CESNUR - Center for Studies on New Religions directed by Massimo Introvigne

"Mungiki Gang Spreads Terror"

("East African Standard," December 29, 2005)

Nairobi, Kenya - The outlawed Mungiki sect is back in full force spreading terror among Kenyans.

A gang of 20 Mungiki members took over a bus terminus in Nairobi on Wednesday and demanded cash as police in Thika arrested 46 people believed to be members of the sect.

In Nairobi, sect members armed with machetes and knives took over the Kawangware terminus at 5am and terrorised public transport operators for an hour before police arrived and arrested eight of them. The incident sparked a demonstration by about 100 public transport drivers and conductors, who parked their vehicles at the terminus in protest.

The gang had arrived at the terminus just before 5am and demanded money from drivers and conductors who were preparing to ferry people to the city centre. Kawangware matatu chairman John Karuga said some of the conductors were dragged out of their vehicles and threatened with death.

"It was a very scary incident. They had sharp machetes and all they wanted was money," he said.

Harassing operators

Those who complied were issued with receipts written 'Dakina Association. Route 46/56/4. Sh200.'

"We noticed they were Mungiki followers and alerted the police, but when they saw the Land Rover, they escaped into the market," he said.

Nairobi Provincial Police Officer Mwangi King'ori went to the scene accompanied by officers from the Scorpion Squad and Kilimani Police Station.

King'ori told the operators to work closely with the police to rid the business of cartels, adding that a police post would be established near Muslim School to curb insecurity in the area.

And Transport Assistant minister Njeru Githae said operators should not be forced to give money to gangs, adding that a meeting of stakeholders would be held to discuss management of termini.

Transport Licensing Board chairman Francis ole Kamwaro blamed Nairobi City Council for the incident.

"The council has refused to take over the terminus and that is why the cartels are harassing operators," he said.

In Thika, police arrested the suspected Mungiki members who were harassing operators at the bus terminus. Thika Officer Commanding Police Division Kirimi Ringera said those arrested were believed to be members of a gang that had been illegally collecting money from operators.

"Mungiki leader goes underground"

by Esther King'ori ("Kenya Broadcasting Corporation," November 11, 2005)

Nairobi, Kenya - The alleged chairman of the outlawed Mungiki sect, John Maina Kamunya has gone underground, the high court was told Friday.

A deputy chief state counsel, Horace Okumu told Justice Mohammed Ibrahim that police were still looking for the sect’s leader.

Okumu said if Maina surrenders he will be charged in court and released on bail like other suspected Mungiki members last month.

Okumu was in court in relation to a suit filed by Maina. Maina has sued the Attorney General and the Commissioner of Police accusing them of infringing on his rights.

He is seeking an order to have GSU personnel camping at his farm in Kitengela removed. The officers have been at the farm for one month.

"Secret sect makes a comeback in Kenya"

(AFP, October 19, 2005)

Nairobi, Kenya - The apparent resurgence of an outlawed violent cult among dreadlocked youths has alarmed authorities in Kenya, who suspect the group is trying to win legitimacy with the creation of a political party.

Mere mention of the Mungiki, a shadowy and secretive religious sect with alleged historical ties to the Mau Mau uprising in the 1950s, evokes fear in many Kenyans who see it as a criminal enterprise intent on fomenting chaos.

As the East African nation approaches a bitterly disputed referendum on a new constitution next month, Mungiki activities - believed to include ritual killings, car hijackings and extortion - have come under increasing scrutiny.

Last week, the sect is alleged to have capped a 15-year reign of terror along Kenya's roads and inside Nairobi's slums with the formation of the Kenya National Youth Alliance, according to police.

"The Mungiki are trying to conduct their operations under the disguise of the National Youth Alliance," national police spokesperson Jaspher Ombati said.

A senior alliance official, however, denied the group was affiliated to the Mungiki, maintaining the alliance had existed since 1992 and had more than 200 000 members.

"We don't have any connection whatsoever with the Mungiki," alliance Vice-Chairman Lawai Wanbare said. The police and public believe that the two groups are the same.

The Mungiki are said to practise their beliefs in a secret ceremony where they pledge lifelong allegiance to the group on pain of death.

According to a 2004 report in the Standard newspaper, a Mungiki militia has been training young men to be killers. Graduates are said to pass through a rite that involves ingesting human urine and umbilical cords.

"Mungiki suspects charged in court"

by Vincent Lempaa and Esther King'ori ("Kenya Broadcasting Corporation," October 18, 2005)

Nairobi, Kenya - Twenty-nine suspected Mungiki sect members arrested in an alleged hideout in Kitengela early this month were Monday arraigned in a Nairobi court.

The accused who included a 70-year-old man denied being present at Ngurunga area near Kitengela and consenting to the administering of an oath, which was to bind them to the outlawed sect.

The accused faced another charge of illegal possession of over 3000 litres of Muratina, a traditional liquor.

They denied committing the offences on the 5th of this month at Ngurunga area, Kitengela. The prosecution urged the court to remand the suspects in custody for one week saying investigations were still going on.

The request was however rejected by Nairobi chief magistrate Aggrey Muchelule who said police had already kept the accused in custody for ten days.

The suspects were released on a cash bail of 30-thousand shillings. The trial starts on December 9th. Meanwhile, further hearing of a case filed by a 42-year-old HIV positive woman against her former employer Home Park Caterers, will be on November 1st.

The case was adjourned today after the catering company hired a second lawyer as its lead counsel. The woman says she was sacked by Home Park after a city doctor revealed her HIV status without her consent.

The case has drawn interest from Aids activists. At the same time, medical researcher, Professor Arthur Obel today denied ever shooting a matatu driver in Nairobi last year.

Obel said he only drew his gun to scare people after sensing danger from a crowd along Tom Mboya Street where a matatu had blocked his vehicle. The researcher is defending himself after the trial magistrate Wilson Muiruri put him on his defense.

"Could This Be Mungiki's Secret Den?"

by Fred Mukinda ("The Nation," October 13, 2005)

Nairobi, Kenya - The outlawed Mungiki sect has regrouped and is recruiting new members, police believe.

In the past five months, police have linked the sect to various criminal activities, including murders, robberies and extortion, mostly in Nairobi.

Nairobi police boss King'ori Mwangi said in May that consistent strikes by matatu (public commuter vehicle) operators at the time were being fuelled by gangs operating under Mungiki.

Two months later, three watchmen were hacked to death when a gang of 10 men raided a plant in Industrial Area and Mr Mwangi linked the killers to the sect.

On the same night, a head that had been chopped off was found at Kawangware and although a two-day search for the torso yielded nothing, police said Mungiki was responsible.

Recently, matatu operators revealed how they were forced to pay Sh60,000 to cartels reportedly linked to the sect before their vehicles were allowed to operate.

These cartels extorted an additional Sh600 daily charge and defiant matatu operators were sometimes brutally murdered, the matatu operators said.

Secluded farm house

Last Thursday police raided a secluded farm house at Kitengela in Kajiado District, which they believe is the cult's headquarters where new members are inducted and secret meetings held.

In a commando-style operation, the area was a no-gone zone for 20 hours as the elite recce unit of the General Service Unit (GSU) took over the "headquarters" established on an expansive 300-acre farm.

They carried out a thorough search in the imposing house - a two-storey building with nine bedrooms and a spacious living room - that stood at the centre of the farm.

A house of this kind stood out like a sore thumb in this isolated region. The neighbourhood was virtually uninhabited with only quarrying activities going on at a distance.

Even after the search, the recce unit has continued to camp there, keeping vigil. From a distance the paramilitary police unit, specially trained for insurgency, presents a setting of an action-packed Hollywood thriller.

Each officer is armed with an automatic gun, with a pistol and a knife strapped on either side of the waist. Rounds of ammunition are secured across the chest which is encrusted in a heavy bullet proof vest.

Under the scorching sun, the officers wear steel helmets and face masks that only leave the nose and mouth visible.

A senior police officer said they needed to be well armed when dealing with a group like Mungiki. The police are convinced that the house is used for illegal meetings, which are held in a huge living room.

The cooking utensils in the kitchen can prepare meals for a multitude of people. Save for two bedrooms upstairs, the living room and the kitchen, the rest of the rooms do not appear to be regularly used.

Membership certificates

The police discovered literature and paraphernalia associated with activities of the Mungiki sect.

Among them were flags coloured white, yellow, green, red and black - hues associated with the sect.

Also recovered were sashes, cleansing oils, sect membership certificates, a seal for the National Youth Alliance Party and copies of its constitution. A voluminous Bible written in Kikuyu, baptism certificates and documents regarding another religious organisation known as the Universal Miracle Centre, were also confiscated.

The material collected - that also included cameras, receipt books and hymn books - will hopefully assist the police in understanding how the Mungiki sect works, police spokesman Jasper Ombati, said.

The owner of the house said he had no links whatsoever with Mungiki and knew nothing of the items that were confiscated from his house.

"That building is mine but at the moment it is under a contractor who is yet to complete the construction work."

"It is entirely owned by me and not any organisation and I hope to convert it to a guest house once all construction work has been finalised," he said.

And to account for the material confiscated from his house, the owner said the Universal Miracle Church with followers in Nairobi and Kitengela, and the National Youth Alliance Party, have at various times held seminars and meetings there.

However, of other items like the tobacco snuff and rotting intestines, he said: "Since the police raided the house at 5pm on Wednesday, they had all the time to bring in that stuff and that's why they even locked out the Press for more than seven hours."

Special Crime Prevention Unit boss Nyaga Reche said they were looking for the owner of the house.

After the raid, a matatu was intercepted at a police roadblock and 18 passengers arrested. Police say they are looking for the matatu owner.

Investigators believe various political and religious groups are linked to Mungiki.

Investigators are now delving into the activities of a political party, the National Youth Alliance Party, and a religious organisation, the Universal Miracle Church.

A day after police raided his house, the owner of the house and a party official addressed a press conference that was attended by CID officers.

They accused the police of unlawfully occupying private property after arresting 45 people.

However, Mr Ombati said only 18 people had been arrested.

A source told the Nation that one of the suspects arrested revealed during interrogation that a former MP coordinated the activities taking place in the house.

When the Nation visited the heavily-guarded farm house, police had detained a cook whom they found there with her two children.

The cook said she had been hired to prepare meals for guests who visited the house in the hundreds during weekends.

Among the items on the menu, she explained, was a distilled "medicinal" mixture of pineapples, oranges and lemons which the guests consumed.

Also, police recovered 3,700 litres of traditional liquor that was being prepared in a makeshift brewery at another shelter away from the farm house.

In the compound, there were traditional huts which police believe are used to conduct cleansing ceremonies. Oathing is done in an open space near a shrine.

"This looks like the shrine," Mr Ombati observed as a team of officers gathered around it.

It was made of three stones, three pots and three bamboo sticks painted red, green, yellow and black.

"GSU commandos raid Mungiki nerve centre"

by Cyrus Ombati ("The Standard," October 7, 2005)

Kitengela, Kenya - Police yesterday arrested 18 suspected members of the outlawed Mungiki sect following a commando strike at a palatial house in Kitengela where it is believed they had set up base.

The commando wing of the General Service Unit – donning masks and bulletproof jackets– descended on the house in the bushy outskirts of Kitengela town on Wednesday evening and laid siege. They all wore night-vision goggles.

In what appeared looked like TV clips from war-torn Iraq, the commandos struck at the house owned by the self-proclaimed Mungiki chairman, Maina Njenga.

Inside, they found the movement’s flag and outside was a flower-lined oathing shrine with flowers arranged in the sect’s green, black and red colours.

The GSU unit is a highly secretive and elite outfit and hardly appears in public. Theirs is a stealth operation and their jet-black uniforms, guns and knifes are distinct.

They had monitored the house under cover for over 18 hours before the order to strike was issued.

When they broke down the doors, they found expensive leather seats in a huge lobby, arranged in a conference style, with the chairman’s position clearly defined.

There was also tobacco snuff, sheep dung, traditional brews and the offertory cloth-bag. There was a mixture of various boiled fruits cooling in a sufuria, a Kikuyu Christian hymn book and slaughtered sheep.

The sect has been blamed for some of the country’s most brutal killings, often featuring beheadings.

The commandos led by a former Presidential Escort Commander, Mathew Iteere, cut through the wire-meshed fence and caught the suspects by surprise.

However, their main target, Njenga, was not home when the crack squad burst in. The half naked suspects were found in what they called the ‘cleansing’ room.

Also overseeing operation was the Director of the Criminal Investigations Department, Joseph Kamau.

The mansion is partially complete, but bear’s the aura of a millionaire.

The two senior officers said the suspects were planning to commit "a serious crime" in the city ahead of the coming referendum.

Four officers from the National Social Intelligence Service later joined the team and took notes as they interrogated a woman found in the house.

The woman told police that several prominent personalities have been visiting the compound, but the only person she knew is a former MP from Central province.

She said about 2,000 people converge at the compound every weekend for cleansing purposes and that they sometimes circumcise women in the palatial house.

Last night, Njenga denied organising the oaths and turning his home into a Mungiki base. He claimed the raid was staged after announcing his underworld organization was in the Orange team.

"We are no longer called Mungiki. We are Kenya National Youth Alliance and our agenda is to empower the youth. This is intimidation to stop us from voting against the flawed constitution," said Njenga on phone.

The commandos broke into all the 10 rooms searching for weapons and other evidence against the followers.

They moved from one point to the other in groups of three while holding their automatic weapons.

Last evening, the officers were still guarding the home.

Inside the house, the officers found flags bearing the sect’s colours, several membership cards, baptism certificates, still cameras, snuff and the party constitution.

Police also seized photographs belonging to several members who had met there three weeks ago.

Police spokesman Jasper Ombati said the issue was being taken seriously and promised to arrest those linked to the sect.

Locals claimed they had been seeing suspected Mungiki members there. "They come here regularly and we sometimes go there to fetch water. We have no problem with them," said a villager.

Police said the Government had seized the 10-bedroom mansion built on a seven-acre piece of land within Kajiado’s Nguruka area.

"27 Mungiki suspects arrested in Nairobi"

("Capital FM," August 16, 2005)

Nairobi, Kenya - 27 suspects believed to be members of the outlawed mungiki sect who were arrested in a swoop conducted in Nairobi last night will appear in court this morning.

They are likely to face charges of collecting money illegally and touting, according to police.

The suspects were picked up by officers from the Rhino squad who raided various matatu termini within the city centre mainly on route six, nine, fourty six and eleven.

The suspects were taken to Lang'ata police station cells where they were locked up.

Police say over 5000 shillings was recovered from the suspects and will be used as exhibit when the suspects appear in court.

"Mungiki hit matatu trade"

by Dauti Kahura ("The Standard," May 16, 2005)

Nairobi, Kenya - When the matatu (PSV) sector was overhauled in the name of reform, 14 months ago, it was mainly to rid it of cartels that controlled lucrative Nairobi routes denying the owners and passengers their rights. But the reforms, initiated by the then Transport Minister John Michuki, have done little for the proprietors of matatu business.

Just to prove their clout, Mungiki are believed to have organised the recent strike of Eastleigh matatus, which paralysed business along Juja Road for more than six hours.

"Since they cannot come out in the open, says a matatu owner along Juja Road, "the Mungiki mobilised our drivers and conductors to demonstrate against the police.

Their beef with the police was that the officers were harassing the drivers and touts - their people - to whom they (Mungiki) owe protection, and they are paid handsomely for it.

"Nothing has changed," is how one matatu owner who declined to be named for security purposes sums it up.

The powerful Mungiki cartels have returned to own and control matatu routes in Dandora, Eastleigh, Githurai and Kayole.

"It is like we were thrown from the frying pan into the fire," he says.Being one of the newest proprietors on Eastleigh route No.9, the Big Issue interviewed him when he had just met some "friends" to discuss business who had demanded to meet him.

When the three youthful and lanky fellows had arrived, he said, the meeting was short and precise but it left him confused.

And after the business meeting, the three young men had disappeared as quickly as they had come, leaving the matatu owner looking more relaxed.

"The young men were Mungiki members and they had come for their money", confides the businessman.

Shorn off their trademark dreadlocks and untidiness, the youths would pass for your ordinary estate school leavers.

But the news they delivered was not pleasant to the businessman. They informed him that owed Mungiki some thousands of shillings that every matatu must pay on entering the Eastleigh route.

After putting together his lifetime savings to buy a brand new 25-sitter minibus, the 35-year-old matatu owner says he realised a little too late that just putting his vehicle on the road would not warrant him to heave a sigh of relief while awaiting the returns of his investment.

"The day my matatu began operating on the Eastleigh route, some young men stopped it and asked the crew where I was," explained the proprietor.

He says that his driver and conductor must have known who the young men were. "So they candidly advised me to co-operate," he says.

"Anybody who operates a matatu in Eastleigh must pay entry fees to the Mungiki kingpins who live in Mlango Kubwa," said the puzzled businessman.

The sprawling slum off Juja Road, known as Mlango Kubwa, has become the haven for the Mungiki followers.

And matatu owners have been paying between Sh30,000 and Sh50,000 to the notorious gangs.

"I was lucky because I belong to the House of Mumbi (meaning he is kikuyu) so they were not hard on me," he explained. He also counts himself twice lucky because the Mungiki lords allowed him to operate without having cleared their "dues".

"I’ve been paying them in instalments, and that’s why, they had sent their emissaries to pick their monthly.

Although the pseudo- religious and cultural sect is an outlawed group, it has continued with its operations unabated despite stern warnings from the Government.

Chest thumping and devoid of fear, a Mungiki youth from Mlango Kubwa boasted that the sect is "here to stay."

"Some people in the current Government thought they could finish us," said the youth, "but they soon realised Mungiki was a force to reckon with."

"There are no farms in Nairobi to dig," but the Mungiki youths who are sent to collect the money reason that their families "must eat and dress just like other Kenyans".

That is why they have had to organise themselves as the only powerful cartel in the transport sector by fighting off any other existing groups such as Kamjesh.

In Eastleigh, the battle to control and wrestle the route from the Kamjesh gang was violent and brutal.

One morning, the leader of Kamjesh, going by the name Moha, was found murdered

in his cubicle. It is alleged the murder was ostensibly committed by the Mungiki men, as a warning to any member of Kamjesh, who dared to challenge the Mungiki authority.

Thus, the two matatu routes that serve Eastleigh (No.6 and 9) are completely under the control of Mungiki.

The Mungiki youth who spoke on condition of anonymity bragged that "the sect own Juja Road".

Juja Road happens to be one of the most lucrative matatu routes in Nairobi.

What about the law?

"The Police are aware we control the route and there is nothing they can do," said the youths.

Everyday, each matatu must pay Sh200 to Mungiki leaders and the money is collected by a group of youths at strategic points.

Any public transport vehicle that uses Juja Road must pay between Sh50 to Sh100. Mostly matatus from Dandora, and Kariobangi (route Nos.14, 42 and 46) which occasionally divert to Juja Road also have to pay for it.

Failure to remit the money is done at the matatu owners’ risk.

"This is protection money for your matatu," says the source. "If you do not pay or if you give the boys a hard time, you will be taught a lesson. They can be dangerous."

Says the matatu owner: "We used to pay Sh100. One day, Mungiki leaders decided the ‘cost of doing business’ had gone up and they doubled the charges. In essence, Mungiki are controlling an underground economy that would be the envy of formal entities.

In Eastleigh alone, it is believed there is an excess of 200 matatus operating daily on the route, together with about 100 others from Kariobangi and Dandora that also use the road. In one day the cartel collects at least Sh50,000 not for doing any work, but for trouble they unleash on those who fail to please them or their business.

Asked whether he is aware of the Mungiki presence on Juja Road, which is under his jurisdiction, immediate former Officer Commanding Kasarani Police Division (OCPD) Solomon Makau, said he was not aware Mungiki were controlling Juja Road and extorting money from matatu owners.

The new Kasarani OCPD, Mr Paul Ruto, also said he had no idea that Mungiki gangs could be controlling the matatu routes.

"I’m still new here, I’ve just finished a month and I’m yet to get acquainted with my new area of jurisdiction", said Ruto. Given time, he says he would be able to find out and comment about the issue. He promised to do his investigations and find out whether the assertions by the matatu owners are true.

But officers from Pangani Police Station, who deal directly with the Eastleigh matatus say it is not a secret that Mungiki runs Juja Road.

"Mungiki collects money from matatu owners, there’s nothing new there," says a senior police officer at the station.

"The Government knows the Mungiki still exists and what they do".

"The recently disbanded Rhino Squad was formed to eradicate the Mungiki followers, but instead of the Squad curbing the nefarious activities of the group, they became illegitimate partners," said the officer.

And the Mungiki men confirmed this saying they fear no one, not even the police.

"The police are poorly paid, greedy and are not interested in their work", said one youth, adding that the defunct Rhino plainclothes officers still get their weekly share of bribes from the sect leaders at Mlango Kubwa.

The officers are often spotted in their nondescript Peugeot stations wagon parked at Baridi Lane, in Mlango Kubwa.

"When you see the vehicle the police are here to see our bosses," confessed the youth.

With the money, the Mungiki organisation is able to run its affairs and feed their families, mostly living in Mlango Kubwa, Dandora, Githurai and Kayole.

The group has "enough money to buy justice and police officers, who try to make their life difficult", the youth boasted.

"But if any police officer becomes to much, we deal with him".

Dealing here means eliminating. Police sources from Pangani station reckon that the Mungiki could be more armed than the police officers in Nairobi.

"Mlango Kubwa is their territory and no policeman wants to lose his life fighting fearless and dangerous people," said a source.

In Mlango Kubwa, Mungiki also serves as the vigilante group that patrols the area at night.

"We like it that way," says a resident. "They know all the criminals in the area and we pay them promptly for the work."

A Mungiki follower boldly stated the police are not a match for them.

"We are ready for them any time and can engage them in a battle that we are sure to easily win". He observes the Rhino Squad was formed to fight the cultist movement but the Mungiki rhetorically asked: Where are they (the police) now?

Some police sources say their officers are not ready to shed blood fighting a phantom.

"Who are the Mungiki?" He poses, and then answers himself: "Those people are dangerous and seem to have some ubiquitous political backing".

"State to Contest Manyara's Release"

by Francis Ngige ("The East African Standard," January 21, 2005)

The State has appealed against the acquittal of former Nakuru Town MP David Manyara and 12 other suspects who had been charged with murder.

The Attorney General has filed a notice of appeal against Nakuru judge Justice Daniel Musinga's decision to free Manyara and the 12 suspected Mungiki members.

The notice of appeal indicates that the State was not satisfied with ruling of Justice Musinga who last December 15 freed the former MP and his co-accused on grounds of insufficient evidence.

In the memorandum of appeal, State Counsel John Koech claims that the judge ought to have placed all the accused on their defence.

The appeal is likely to be heard by the Court of Appeal in Nakuru next month.

Manyara and his co-accused who were accused of killing 10 people on January 5, 2003, were acquitted by Musinga who ruled that they had no case to answer.

They were arrested after violence rocked Nakuru town in early 2003 when suspected Mungiki adherents terrorised and hacked several people to death.

Those freed alongside Manyara were John Njenga, Jeremiah Muturi, Jeremiah Wanjiku, Duncan Ndichu, John Kiaye, Samuel Maina, Peter Githuka, Francis Njoroge, Paul Kimani, Mto Mkoloi, Kariuki Mugo and David Wanyoike.

They had been charged with murdering 10 people on January 5, 2003, at Flamingo, Kimathi and Lakeview Estates in Nakuru.

The appeal came as Manyara was planning to sue the State for malicious prosecution.