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

"Kenya 'gang leader' arrested"

(AP, August 22, 2007)

Nairobi, Kenya - Police arrested a suspected leader of a Kenyan gang accused of a string of shootings and beheadings this year, family members said Wednesday.
Njoroge Kamunya, who is in his mid forties, was arrested on Tuesday at his home in Ongata Rongai, 20 kilometers outside the capital, by ten officers from a special squad formed to combat the gang, known as the 'Mungiki'. Kamunya's cousin, who asked for anonymity for fear of police reprisals, said Kamunya was arrested in the presence of his wife and four children.
The gang is blamed for the deaths of 15 police officers between April and June and 27 civilians this year. Many were beheaded. Police spokesman Eric Kiraithe refused to comment on Kamunya's arrest.
It was not immediately clear what charges police would bring against Kamunya. He has been on the run since April, when police issued an arrest warrant for him and two other men who have since been arrested.
Mungiki was once a quasi-political sect that drew thousands of unemployed youth from the Kikuyu community - Kenya's largest tribe.
Since its formation in the late 1980's, Mungiki - which means multitude in Kikuyu - has drawn its resources from extortion and operated openly. The government outlawed the sect in 2002 after its members beheaded 21 people in a Nairobi slum following a turf war with a rival group called the Taliban, which drew its members from the Luo community.
Kamunya's younger brother, 36-year-old Maina Njenga, was one of the founders of the sect but later publicly denounced it. He was jailed for five years in June for illegal gun possession and selling drugs.
Mungiki members promote traditional Kikuyu practices, including female genital mutilation and praying while facing Mount Kenya, the home of their supreme Deity.
In the past three months, police have cracked down on the gang, resulting in the deaths of at least 112 people.

"Two-year-old boy beheaded"

(Reuters, July 12, 2007)

Nairobi, Kenya - A two-year-old boy was beheaded and chopped up in a Kenyan capital slum today, police said, amid a fierce crackdown on an illegal sect blamed for a string of murders and decapitations.
The boy's mutilated torso was discovered in a maize farm and his head 500m away at a river bank in capital's Nairobi's crime-prone Korogocho slums, police commander Paul Ruto said.
The remains had no limbs, the chest was lacerated and the genitals chopped off, raising speculation that the body parts might be used in rites by the politically-linked Mungiki sect.
“The boy has been identified positively by his father who says he went missing two days ago,” Mr Ruto said.
"We have recorded statements from several people and are now searching for the killers."
The remains were discovered hours after police said they had killed 12 people in a crackdown on organised crime gangs in Nairobi, including members of Mungiki.
Once a religious group of dreadlocked youths who embraced traditional rituals, Mungiki has morphed into a ruthless gang blamed for criminal activities including extortion and murder.
Since March, the sect - which was banned in 2002 - has been blamed for the murders of at least 43 people, 13 of whom were beheaded, mostly in Nairobi slums and central Kenya.
The group also has alleged historic ties to the Mau Mau independence uprising, and is said to perpetuate customs such as female excision.
The police crackdown against it comes ahead of December general elections.
So far, it has resulted in the deaths of at least 79 Mungiki members and more than 3000 arrests nationwide.
Police said 11 of the 12 suspects killed were linked to a foiled carjacking and robberies in three Nairobi suburbs.
At least three of them were members of the Mungiki sect, they added.
“We have intensified the crackdown on all organised gangs, including Mungiki,” said another police commander, Julius Ndegwa.

"Gang war in Kenya leaves 11 police dead"

(Reuters, July 04, 2007)

Nairobi, Kenya - Eleven Kenyan police officers were killed last month during a war with the Mungiki criminal gang that has sparked fears of violence during an election planned for later this year, police said.
The government has sworn to eliminate Mungiki and the death toll has mounted during a crackdown and reprisals from Mungiki, which has spread fear in east Africa's biggest economy with scores of attacks and beheadings in Nairobi and central Kenya.
"The month of June has been very challenging. We regret the loss of 11 officers in the line of duty," Kenya Police spokesman Eric Kiraithe told Reuters.
Kiraithe said he could not confirm the number of people killed by the police during the operation, but local media reported that 112 people have been killed in the past month.
He said 3,379 suspected Mungiki have been arrested across the country and charged in court.
In the latest attack, seven suspected Mungiki were shot dead in central Kenya after they were found taking an illegal oath on Sunday. Police say most of those killed had resisted arrest and shot at officers.
Mungiki, which means "multitude" in the local Kikuyu language, claims to champion the rights of the poor and urges a return to traditional Kikuyu values.
Drawn mostly from the Kikuyu, Kenya's largest tribe, it has adopted the trappings of the Mau Mau insurgents who fought the British colonial government for independence.
But police say it has metamorphosed into the biggest criminal mafia in the country.
The gang gets its money from extortion in the country's lucrative minibus transport industry and other protection rackets.
It appears to be providing muscle-for-hire to politicians slugging it out in the election expected in December this year.
Kiraithe warned that not all the criminals killed in the crackdown were Mungiki members, but rather others taking advantage of the spotlight on Mungiki to carry out crimes.
Human rights groups accuse the government of excessive force during the crackdown, but police maintain they exercise restraint.

"Brutal Kenyan Sect Aims to Provoke Strife"

by Stephanie McCrummen ("Washington Post," July 02, 2007)

Nairobi, Kenya - An unimposing man known as Joe, alias Robertson Buili, alias Ndegwa, appeared about 2 p.m. at the Maxland Restaurant here, took a seat and ordered a warm beer. At least five bodyguards followed, and tailing them a few minutes behind, the area police chief.
Like some Kenyan Godfather in the pale sunlight, Buili, 36, was greeted by two bow-tied waiters who apparently recognized him as a leader in the Mungiki, a cultlike gang suspected of at least 12 beheadings and other mafia-style murders that have terrorized the Kenyan capital in recent weeks.
"The owner of this place has come to me," Buili explained, referring elliptically to a recent recruit. "We are the masses. We are the people. And we are just in a warm-up now."
Lately, screaming headlines in the bawdy tabloid newspapers of Nairobi have described the so-called Mungiki Menace. Dark tales of moonlight oath ceremonies have been followed by vows from politicians to end the violence and by police crackdowns targeting one of the city's sprawling slums, where members of the secretive sect extort money from the poorest of the poor.
Although the Mungiki claims thousands of members, it is difficult to say how widespread the sect is, much less what it is: the dying embers of a more violent 1990s Kenya or perhaps a sign of the growing urban poverty afflicting cities across Africa.
Kenyans pride themselves on their relatively progressive country, an island of calm in the turbulent Horn of Africa, and many dismiss the Mungiki as nothing more than a brutal if politically connected extortion racket.
To others, though, the Mungiki violence -- wrapped in the ideology of the dispossessed and a warped tribal identity -- has raised the question of whether the kind of large-scale civil unrest that the sect's leaders have promised to inspire this election year is possible in Kenya.
Pamphlets urging young people to "Arise! Arise!" have been circulating in the capital, while police have responded in a typically heavy-handed fashion, rounding up young men who wear dreadlocks or bear some other supposed hallmark of the Mungiki, at times simply to extort their own bribes.
Last month, police killed at least 21 people in a brazen raid in Mathare, during which dogs were turned against teenage boys and, residents say, dozens of innocent people were beaten or shot.
"The government doesn't have a clue how to stop this thing because they are dealing with an amorphous group with few known leaders," said Jogana Mutahi, a coordinator with the Kenya Human Rights Network, which condemned the violence. "So they're going after young men with boxer shorts hanging over their pants."
Young male residents of Mathare say they are not certain who is more terrifying -- the Mungiki, who beat them and take their money, or the police, who beat them, accuse them of being gang members and demand money from their families.
"The Mungiki act like another government," said Peter Ndegwa, 17, who ran for his life during the last police raid. "Us innocent boys would like to ask our president: Who exactly is our government? Because we pay taxes to the government for police, and we pay taxes to the Mungiki."
Buili was unapologetic for the recent violence, which he said was directed at people who had "violated" Mungiki rules.
"In this country, there is not fair distribution of wealth," he said. "There is a gap, and we want to bridge that gap. To work through the system is impossible."
He ordered another warm beer.
Buili, who idolizes early 20th-century black nationalist Marcus Garvey, was never as poor as some of the young men he recruits. He attended one of the best private schools in Nairobi and either dropped out or was kicked out of college, which he said "was too undemocratic."
He was vague about how he became involved with the Mungiki, which originated during rural land clashes in the 1990s that pitted members of Kenya's largest community, the Kikuyu, against the Masai and Kalenjin communities.
The Kikuyu formed militias whose members were often the sons and daughters of the Mau Mau, the underground movement that fought for independence from British colonial rule and often beheaded its enemies.
As the Mau Mau had, the Kikuyu militias required fighters to take an oath and a vow of secrecy, and soon the militias morphed into the Mungiki -- a Kikuyu word that means "masses" -- developing extortion and protection rackets and luring jobless young men into its fold, often by providing work such as hawking vegetables.
"What do you do when you find 10 friends in your house asking for help?" Buili said, referring to the young men who come to his Nairobi home seeking jobs. "Then you have 20, then you have 50? Do you tell them to walk away?"
Buili, whose father was a Mau Mau fighter before becoming a relatively well-off businessman, offered the young men Mungiki ideology: a blend of revolutionary rhetoric and Kikuyu traditions that Buili believes are fading in a modern society he calls "useless."
"Morality," he said, sipping his beer. "That is what our movement must bring back, morality. And we want to push back the sources of inequality."
During the late 1990s, Kenya's president, Daniel arap Moi, allowed the Mungiki to move into Nairobi and run their rackets. Many believe the Mungiki became intertwined with government officials and politicians, who used the group for financial gain and muscle during elections. Buili said he is on a first-name basis with some of the highest-ranking officials in Kenya.
Eventually, some Mungiki leaders became rich. One, Ndura Waruinge, officially renounced the sect, converted to Islam, changed his name to Ibrahim, then converted to Christianity and changed his name to Hezekiah. Now he is running for a seat in parliament.
"I have left Mungiki," Waruinge said in an interview. "Because I am rich."
Some who have followed the group over the years say the current violence stems from a feeling among the Mungiki that they have been betrayed by officials who once backed them.
Others wonder whether during a contentious election year the Mungiki have become guns for hire and part of the elaborate machinations that define Kenyan politics.
Mutahi, the human rights activist, took a broader view.
"There is a widespread frustration that there are too many young people without work. And they do not feel they are part of this nation. Kenya is not that stable," he said, referring to the country's relatively young multiparty democracy and a growing gap between rich and poor. "It would take a small thing like this getting out of hand to light this place up."
Many say Kenya has come too far for that. After 24 years of often brutal, one-party rule under Moi, there is a vibrant opposition and a relatively free press.
"You can express yourself freely in Kenya now," said Alfred Nderitu, a member of parliament. "And that has released a lot of tension."
Buili denied that the movement is losing strength. On the contrary, he said mysteriously, "the war is just beginning."
He talked about the land clashes during the 1990s, about which many in the Kikuyu community still feel bitter. He recalled hearing his father sing the Mau Mau songs when he was growing up, and seeing him cry.
Soon the conversation degenerated into crude, quasi-racist descriptions of non-Kikuyu communities and ended with a rant against homosexuality, divorce and other features of modern Kenyan society.
"We are about empowering people," said Buili, glassy-eyed. "Making people have morals, and so many other things."
Asked about his own involvement in the recent killings, he held out his palms.
"Do you see any blood on my hands?"

"Bodies pile up in Kenya's Mungiki gang war"

by Wangui Kanina and C. Bryson Hull (Reuters, June 26, 2007)

Nairobi, Kenya - Kenyan police on Tuesday said they had shot dead at least 25 suspected members of the Mungiki criminal gang since last week, after at least 13 people were killed in a surge of violence blamed on the group.
Thursday's conviction of a former Mungiki leader on weapons charges ended a brief lull in the slaughter.
Fatalities and suspects have piled up quickly since then, in incidents ranging from a grenade attack on a Nairobi bar that killed five, to beheadings with machetes, the discovery of severed heads and genitals, and bloody police retaliation.
"It is a pity that our contacts have to be so bloody, but you know these people have sworn an oath that they will never surrender," police spokesman Eric Kiraithe said.
With President Mwai Kibaki's blessing, Kenya's police have promised to wipe out Mungiki following a series of killings since late March in Nairobi and central Kenya.
Many fear the group plans mayhem during this year's presidential election, expected in late December.
In recent days the police crackdown has intensified.
Police said they shot dead two suspected members as they prepared to rob a bank in the capital Nairobi on Tuesday and another five had been killed over the weekend.
Local media said officers in Thika, about 60 km (37 miles) north of the capital, on Monday killed two others and recovered military gear, assault rifles and Ceska pistols - a standard police sidearm in Kenya - at a hideout there.
Kiraithe could not immediately confirm the Thika killings and seizures.
Mau Mau Rituals
Since declaring war on Mungiki, police have intensified manhunts and carried out a bloody siege on a gang stronghold in early June that killed at least 33 people.
The group rose to prominence in the early 1990s espousing a return to the traditional values of the Kikuyu tribe, Kenya's largest and the backbone of the Mau Mau rebels that fought the British colonial government for independence.
They adopted Mau Mau rituals like taking oaths. But police and experts say they have now evolved into Kenya's biggest criminal mafia with tentacles reaching into politics, where ethnic-based violence has long been an electoral tool.
Human rights groups have accused police of indiscriminate slaughter and of branding any potential criminal a Mungiki member to justify harsh action.
Government officials admit privately Mungiki has connections in the upper spheres of politics and the security apparatus.
Either way, extortion from Kenya's lucrative minibus transport industry and other protection rackets have given it enough money to buy protection in a nation where corruption is a daily fact of life for most people.

"Kenya police slay five suspected members of killer sect"

(AFP, June 25, 2007)

Nairobi, Kenya - Kenyan police said Monday they had killed five suspected members of a banned sect blamed for a string of recent murders and beheadings.
Police commander Maina Migwi said officers, working on a tip-off, had trailed and eventually engaged in a shootout with a group of suspected Mungiki gang members.
Migwi said they recovered two rifles, including an AK 47, 29 rounds of ammunitions jungle fatigues, machetes and knives.
Once a religious group of dreadlocked, snuff-snorting youths who embraced traditional rituals such as female circumcision, the Mungiki sect has fractured into a politically-linked gang.
The group has been blamed for at least 40 murders since March. Police say they have killed at least 43 Mungiki members.
Banned in 2002 following deadly slum violence, the gang is notorious for criminal activities including extortion and murder.

"Kenyan ex-sect leader jailed"

(AFP, June 21, 2007)

Nairobi, Kenya - A Kenyan court jailed the former leader of a banned sect blamed for a string of beheadings and murders in recent months, judicial sources said on Thursday.
Amid a nationwide crackdown on the Mungiki gang in which thousands were detained, Nairobi principal magistrate Rosemary Mutoka slapped a five years prison sentence on Maina Njenga for illegal possession of arms.
"I find that the prosecution has proved its case beyond reasonable doubt to sustain a conviction. The offence of being in possession of a firearm without a licence is serious," Mutoka said.
Njenga, who was arrested in February 2006, was also handed a two-year term for possessing cannabis, but both sentences will run concurrently.
After his remand, Njenga relinquished the leadership of the Mungiki, a sect which was banned after deadly violence in Nairobi slums.
Violence perpetrated by the Mungiki, which is believed to have high-ranking political backing, surged again in recent months as political jockeying intensified ahead of general elections due later this year.
At least 30 people have been killed since March 11 of them beheaded. Police responded with a heavy-handed crackdown, killing at least 38 suspected sect members.
Once a pseudo-religious group of dreadlocked youths who embraced rituals such as female circumcision, the Mungiki has fragmented into a criminal gang notorious for activities such as extortion, murder and harassment of women.

"Kenya police slay three in highway clash with killer sect"

(AFP, June 08, 2007)

Nairobi, Kenya - Kenyan police killed three members of a sect blamed for a string of beheadings in a roadside clash, bringing the death toll to 37 after a Nairobi slum crackdown, officials said Friday.
Heavily-armed Kenyan police on Thursday swept through the city's slums and slayed at least a dozen suspected members of the shady Mungiki sect, on the third day of a bloody crackdown in the Mathare slum.
The politically-linked Mungiki - banned in 2002 following deadly slum violence - is notorious for criminal activities including extortion, murder and harassment of women.
Police gunned down three suspected sect members near Muranga town, around 80 kilometres (50 miles) northeast of the capital late Thursday, police spokesman Eric Kiraithe told AFP.
"We intercepted them on the road at about 11.00 pm and when they were challenged to stop, they refused and fired at police, but we responded and killed three," Kiraithe said.
"One of our officers was wounded, but we recovered a revolver, two pistols and a machete."
The death toll rose to 37 suspected sect members, and hundreds arrested, as the police hunt - sparked by the killing of two police officers on Monday night - entered its fourth day, with patrols spreading from the capital's slums to the Rift Valley region, according to police.
"This crackdown will go on until all the criminal activities end, and things get back to normal and nobody is going to be spared," Kiraithe said.
"We have acted in a restrained manner and we are operating within the law. Those who are killed are either armed or threaten police," he added, after police officers destroyed houses and beat people during Thursday's slum raid.
A local human rights group, Independent Medico-Legal Unit, condemned "the cruel, inhuman and degrading manner" of the police crackdown, according to The Standard newpaper on Friday.
Hundreds of slum dwellers filed out of the sprawling Mathare slum, where the Mungiki holds sway, on Friday, vowing never to return, as police in civilian gear patrolled the area in a scaled-down search operation.
Residents were seen carrying mattresses, furniture, and sacks of clothing, leaving parts of the slum a ghost area.
"I can't stay here because we do not know when police will hit again. What we experienced yesterday (Thursday) was too brutal for us to stay here," said local James Njoroge, carrying a mattress and a table.
"Some of us are not even Mungiki, but we were beaten as if we had information on the group," said Jane Nyambura, injured on the foot by a police truncheon.
Once a pseudo-religious group of dreadlocked youths who embraced traditional rituals such as female circumcision, the Mungiki sect, which holds sway in several slums, has fractured into a violent gang with political connections.
Kenyan authorities are currently probing four former members of parliament accused of links to the Mungiki, which has been blamed for the deaths of at least 30 people since March, including 11 gruesome beheadings.
Police have arrested nearly 3,000 suspected Mungiki members this year in the Central and Nairobi provinces, according to the government.

"Gunfire in Nairobi slum kills 11"

by Tom Odula (AP, June 07, 2007)

Nairobi, Kenya - A shantytown believed to be a stronghold for gangsters who behead their victims erupted in deadly gunbattles Thursday, killing at least 11 people as paramilitary police rounded up hundreds of residents, beating them with truncheons and demolishing homes.
The violence, on the third day of a crackdown on the shadowy Mungiki sect, was reminiscent of the politically volatile 1990s, when police would storm the slums in search of opposition supporters. Mungiki was inspired by the 1950s Mau Mau uprising against British rule but has become a street gang linked to murder, political violence and extortion.
Since Monday, police have killed more than 30 people suspected of being part of Mungiki and arrested 300 in the Mathare slum. Police also said they recovered three guns and human flesh believed to be used for Mungiki oath-taking.
Police said 11 people were killed Thursday in Mathare, home to an estimated 500,000 people in the Kenyan capital of Nairobi. An eerie quiet, interrupted by the pop of gunfire, descended over the maze of dusty streets and wooden shacks as residents sprawled on the ground or hid in their homes.
More than 500 police and paramilitary officers have swarmed Mathare this week in search of Mungiki followers, who have been accused in the deaths of at least 20 people in the past three months, including 12 found mutilated or beheaded since May. The group is accused of killing two police officers Monday.
"I don't know anything about Mungiki," said Mathare resident Kennedy Kahera, 37, who was arrested Thursday but released. "The police are doing a good job by enforcing the law, but are using an excessive force."
Police were forcing people to carry corpses to police trucks and to wade into the Nairobi River and search for illegal weapons believed to have been dumped there. Children in blue school uniforms walked past hundreds of men kneeling on the ground, guarded by officers in camouflage who fired warning shots into the air. A woman with blood streaming down her face carried a child through the streets.
"The police are using the necessary force authorized by the law," police spokesman Eric Kiraithe said. "Police are not using excessive force."
Wanasolo William, 30, who was carrying his infant son in his arms, begged police not to tear down his single-room home, made of sticks and iron sheeting.
"Please don't destroy my house, please give me two days to leave the country," William, originally from Uganda, said as police knocked down the home.
Julius Ndegwa, a senior police officer who was supervising the operation, denied police were destroying homes for no reason. "We are searching for guns in every corner of these structures," he said.
The Standard, Kenya's oldest newspaper, ran a front-page editorial Thursday saying police must not "crash their way into homes and houses at night and shoot and kill innocent people under the blanket guise of fighting Mungiki."
Mungiki claims to have thousands of adherents, all drawn from the Kikuyu, Kenya's largest tribe. Members of the group, whose name means "multitude" in the Kikuyu language, traditionally wear dreadlocks, inspired by the Mau Mau who wore them as a symbol of anti-colonialism and their determination not to conform to Western norms. In recent years, however, many Mungiki have shaved their heads, believing dreadlocks are too conspicuous.
Sect members pray facing Mount Kenya, which the Kikuyu believe is the home of their supreme deity. The group also encourages female genital mutilation and using tobacco snuff.
Mungiki was outlawed in 2002 after at least 20 people were killed in fighting between it and another gang called the Taliban, whose members come from the Luo tribe of western Kenya.
The recent bloodshed has raised fears Mungiki members are out to disrupt elections in December, when President Mwai Kibaki will seek a second term.
Leaflets allegedly circulated by the group call on Kenyan youth to join an uprising against the government. The leaflet includes a threat that "if one youth is killed, we shall kill 10 police."

"Bloodstained sect sows fear through Kenya"

by Karen Calabria (AFP, June 07, 2007)

Muranga, Kenya - Steely-eyed Margaret Mugoiri sits in her garden, mending a dress, as she relates how her husband was hacked to death the previous evening by a group of machete-wielding thugs.
She remains emotionless describing how the men dragged her partner of 32 years from their home in the black of night, before butchering him in the backyard. Her eyes show no flicker of weakness as she recalls screams of agony that did not relent until his death.
But mere mention of the Mungiki - an outlawed sect behind a wave of death and dismemberment that was the target of a major police crackdown this week - and her face curdles in fear.
Once only a religious group of dreadlocked, snuff-snorting youths who embraced traditional rituals such as female circumcision, the sect has fractured into a politically-linked, violent gang famed for extortion, murder and intimidation.
"I have never seen anything like this before," a top officer in the Muranga police department told AFP on condition of anonymity. "We don't know who these people are and we don't know how to go after them, so everyone is afraid - even us."
The Mungiki - which means 'multitude' in the tribal Kikuyu language - are suspected of beheading at least half a dozen people over the past month and accused of the killings of more than 30 others, including several police officers, since March.
Police this week slayed at least 21 suspected sect members in a Nairobi slum after two officers were killed by suspected Mungiki members.
The heightened violence has drawn angry criticism from inside and outside Kenya, including from the Catholic Church and members of the Kenyan community abroad, who fear the Mungiki will deter foreign investment and slow economic growth.
Mugoiri, whose husband was one of the four victims of an evening murder spree in Muranga district, 80 kilometres (50 miles) northeast of Nairobi, is gripped in silent terror at the possibility of Mungiki in her village.
"This place is not crime-prone, incidences of insecurity like this are unheard of and out of the ordinary," finally murmurs Alice Muthoni, a neighbor come to grieve her friend's husband, referring vaguely to the group.
Although police blame the Mungiki for the attacks, Muranga locals are unable to identify a motive for the violence and refuse to openly point the finger at the sect for fear of retribution.
The activities of the Mungiki - who have also allegedly usurped control of the public transport sector and charge elaborate extortion fees to operators - are thought to illustrate the growing gap between rich and poor in a country where more than 60 percent live in poverty.
"Their actions are calling attention to the inequities in our society. We can't just shut our eyes to so many poor who are forced to eke out a living through means of violence," state-run Kenya National Human Rights Commission secretary Mburu Gitu told AFP.
Many believe the Mungiki are in league with corrupt politicians and police - authorities are currently probing four former members of parliament accused of links to them - and peg their growing visibility to elections scheduled for late December.
"One gets the feeling that some people in the government want to retain these vigilante groups as a way of enforcing power," said Evans Monari, a political analyst.
"Political power in Africa, in this country, is predicated on terrorizing people," he explained.
Last week Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki issued an order to kill perpetrators of Mungiki attacks on the heels of harsh public outcry against Internal Security Minister John Michuki's failure to exert control over the sect.
But officials have played down the scale of the threat.
"Just like any other phenomena, crime also has seasons ... We are not downplaying it but Mungiki is not anywhere near threatening the police, the state or the people," Kenya police spokesperson Eric Kiraithe told AFP.
But some police officers remained unclear about how they would eradicate the shadowy sect, primarily composed of members of Kenya's largest tribe, the Kikuyu.
Nearly 3,000 suspected members of the sect - said to have its origins in the Mau Mau uprising of the 1950s against former colonial powers - have been apprehended in the Central and Nairobi provinces since the start of the year, according to government and police sources.
Despite this week's police crackdown, many Kenyans remain paralysed with fear over what they regard as an ongoing battle between the Mungiki and the government.
"We're caught in a war that's not ours and that we never asked for," says a dairy farmer in Muranga, declining to be named. He's one of the few people to venture into the town centre the day after the attacks.
"I just sit, hope and pray that these people won't come my way," he says, preparing to head home as shopkeepers shutter their doors earlier than usual at the approach of dusk.
"Maybe tomorrow you'll hear about me being beheaded," he adds, laughing nervously as he brushes dust off his trousers and quickly heads for home.

"Police in Kenya Kill 22 in Gun Battles Over Sect"

(AP, June 06, 2007)

Nairobi, Kenya - The police killed 22 suspects and arrested 100 during overnight gun battles as they stormed a Nairobi slum in search of members of an outlawed sect accused in a string of beheadings, officials said Tuesday.
The action against the suspected members of the sect, the Mungiki, came after two police officers were shot dead in the Mathare slum on Monday.
“The police mounted an operation to crack down on those who were behind the killing,” said a police spokesman, Eric Kiraithe. More than 100 people tried to obstruct the operation, and a shootout began, he said.
Members of the Mungiki are suspected in the deaths of at least 18 people in the past three months, including 10 found mutilated or beheaded since the beginning of May. The latest beheadings were overnight in Muranga, 40 miles north of Nairobi, at the same time as the gun battles, the police said.
A freelance television journalist videotaped the raid in Mathare, showing a senior police official, Julius Ndegwa, standing over the body of an officer killed Monday night. Mr. Ndegwa exhorted more than a dozen police officers surrounding him to “clamp down on these elements.”
The tape also shows officers kicking and beating people as gunfire pops in the background.
Mungiki faxed a statement to Kenya Television Network on Tuesday, saying that the battles had killed just one of its members.
Bramwel Ochieng, 25, who lives in Mathare, said the police had taken too long to act against the Mungiki. The group also is accused of extorting money from minibus drivers.
“These people have terrorized us for years,” he said. “Police know about them, but they take bribes and leave.”
The violence has raised fears that Mungiki members are out to disrupt the elections in December, when President Mwai Kibaki will seek a second term.
The president said Friday that those behind the violence had acted as if they had a right to kill.
“No one has such a right, and if you do that and hide wherever you can, we will get you,” Mr. Kibaki said.
The Mungiki is believed to have thousands of adherents, all from the Kikuyu, one of Kenya’s largest tribes. The group, whose name means “multitude” in the Kikuyu language, was inspired by the bloody Mau Mau rebellion of the 1950s against the British.

"Kenyan police slay 21 suspected members of banned sect"

(AFP, June 05, 2007)

Nairobi, Kenya - Kenyan police have killed at least 21 suspected members of a banned sect in a Nairobi slum in retaliation for the killing of two policemen, a police spokesman said Tuesday.
"Following the killing of two policemen, we launched an operation to recover the firearms that were stolen (from them) ... and 21 people who were resisting arrest were killed" overnight, said national police spokesman Eric Kiraithe.
"They are Mungiki members who started resisting arrest when police launched the operation to recover firearms."
The politically-linked Mungiki sect has been blamed for a wave of recent murders including several gruesome beheadings.
The shadowy religious group, with alleged historic ties to the Mau Mau independence uprising, comprises mainly snuff-taking, dreadlocked youths who champion old traditions such as female circumcision and oath-taking.
Kiraithe said the crackdown in the Mathare slums in northern Nairobi was continuing.
"The operation will not stop until all the firearms they stole from the police are recovered. But so far, we have have recovered three pistols, six rounds of ammunition and 15 machetes," he added.
Meanwhile, a top police official told AFP that Mungiki members killed at least four people in Karuro town, about 80 kilometres northeast of the capital, in the early hours of Tuesday.
Banned in 2002 following deadly slum violence, the sect is notorious for criminal activities including extortion, murder and harassment of women.

"Outlawed sect beheads two more in Kenya"

(Reuters, June 02, 2007)

Nairobi, Kenya - Members of Kenya's outlawed Mungiki gang beheaded two more people on Saturday, local media said, a day after the president vowed to crack down on those behind a wave of violence in the volatile run-up to elections.
Police were not immediately available to comment on the attack, which KTN Television said took place after about 40 Mungiki members waylaid a minibus taxi in Murang'a district.
The driver and conductor were decapitated and passengers locked in a nearby church before being robbed by the gang then released, KTN reported from the scene in Karuri village.
On Friday, President Mwai Kibaki pledged to hunt down Mungiki members just hours after five earlier murders rocked central Kenya, including one in his own constituency. The gang was also blamed for the murders of six people found decapitated last month.
"Even if you hide, we will find you and kill you," Kibaki said in a speech to mark the 44th anniversary of self-rule.
While Kenyans largely applaud his government for economic advances and the introduction of free primary education, corruption and crime weigh heavily on his prospects of re-election in a poll expected to be held in December.
First emerging in the 1990s, Mungiki, which means "multitude" in the local Kikuyu tribal language, uses prayers and archaic rituals to bond recruits.
It was banned in 2002 after members wielding knives and clubs killed more than 20 people in a Nairobi slum.
Many Kenyans believe corrupt politicians and police officers have been in league with the gang, particularly in helping set up its lucrative extortion rackets.

"2.464 sect suspects arrested in Kenya"

by Malkhadir M. Muhumed (AP, June 01, 2007)

Nairobi, Kenya - Police have arrested 2,464 suspected followers of an outlawed religious sect whose members are believed to have beheaded several people in recent months, the government spokesman said Thursday.
The arrests occurred in the past few months, all of suspected Mungiki followers, government spokesman Alfred Mutua told The Associated Press, referring to the shadowy group suspected in the deaths of at least 12 people in the past three months. Six of the bodies were found mutilated or beheaded more than a week ago on the outskirts of the capital.
Mungiki, which means multitude in the Kikuyu language, emerged in the 1990s and was inspired by the Mau Mau rebellion of the 1950s against British colonial rule. It was banned in 2002.
Growing insecurity in the country has raised fears that Mungiki is out to disrupt the general elections scheduled for December, when President Mwai Kibaki is expected to seek a second term.
In recent days, leaflets have been distributed in the capital claiming the sect will hold a rally Friday to expose high-level government officials and lawmakers who are its members.
Late Wednesday, other leaflets were distributed in all of Nairobi's slums, accusing Kibaki's administration of failing to honor election pledges made in 2002 to create jobs and rewrite Kenya's constitution. Those leaflets also claimed that more than 16,000 members of Kenya's security forces were members of the sect and threatened to kill police officers.
Sect leaders rarely speak to journalists and were not immediately available for comment.
Police spokesman Eric Kiraithe said the leaflets were aimed at diverting the police's attention, but the force was on high alert and taking the death threats "very seriously."