They can arrest some people but they cannot arrest the movement. This is not a movement which has been started by a mortal man."
A controversial movement
Mungiki, Kikuyu for "multitude" or "masses," started as a religious movement in 1987 when Njenga saw a vision in which, he says, God commanded him to lead his people out of bondage.
Njenga says he then died and was resurrected four days later. Those who witnessed the "miracle" are his main followers.
The movement has spread rapidly, capturing the attention of jobless 18- to 40-year-olds with nothing to lose.
Analysts say Mungiki represents people dispossessed by a corrupt political order and mired at the bottom of society by an economy in its worst state since independence in 1963.
The poor, who make up more than half of Kenya's 30 million population, form a perfect breeding ground for the sect because it champions the sharing of meager resources.
"Mungiki is a pseudo-religious, pseudo-political and quasi-military organization which expresses the hopelessness that has been created by the deteriorating economic situation," said Dr. Edward Kisiangani, a history lecturer at Nairobi's Kenyatta University.
The group espouses a return to practices like taking snuff, male ear piercing and baptism of dreadlocked youths. Some newspapers have reported that Mungiki circumcise women and strip naked those who dress "indecently" -- charges it denies.
Mungiki leaders at one point said they had converted to Islam and later surprised Kenyans by announcing they had transformed their movement into a political outfit ready to take over government during elections due later this year.
Its members have raided police stations to rescue their own and violently repulsed police attacks during meetings.
In 1994 President Daniel arap Moi said the movement was planning clandestinely to destabilize his government.
The sect's combative ways have put off some Kenyans but its sense of mystery has attracted many more, analysts say.
Leaders say misunderstood
Mungiki is sometimes compared to the Mau Mau guerrilla army which fought a brutal war with British colonialists in the 1950s, an association often used to justify its militancy.
But members say they abhor violence and have won enemies only because of their fight against oppression.
"We want good governance. We want justice and democracy to flourish. This is the reason they don't want us," said Njenga, a willowy, clean shaven figure in jacket and shiny red shoes.
Mungiki says the government, wary of the sect's growth, has a formed a hit squad which unleashes terror and then shifts the blame on to it.
"The government has a small Mungiki to counter the large Mungiki," said Ruo Kimani Ruo, the sect's High Priest.
Ruo says the movement has 3.5 million to 4 million members who each pay $0.13 a month to sustain it.
"If it were not for Mungiki I would have fallen in the depths of sin. I have avoided drugs, prostitution and diseases because of Mungiki," said Kamau Mwathe, a hardcore member arrested seven times and jailed for three years.
To free the poor, Mungiki will back its own parliamentary candidates in elections, Njenga says, adding that Mungiki backs neither the opposition nor government and pushes its own agenda.
But many suspect Mungiki is propped up by powerful politicians in both the government and the opposition, ready for hire as a decoy, when the people are discontented.
"It is a private army deployed by the wealthy to intimidate and divert the attention when there are questions about mismanagement of resources," Kisiangani said.
"The Mungiki Prodigy And Ngugi's Literary Adventures"
Novelist Ngugi wa Thiong'o, who, despite all statements to the contrary, is ever present in the minds of Kenyans, recently had serious charges levelled against him: That he helped found Mungiki.
The court was Egerton University's FASS Theatre Two. The stage was in fact set for an entirely different event. Under the stewardship of Prof Emilia Ilieva, Chair of the Department of Literature, students and staff co-hosted End of Black History Month celebrations with the theme, 'Black Americans: B(r)others in Diaspora?' It was a most moving forum, greatly benefiting from the inter-disciplinary approach that informed the scholarly part of it.
The deviation came in when one Maurice Onyango presented a paper entitled, 'The Harlem Renaissance: Points of Departure'.
The fourth year Literature student was comparing the Negritude Movement with the Harlem Renaissance, and seeking to delineate the changes the two brought to art, especially literature.
It was while articulating some of the artistic and ideological repercussions that he noted a similarity between the narcissistic racial stance adopted by the representatives of these movements and Ngugi's glorification of the Agikuyu culture, and in effect said that Ngugi was indeed responsible for the creation of the extremist Mungiki sect, through his works.
A real battle of wits ensued, in which Onyango, the prosecutor, faced what turned out to be a deeply fragmented jury.
It is true that Ngugi started making exclusive use of the Gikuyu language in his fictional writings.
It is not in dispute that he celebrated Gikuyu customs and traditions, and at times offered nostalgic descriptions of pure Gikuyu practices unspoiled by Eurocentric values.
He indeed does, in The River Between, write rather glowingly in favour of women circumcision (now strategically defined as Female Genital Mutilation by fervent gender activists).
He also vows spiritual allegiance to Gikuyu and Mumbi and Ngai of Kirinyaga, in all his early works. But does that, as some insinuated, actually commit him as a contributor to the creation of Mungiki, who profess a return to traditional Gikuyuism and whose activities many disdain but few stand up to? Some obvious distortions should be pointed out immediately. Any true adherent to the cultural norms of the Agikuyu, and any worthwhile authority on these, would tell us that they do not provide for the slaughtering of human beings, as has been alleged of the Mungiki. Certainly, Ngugi makes no reference to such norms, let alone propagate them.
Besides, those who have really read Ngugi, are well aware of his high sense of discrimination in judgement. Is there anyone who has exposed more unsparingly the politically opportunistic abuse of such cultural practices as oath-taking, than he does in Petals of Blood? Furthermore, do we seriously think that the Mungiki members have read a page of Ngugi? I bet some of them cannot even coherently converse in their mother tongue! These thoughts aside, the court case at Egerton called for a revision of two fundamental questions: The role of the writer in society and the effect of works of literature in our daily lives.
The jury in Egerton did not pronounce a verdict that day. The trial continues.
Mungiki Movement (Kenya) Updates 2002
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