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The Mungiki

Gang violence in Kenya

The truth behind the Central Kenya blood bath
Gang Violence Turns Deadly in Central Kenya
Gang now takes war to the church
The Mungiki
Anti-Christian activists assassinated in Kenya
Further information

The truth behind the Central Kenya blood bath

For many people, it was only a matter of time before a blood bath visited Kirinyaga or Nyeri districts. In the past two weeks, four vigilante groups have been roaming villages in Kirinyaga at night, ostensibly to hunt down Mungiki members and have killed 15 people.

The Mungiki has been known for vicious reprisal attacks, and residents have been living in fear.

Hours before the attack, there were signs all was not well, as police in Karatina, while heading to Kirinyaga, impounded a vehicle filled with all manner of weapons. Also, days before, police had raided a house and confiscated about 100 machetes.

However, officers are taking the blame for failing to stop Mungiki and the vigilante gangs. While police are in agreement that vigilante gangs have been committing murder, no one has been arrested.

"We are not happy, but it seems to be working for us. If we kill any of the Mungiki people, we are accused of committing extra-judicial executions. So, yes, it is working," a senior police officer said.

Escorted by police
On Monday, vigilantes wielding machetes and clubs made the rounds in Kirinyaga and Nyeri on motorcycles throughout the day. They were escorted by police, who made no effort to disarm them.

However, the groups are now being accused of being as callous as the Mungiki members they are fighting.

The gang has killed about 15 people they accuse of belonging to the proscribed sect, and set ablaze tens of houses. Information has it that there are four vigilante groups operating in various locations.

Those who decline to join them in their night time campaign are punished. When the anti-Mungiki campaign started three weeks ago, residents were full of praise, following years of living under the gang’s stranglehold.

Overnight, Mungiki extortion gangs were dismantled, eliciting cheers from the public. Traders in Kagumo market were especially happy, because Mungiki members who have been demanding protection fees have gone underground.

But things have since turned full circle, and the vigilantes, who call themselves ‘The Hague’, are now accused of cold-blooded murder.


Gang Violence Turns Deadly in Central Kenya 
By Derek Kilner 21 April 2009
Kenyan police say at least 29 people have died after members of a criminal gang clashed with residents of a village in central Kenya.  The incident is the latest sign of tensions between the Mungiki gang and communities in the area. 

Residents of the Karatina area of central Kenya awoke to the sight of dead bodies lying in the village roads. Kenyan officials say more bodies could turn up.

Police officials described a clash between the Mungiki gang and members of the public. But Central Province commissioner Kiplimo Rugut told VOA the Mungiki gang appeared to be behind the bulk of the killings, retaliating against earlier attacks by residents of the area.

"Members of the public for the last one week have refused basically to yield to the pressure by members of the proscribed Mungiki group to extort money from them, to harass them, and generally make life difficult for everybody including the business community, members of the public, farmers and everybody else," he said.

In the past week, villagers in the area had formed vigilante groups and killed at least 12 people suspected of being Mungiki members. Rugut said the latest attack appeared to be a reaction to that violence.

"Now in the course of the night we believe the Mungiki regrouped in retaliation now to this, because the attack had the hallmark of a Mungiki attack," he said. "We are observing the gruesome mutilation of hands, mutilation of legs, hacking of necks."

Police say that 37 people have been arrested, and several machetes and other weapons have been confiscated.

Spokesman Njuguna Gitau of the Kenya National Youth Alliance, an organization widely seen as the Mungiki's "political arm", said the attacks were carried out by a vigilante group, with the cooperation of Kenyan officials.

"This vigilante group has been given the mandate to go from house to house, flushing out the so-called suspected Mungiki members and killing them brutally," he said. "The vigilante group had vowed yesterday to extend the operation all over Central Kenya"

The Mungiki is Kenya's most notorious gang, famous for beheading some of its victims. The group's members, estimated in the thousands, are largely drawn from poor, young, men from the Kikuyu ethnic group, Kenya's largest and most powerful.

The group has been linked to Kenyan political leaders, particularly during post-election violence in early 2008.


Gang now takes war to the church

A new battle in Central Province is in the offing as the proscribed Mungiki sect targets the church.

The sect is now threatening residents to steer off Christianity and openly challenging the clergy to cease evangelism amongst the Agikuyu community.

While the sect advocates for extreme traditional cultural practices like female genital mutilation, tobacco sniffing and ‘decent’ dressing for women, the Christian doctrine teaches repentance and salvation.

The church views the sect as representing the anti-Christ, whereas Mungiki describe the church as slaves of Western values.

Capturing the magnitude of the sect’s assault on cultural order is Mrs Watiri Michuki, wife of Environment minister John Michuki.

In a recent church function in Kangema —where she is a women’s leader — she lamented: "In my 60 plus years, I have never witnessed such blatant affront on cultural values as being showcased by our youths."

She called upon all mothers countrywide to pray for their sons.

A pastor in Iyego location, Murang’a District whose name cannot be published for his own safety says Mungiki has succeeded in creating a rift between churches and the society.

"Mungiki recruit students even in primary schools. They incite students against Christian Religious Education (CRE) studies," he says.

He adds: "Recently, a Mungiki kingpin raided a local church as brethren prayed. He was armed with a panga and went straight to the pulpit and banged it on the floor. He warned Christians not to compete with him in recruiting followers."

Clergy under threat
It was a warning that the community should troop to traditional shrines and reject the gospel of Jesus Christ.

The sect is said to have beheaded a pastor of the Anglican Church in Nyeri’s Kabaru area to stamp their authority.

But whereas opinion has always been strong that politicians, businessmen and professionals finance the sect, it is emerging that some clergy have joined the bandwagon.

So complex is the situation that even musicians in the province are split down the middle.

"Most of the secular musicians openly support the sect whereas Gospel ones strongly push for Christian values," reveals a security officer attached to the National Security Intelligence Service in Murang’a District.

This comes after the release of at least 10 new albums, all of them showing open support for the sect and its values. Three songs, Matigari (remnants) and Muhiko II as well as Mutu I and II (Maize Flour) are among new hits seen to glorify the sect’s activities.

An exception is Queen Jayne who has released a counter volume titled Gikuyu cokererai Ngai (Agikuyu return to God).

The conflict has even distorted some of the revered cultural practices like burial ceremonies.

"It has reached a point where some families are burying their dead as if they are outcasts," says Gitau Njuguna, National Youth Alliance spokesman.

He says that during crackdowns, authorities gun down suspects and police bar close relatives and other mourners travelling to the deceased’s village from attending the burial.

He says police barriers are erected near the burial site.

"It is an infringement of our culture as pertains to how we ought to behave as a community in matters of death," says Richard Mwangi of Murang’a.

Mwangi says some parts of Mugoiri location are greatly feared even by area residents working in Nairobi.

"You dare not visit here even if it is your village. If you want to send money to your family, use phone transfer services or tell the person to come for it," he says.

This has severed family ties and values where people working in urban centres are forced to keep away from their families hence breeding unfaithfulness.

"Our parents think we have neglected them since we dare not visit them lest we are arrested. The threat of being cursed is real," Njuguna says.

On the other hand, most Christians accuse Mungiki of forcibly recruiting children into the sect.

A civil servant from Murang’a South District, says families are feeling the heat of Mungiki activities.

"I have a school going brother who recently called me saying he was already in Nairobi. I found that unusual. When we linked up he told me he was fleeing from a Mungiki recruitment drive," he says.

He reveals that for fear of the sect getting their children, parents have to be extra vigilant during circumcision period.

"Gone are the days when circumcision was a matter of pride and had to be done openly. Today, we are taking our sons to mission hospitals and go for them after they heal," he explains.

This, he adds, is to make sure the youths are ushered into adulthood through the counsel of the clergy as opposed to having them recuperate at home and be recruited into Mungiki.

Central Province Police Boss John Mbijiwe says it is for such reasons that security officers blocked sect members from attending a cultural fete the group had organised.

"They had planned to ‘hold prayers’ at Mt Kenya. In essence, it was a cultural devaluing congregation in the offing," he says.

He explains that it could not be allowed since "the intention and purpose ranged from massive oathing to recruitment".

Police vow to fight
But Njuguna complains that through the instigation of "culturally illiterate personalities" they blocked a noble idea where Gikuyu, Embu and Meru youths wanted to seek divine intervention from Mwene Nyaga (God) believed to reside on Mt Kenya.

Murang’a North DC George Natembeya says Mungiki have no choice but to reform and join the church.

"There are those traditional values that are safe and the Government supports them through the Department of Culture and National Heritage. But when such support is abused to progress criminal and outdated cultural beliefs that devalue the social fabric, we must execute the crackdowns," he says



Mungiki is a politico-religious group and a banned criminal organization in Kenya. The name means "A united people" or "multitude" in the Kikuyu language. The religion, which apparently originated in the late 1980s, is secretive and bears some similarity to mystery religions. Specifics of their origin and doctrines are unclear. What is clear is that they favor a return to indigenous African traditions and reject Westernisation and all trappings of colonialism. This includes rejection of Christianity, and the practice by the Mungiki of forced female genital cutting. The ideology of the group is characterised by revolutionary rhetoric, Kikuyu traditions, and a disdain for Kenyan modernization, which is seen as immoral corruption. Mungiki is often referred to as Kenya’s Cosa Nostra, Yakuza, or Kenyan Mafia due to its organization.

According to one of Mungiki's founders, the group began in the late 1980s as a local militia in the highlands to protect Kikuyu farmers in disputes over land with Masai and with forces loyal to the government, which was dominated by the Kalenjin tribe at the time. Mungiki arguably has its roots in discontent arising from severe unemployment and landlessness arising from Kenya's rapid population growth, with many disaffected unemployed youth attracted to an organisation giving them a sense of purpose and cultural and political identity, as well as income.

The founders supposedly modelled Mungiki on the Mau Mau fighters who fought British colonial rule. During the 1990s, the group had migrated into Nairobi with the acceptance of the government under Daniel arap Moi and began to dominate the matatu (private minibus taxi) industry. With the move to Nairobi came the development of a cell structure within the group. Each cell contains 50 members and each cell is then divided into 5 platoons. Using the matatus as a springboard, the group moved into other areas of commerce, such as garbage collection, construction, and even protection racketeering. Inevitably, the group's actions led to involvement with politicians eager for more support. In 2002, Mungiki backed losing candidates in elections and felt the wrath of the government. The group's activities became less visible although it still received revenue from protection taxes, electricity taxes and water taxes. They have been newsworthy for associations with ethnic violence and anti-government resistance.

Extortion and ethnic violence
Mungiki operates most extensively in Mathare, Nairobi's second largest slum, where poverty and crime are pronounced. A recent Inter Press Service article vividly describes Mungiki operations in that slum as essentially constituting a "street gang" or a criminal network that contributes to, and feeds off of, an environment plagued by a state of perpetual security crisis. Every resident of the slum pays a variable sum of money to the organization, in exchange for protection against theft and property damage. In addition, the gang "mans" public toilets, and charges a fee for use of the facilities. Such acts of extortion, along with the general lack of effective local law enforcement, have generally enraged residents of Mathare.

More than 50 people died in 2002 in clashes involving the sect and owners of matatus in Nairobi alone. In 2002 the sect was banned and in February 2003, the sect was in the news following two days of clashes with Nairobi police which left at least two officers dead and 74 sect members in police custody. In June 2007, Mungiki embarked upon a murderous campaign to instill fear by beheading matatu drivers,conductors and mungiki defectors, drawing an armed response from Kenyan security forces, who stormed the Mathare area. Some 100 people died in the operation.

Mungiki has also been linked to the murder of a family in the USA in which Mrs Jane Kurua, 47 and her two daughters were killed, the case is still under investigation by the FBI. On 12 July 2007 Kenyan authorities reported that Mungiki decapitated and mutilated the body of a two year old boy, possibly as part of a ritual.

In November 2007, a human-rights group called the Oscar Foundation Free Legal Aid Clinic-Kenya reported that in the five years up to August, 2007, Kenyan police had killed over 8,000 people in crackdowns against the Mungiki sect, with further 4,000 people still missing. These allegations were based on interviews, autopsies, and police reports. Meanwhile, the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights linked the police to the execution of 500 Mungiki over the previous five months. The police describe the reports as fictitious.

Although the group had setbacks due to the police crackdown, they took advantage of the lawlessness and mayhem resulting from the disputed December 2007 presidential elections to regroup. Many Mungiki participated in targeted violence against ethnic Luos during this period.

Factional Fighting
In 2007 Mungiki was rumored to have fractured into two groups. Dramatic murders of top Mungiki leaders continued inspite of peace gestures by Prime Minister Raila Odinga as police denied involvement in the assassinations.The Chairman and Treasurer of the Kenya National Youth Alliance (Maina Njenga faction) were gunned down at Uplands after a car chase on the Nairobi – Naivasha highway. The Kenya National Youth Alliance (KNYA) is Mungiki’s political wing.
Mr Charles Ndung’u Wagacha and Mr Naftali Irungu were said to be on their way to the Naivasha Prison, where Mungiki leader, Maina Njenga is serving a jail term.Relatives of the two KNYA officials immediately blamed police for the killings. However, police spokesman, Eric Kiraithe, denied the claims. Police say that the recent mysterious deaths of Mungiki leaders are a result of infighting between various Mungiki factions over control of funds and differing political positions. The Mungiki leadership , however, denied reports of a split within their ranks.According to relatives, Mr Wagacha and Mr Irungu were driving to Naivasha Prison to consult with Maina Njenga over possible talks with the government, proposed by Prime Minister Odinga.

The relatives said that elements in the government are using the police to ensure negotiations fail, hence the killings. At least 500 bodies of suspected Mungiki members have since discovered in thickets outside Nairobi in the past one year.

D.o.D & National Security Intelligence Services(NSIS) Involvement

In Early 2003, soon after Mwai Kibaki Come into power ,The Government gave the military's top brass three days to explain why 10 of their Land Rovers were given to the outlawed Mungiki sect in the lead up to the General Election.The Chief of General Staff,at the time General Joseph Kibwana, was asked to investigate the scandal in person and present his findings to the Office of the President on.The report was to detail the value of the vehicles, who got them and why they were disposed of. Military sources at the time said.The orders were issued by National Security minister Chris Murungaru when he met Gen Kibwana and other top generals at the Department of Defence headquarters, Nairobi.The issue of Land Rovers cropped up when the minister made his first familiarisation tour of the DoD, a month after Narc came to power.

Dr Murungaru, who is responsible for the military, reportedly expressed shock that a cartel of high-ranking officers could have been involved in subversive activities by diverting the Land Rovers to Mungiki, as detailed in an exclusive report on the scandal reported in the Daily Nation.Senior DoD officials involved in the cartel were said to have held secret talks shortly before Dr Murungaru arrived to plan their next course of action. The report and its findings have never been made public

The waki report
The commission set to investigate the post election violence has adversly mentioned the mungiki as having been used for revenge attacks.It goes aheard and states that a meeting was held in statehouse to try and cordinate the revenge on luos and kalenjins. The report states that people adversly mentioned which includes ministers,mps and prominent businessmen should face a local judiciary or the International court of justice(ICJ).

Many former mungiki members are believed to have fled the country seeking asylum in other countries as the sect does not allow defection.There were also many cases of forced initiation which went up significantly after the 2007 presidential elections.[who?]

There have been unconfirmed allegations that Mungiki has links to both the old KANU government and some MPs in the current government. In fact, because of the cult's extreme secrecy, little is known about its membership or hierarchy.

All initiates have to swear a standard oath ending with the words "May I die if I desert or reveal our secrets."

Many members state that at the height of its influence, the group could claim as many as 500,000 members and received substantial sums of money. Many Kenyans debate whether the group's influence in Nairobi is waning or is on the rise.


Anti-Christian activists assassinated in Kenya
By Adriana Stuijt Mar 5, 2009      

Two anti-Christian Mungiki-party activists were liquidated in the East African country of Kenya, a police officer in Nairobi confirmed Thursday. Youth leader Paul Oula and Adv, Oscar Kingara were shot dead execution-style near a student house in Nairobi

Ethnic-cleansing campaign by police:
Oscar Kingara was the founder of a free legal-aid agency to support arrested and jailed Mungiki movement activists - referred to as a 'criminal gang' by the Kenyan cabinet. Kingara had issued a report late last year claiming that the Nairobi police had tortured and murdered some 8,000 members of the anti-Christian Mungiki political party during an ethnic-cleansing campaign in 2002.

A Swedish human rights group who assists Mungiki Kenyan exiles also warned that in the run up to General elections last year, the bodies of hundreds of Kenyans who had allegedly been executed by police were dumped at mortuaries and forests across the country. They said the Kenya Human Rights Commission worked hard to document these killings. So far, no one has been arrested and charged with these executions neither has any investigation been launched by the government to establish who, how, where and why these Kenyans were executed, the Kenya-Stockholm group claimed. 

Mungiki leader's wife abducted, raped, beheaded:
Mungiki’s leader and founder, Maina Njenga, is serving a five year jail term on weapons and drug possession charges. Mr Njenga says police falsified the charges against him. After his arrest, the state turned Mr Njenga’s mansion in Kitengela into a police station, writes the Nairobi Chronicle. see

Killers identified as police:
Earlier this year, Njenga’s wife, Virginia Nyakio, was abducted, raped and beheaded by persons believed to be working for the state. And within a few days, two top officials of the Kenya National Youth Alliance – Mungiki’s official political party - were also gunned down by unidentified people along the Nairobi – Naivasha highway. The two were on their way to see Mr Njenga in prison. One of the dead was a brother to Virginia Nyakio’s driver. According to eye-witnesses, the gunmen in the daylight shooting first identified themselves as police.

Despise Christianity:

Mungiki, popular with disillusioned youths from the Kikuyu ethnic group, are calling for a return to traditional African spirituality. It despises Christianity as a colonial religion and often targets Christian missionaries for attacks and murders.

Membership in the millions
In the teeming slums of Kenya’s cities and in rural squatter settlements, Mungiki has grown by providing casual jobs, protection, housing and other social services.Since its beginnings in the 1980s, the group’s membership has grown to the lower millions.

And the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights also said in a seperate report that 'top political leaders working with police commanders were aware of the death squads (killing the Mungiki)'.
In 2007, cabinet minister John Michuki 'predicted' that there would be “many funerals” of Mungiki members.

The report further accuses police officers of kidnapping, torture and extortion on the pretext of anti-Mungiki operations. The commission has documented cases where individuals were hunted down and killed after paying ransom.

In the teeming slums of Kenya’s cities and in rural squatter settlements, Mungiki has grown by providing casual jobs, protection, housing and other social services.

The Mungiki are calling for a generational change in Kenya to pave way for youthful leadership. According to Mungiki, Kenya’s current leaders are remnants of, “colonial home-guards.”

It has become a formidable political and quasi-militia force that has drawn the wrath of State security machinery. Kenya’s government declared war against the group in mid 2007.

The Kenya Police force faces little condemnation for its actions. The ethnic affiliation of Mungiki has spawned fear of Kikuyu nationalism in the rest of Kenya’s tribes, especially after political and ethnic clashes earlier this year. Consequently, there has been no criticism of police tactics against Mungiki.

Mungiki’s leader and founder, Maina Njenga, is serving a five year jail term on weapons and drug possession charges. Mr Njenga says police falsified the charges against him. After his arrest, the state turned Mr Njenga’s mansion in Kitengela into a, “police station.” Kenyan police rarely confiscate property from criminal suspects.

Wife of leader abducted, raped, beheaded
Earlier last year, Njenga’s wife, Virginia Nyakio, was abducted, raped and beheaded by persons believed to be working for the state. Within a few days, two top officials of the Kenya National Youth Alliance – Mungiki’s party - were gunned down by unidentified people along the Nairobi – Naivasha highway.. According to eye-witnesses, the gunmen in the daylight shooting first identified themselves as police.

Mr Njenga has vowed not to allow the funeral of his murdered wife until the government drops all charges against him. Her body has been lying in a morgue ever since.

In April, Mungiki engaged riot police in national demonstrations to protest constant killings. Railway lines were uprooted and national highways blocked. The violence ended when Prime Minister Raila Odinga offered to negotiate with them. Police withdrew from Maina Njenga’s mansion in an apparent goodwill gesture from the government. Television footage showed the building suffering from extreme vandalism. Apparently police officers lit cooking fires on the living room floor.

The report by the Kenya National Human Rights Commission accused police of using unmarked vehicles to abduct Mungiki youth, most of whose bodies have been found in woodlands outside the capital city. Police deny they are involved in the killings. However, in parts of Central Province and in the slums of Nairobi, young men live in fear of abduction.

Public opinion in Kenya is split between those calling for dialogue with Mungiki and those insisting on tough measures. Majority of Kenyans associate Mungiki with extortion, crime and murder.

Numerous scholars and journalists have attempted to analyze Mungiki. The explanations of the Mungiki phenomenon are as varied as the number of papers and press articles about the group.

However, all agree that the Mungiki is a product of a dysfunctional society and without a change in the way Kenya is governed, Mungiki is likely to become a much bigger and dangerous phenomenon

Further information:
The Mungiki: Cult, Street Gang or Politics Force

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