Business at Wakulima market yesterday morning came to a standstill after heavily armed Mungiki men raided the busy wholesale outlet.
Several loaders and traders were injured in the 5.00 am incident that led to the closure of the market.
More than 5,000 traders marched to Harembee House where they were barred by armed police officers from seeing Internal Security minister Chris Murungaru over the raid.
It took Nairobi Provincial Commissioner Francis Sigei more than 15 minutes to convince the traders to return to the market.
Nairobi police boss Jonathan Kosgei said 16 people suspected to be followers of the outlawed sect were arrested.
The loaders' leader, Mr Job Kimani, said Mungiki youth have been forcing traders to pay them money before their goods could be offloaded from trucks.
"More than 40 of them attacked me recently because they wanted my people to be withdraw from the loading business," he said.
Suspected sect members who were carrying machetes pounced on loaders who had started removing vegetables and fruits from the trucks that had arrived at dawn. Two people were seriously injured and were taken to Kenyatta National Hospital.
The traders who had run away from the market regrouped and later marched to Harambee House to ask for security.
The PC, accompanied by Nairobi Mayor Joe Aketch, CID boss Peter Kavila, Kosgei and several police officer asked the traders to pick representatives to air their grievances.
The hawkers rejected their chairman, identified as Willie, claiming he was betraying them to Mungiki members.
Those selected to speak said the members of the sect had taken over the market and were terrorising them in the presence of Nairobi City Council askaris.
"They hide at the video shop right outside the market and harass our loaders and handcart pushers," they said.
It is said that the Church is home to all. In the parlance of the emergent evangelical missions to which Pastor James Maina Ngangas Neno Evangelism Centre belong, Christ is the answer to the worldly problems. But save for his running battles with the state as the self-confessed leader of the Mungiki sect, Ndura Waruinge may probably not have been living entirely in a spiritual vacuum as to make his defection to Maina Ngangas church the single most inevitable route to spiritual solace.
For, if what is in the public domain is anything to go by, he may himself have been a spiritual leader. Although in later days it transformed drastically into a politically inclined militia group, the Mungiki supposedly advocated for the rights of the poor and the unemployed.
Mungiki was in the initial stages best known as a religious sect that cherished African traditional practices. But again this is precisely the reason Mungiki and its leader, Ndura Waruinge, are appearing to operate paradoxically.
Historically, religious groups rarely coalesce. Instead, they always tend to drift apart. Perhaps because of the emotional nature of religious dogma, there has not been any evidence of any religious groups that once drifted apart, only to embrace later, or even accept to be swallowed by another. That is why it should have been surprising and paradoxical when, in September 2000, Mungiki apparently embraced Islam without necessarily denouncing their publicly-stated religious beliefs.
In the court of public opinion, Mungiki had actually been swallowed by Islam. Waruinge became known as Ibrahim as they joined fellow Muslims at Sakina Mosque in Mombasa that month.
Now, Waruinges salvation in Pastor Ngangas church presents another contradiction. First, the church has been at the forefront in calling for the state to proscribe Mungiki and arrest its leaders in what some analysts saw as the usual fear towards young churches by the mainstream Christian churches.
Besides, for the umpteenth time Waruinge and his team made it known that Mungiki was actually founded in rebellion to Christianity and Islam religions that, in their opinion, subjugated African culture.
That he is now joining the overly pious evangelical missions without even making an attempt at denouncing what Mungiki stands for is not just a score for Christianity, but a reinforcement of the enigmatic image of the man and his sect. In the history of Christianity and African traditional religion, the two have always been at logger-heads but it would appear that the former has always won. But with Waruinge, it may prove a slippery catch Mungiki embraced Islam but professed very little of it; it always made periodic truces with the state that never lasted. It is just a matter of conjecture therefore as to how long Waruinges new-found spiritual home will hold him in its embrace.
But, again, Waruinge is not new to contradiction, spiritual or otherwise. He persistently fought the state, for example, but he is also the same man who has numerously said that Cabinet ministers, civil servants and police officers subscribe to the doctrine of his sect.
For years, the former Kanu regime made every attempt to draw a connection between Mungiki and the opposition, yet Mungiki openly campaigned for Kanu, not the opposition, in the last general election. This notwithstanding, when Mungiki and Waruinge appeared invincible early in the year, it was postulated that in fact Waruinge was being protected by the current regime. It would then appear that Mungiki and Waruinge can neither be pinned down to the opposition nor the ruling party; they are also neither in Islam nor Neno Evangelism Centre! As an individual, Waruinge has said he has nothing to hide; that he operates above board and that is why the government has not been able to sustain a criminal case against him. But tracing this man who claims to operate above board can prove to be an elusive undertaking.
He has over 10 cellphone lines to his name, yet he could not be traced on either. An aide told the East African Standard that in fact he recently lost all of them. Really? It is indeed a new beginning for Waruinge!
North-Rift church leaders have condemned the Government for its failure to contain the activities of the outlawed Mungiki sect.
Led by Bishop Thomas Kogo of the Anglican Church of Kenya (ACK) Eldoret diocese, they said the Government should show greater commitment in containing the activities of the sect.
"The Government has the necessary machinery to crack down and tame Mungiki activities instead of this sect remaining a permanent security problem to Kenyans," said Kogo.
Scores of people were injured on Saturday when Mungiki sect members engaged the police in running battles in two separate incidents in Nairobi.
The outlawed sect had hijacked a meeting of former Mau Mau freedom fighters and turned it into a Mungiki ceremony.
National Security Minister, Chris Murungaru, has been quoted as saying that the sect may be trying to resurrect itself but that the Government would wipe it out.
Murungaru said police have been given firm instructions to deal ruthlessly with efforts by the sect to make a come back. Yesterday, Kogo questioned why it has taken months for the Government to contain the sects activities.
The Government, he said, had at one time declared that the sect no longer existed and that it had been wiped out.
He said the activities of Mungiki members have the potential to scare away investors unless they are contained.
"The Mungiki activities are not only dangerous to Kenyans but can also scare away investors because no one will be willing to invest in an insecure country," added Kogo.
Meanwhile, the Kenya Mau Mau Union has condemned the mayhem caused by the sect members on Saturday during its thanks-giving prayer procession in Nairobi.
In a strongly-worded statement, the unions national chairman, Mr Harkman Muiruri Muniu, condemned the sect members for hijacking their event.
"We have not had, do not have, and will never have any connection or anything to do with Mungiki. The two movements are spiritually, ideologically, politically and culturally worlds apart and the twine shall never meet," said Muniu.
The statement thanked the GSU personnel on duty on Saturday for averting what could have been a bloodbath in the streets of Nairobi. "We shed enough blood during the fight for independence and would not wish to see any further shedding of blood in the country," said Muniu.
Separately, the former freedom fighters on Sunday converged at the Kiawara home of Internal Security Minister Chris Murungaru where they denounced the sect followers.
The fighters warned the adherents against hiding under the umbrella of Mau Mau to unleash terror.
Mau Mau War Veterans Association of Kenya national chairman, Mr Ndungu wa Gicheru, urged the Government to crack down on the self-styled tobacco sniffing sect members.
Police are investigating why members of the outlawed Mungiki sect were allowed to take part in a political rally in Kiambu on Sunday.
Police spokesman Mwangi King'ori said yesterday the Central provincial boss should explain why the meeting was allowed to go on, while the ban on the sect was still in force.
"We will conduct investigations if it is indeed true that it was members of the proscribed sect who attended the Limuru meeting," Mr King'ori said on the telephone.
On Sunday, two MPs addressed the meeting attended by sect members, including national chairman Maina Njenga.
Tigania East MP Peter Munya and his Subukia counterpart Koigi wa Wamwere, called on police to stop harassing the members.
When Mr Wamwere and Mr Munya arrived, they were offered snuff by the officials. All except Mr Wamwere turned down the offer.
The MPs yesterday accused the Press, particularly the Nation, of having a sinister motive by implying that they had endorsed the activities of the sect.
"The report in the Nation is aimed at portraying me as an extremist and sectarian leader who should not be taken seriously," Mr Munya said.
The MP said he was on record as having opposed the activities of Mungiki, and especially the retrogressive tradition of female genital mutilation.
The two legislators said at Parliament Buildings that the youths at the meeting were not Mungiki members.
The MP said the fact that the youths wore dreadlocks and sniffed tobacco did not imply they were members of the sect.
Shortly after he took office in January, National Security minister Chris Murungaru ordered a crackdown on Mungiki and all other ragtag armies.
The sect has been associated with violence and murder in some city slums and other parts of the country. Its members have also been implicated in clashes over the management of matatu routes, mostly in Nairobi.
Two Narc MPs yesterday supported the outlawed Mungiki sect and called upon police not to harass its members.
Tigania East MP Peter Munya and his Subukia counterpart Koigi wa Wamwere were addressing a rally in Limuru Town attended mostly by followers of the sect.
"Mungiki members are Kenyans and should not be harassed unnecessarily by the police. Instead, they should be absorbed into the force and the military," Mr Wamwere said to the wildly cheering, snuff-taking group which had earlier entertained the meeting with poetry, song and dance.
Mr Munya regretted that the sect had been associated with the recent violence that hit some city slums and other parts of the country. The sect was also accused of being behind the frequent turf wars on matatus routes.
Mungiki members, who support female circumcision and a return to some Kikuyu traditions, are also known for weapon wielding and long unkempt hair.
Members from different parts of the country were ferried to the venue in at least 100 matatus and were led by their national chairman, Mr Maina Njenga.
Mr Njenga vied for the Laikipia East parliamentary seat in the last elections, but was beaten by Mr G.G. Kariuki.
When Mr Wamwere and Mr Munya arrived, they were offered snuff by the sect officials. All except Mr Wamwere, turned down the offer.
At the end of the rally, the Kamirithu grounds was filled with discarded dry banana leaf used to carry the snuff?
The meeting resolved that the issue of prime minister should not be discussed at the Bomas of Kenya or at Parliament.
Sixteen suspected members of the outlawed Mungiki sect were arrested yesterday afternoon in their office at Kayole, Nairobi.
They were allegedly holding a meeting at a house they call "Pentagon" in the estate.
Buru Buru CID boss Henry Ondiek said the suspects were likely to be charged with murders of two people in the slums last month over matatu (commuter taxi) control dispute.
Inside "Pentagon", the police recovered the sect's paraphernalia which included snuff, bottles of honey, swords, axes, machettes, hand gloves and other alleged oathing materials including cow horns painted black green and white.
The machettes and some black gloves were stained with dried blood, the police said.
Also recovered were neatly printed documents on the sect's ideals and motto.
The document, printed with colours identified with the sect - green, black, white and red - was entitled Reformation and talked of violence as a way of achieving desired changes in the society.
Buru Buru police boss Leo Nyongesa said he had information linking some of the arrested suspects with the killings last month.
"We have information that a meeting was held in the same 'Pentagon' house before the sect followers unleashed mayhem that left two people dead," Mr Nyongesa said.
The suspects will also be charged with being members of a proscribed society and holding an illegal meeting.
He added that the suspects could have been discussing financial matters at the time they were arrested as they were found with their accounting books.
"During the arrest the suspects had tried to run away but when they realised that the whole area was swarming with police officers and there was no chance of escaping, they just surrendered," the CID boss said.
Mungiki is not dead. Its members just cut off their dreadlocks and stopped sniffing snuff in public. Some went underground.
This sect is not just "a family affair" or a "a thing of the past", as Internal Security minister Chris Murungaru says. And it is, of course, not going to die soon.
This is not to defend Mungiki. But by not studying the deeper sociological issues behind this sect, we would be aping the philosophical ostrich. We cannot just wish it away. It is like Hydra's heads.
In his book Migrations of Kikuyus, Swiss sociologist Yvan Droz say that in certain times of social dissatisfaction, one or several people rise up and claim to be prophets. And in this period of purgatory, in the collective imagination, the forgotten ancestral spirits descend to provide answers.
"When society is not in 'purgatory', these 'prophets' are barely noted. They fade away. Otherwise, a cult coalesces around them."
To understand Mungiki's socio-political context, it is necessary to know that it was a splinter from Thaai Fraternity aka Tent of the Living God, which drew upon Kikuyu traditional values as alternatives to the materialism of the mainstream Christian churches.
Thaai appeared in 1988 at the height of Kanu's repression and attendant economic decay. A strong feeling among the Kikuyu was that the Moi Government had designs to wreck their economic mainstay. The coffee and dairy industries, the two trusses of the Kikuyu economy, collapsed about this time.
It was also a time when Kikuyu was a bad political adjective. In Nyayospeak, tribalism and corruption had a Kikuyu insinuation. Earning political credit by Kikuyu-bashing became a career.
We remember such comments referring to the Kikuyu uttered in public by well-known politicians: "These flat-nosed, pot-belied people with brown teeth" and "Cut the Ibos of Kenya down to size". These and other perceived calumny against the community led to collective paranoia.
In their studies on the Mungiki, Dr Grace Wamue and Prof David Anderson, respectively, of Kenyatta and Oxford universities agree that the sect took definite shape during the Rift Valley clashes of 1992.
According to Dr Wamue, most members of this sect are victims of the tribal clashes. The group embraces the less-advantaged in society.
"Initially, the aim of Mungiki was to sensitise people against the Government, which they accused of starting and fuelling the 1992 clashes," says her report published in 2001 by the Royal African Society Journal.
The sect is said to have administered the customary dreaded land oath, kaurogo, to make them united politically to retaliate against the violence in the Rift Valley.
One reason behind the non-Kikuyu fear of Mungiki is the sect's Mau Mau image. The group believes that their struggle against oppression began with Waiyaki wa Hinga, the Kikuyu chief slain by the British. And the Mau Mau war was part of their "long" struggle.
Ndura Waruinge takes pride in being a grandson of the Mau Mau fighter, General Waruinge. Their songs are a mixture of Kikuyu traditional and Mau Mau protest songs. Some of the music in a cassette released last year describes their battles with the police.
Intra-group discipline is rigid. Members are supposed to be teetotallers. Illicit sex is prohibited. Their official drink is mukara, a concoction of honey and orange juice marinated with lemon then boiled in water and lamb fat! Flouting some of the rules could earn a member a group whipping.
But why do they kill or engage in crime? Mungiki has changed rapidly from a ragtag group with a blurred vision of redeeming their community from cultural decay to a hardened urban mafia.
As Prof Anderson observes, whatever Mungiki may once have been on the distant farms of Laikipia, it has been transformed into a radically different movement in the urban estates and slums.
Mungiki members are youths looking for sense and meaning in life. They are an indictment of our society- an index of failure. Thus they easily fall prey to political machinations.
In a city crying out for security, Mungiki found easy jobs as vigilante groups protecting small traders and extorting money from those who needed protection against thugs and even against business rivals.
In places like Dandora, some people argue that crime lessened with Mungiki surveillance and has now gone up after the recent Government crackdown. The problem is that the gangsters may as well be Mungiki members trying to prove they are indispensable.
In the city, the Mungiki soon found easy camaraderie with Muungano wa Wanavijiji, a group formed by poor tenants to protest against high rents and exploitation by landlords.
However, after the rent chaos in Kibera, Nairobi, it occurred to Mungiki that the issue was a Luo vs Kikuyu affair, a realisation that culminated in the Kariobangi massacre of March, last year.
The crackdown on Mungiki in January was a godsend, otherwise we would have witnessed another bloodbath. Mungiki is now, basically, a criminal grouping.
Mungiki Movement (Kenya) Updates 2003
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