Massive Mungiki Manhunt in Kenya

Published on Tuesday 21st April 2009

Three students and an 83-year-old man are the latest victims of a vigilante group moving through villages in Central Province hunting for suspected Mungiki sect members.

The three - two form two students and a fourth former from Mutito Secondary School in Kirinyaga District - were snatched from their homes on Sunday night and slashed to death before their bodies were dumped on the side of a road. The old man was found hanging from the rafters of his home.

The three students were killed after one of the vigilante group members identified them as being among a group o f young people who were taking an oath at Kamwiru at the weekend.

The 83-year-old is believed to have been administering the oath. He was found hanging in his home yesterday morning. A suicide note he left said he feared for his life because the people he was trying to bring together had now turned against him.

So far, at least 14 people have been murdered by a self-styled mob which started its anti-Mungiki operation a fortnight ago. Kirinyaga District Commissioner Osman Warfa has warned the sect will divide the community in Central Kenya and promised to provide security to any sect members who defect and assist the police.

Yesterday, an estimated 2,000 members of the vigilante group combed six towns in Kirinyaga to flush out suspected sect members.

Chanting slogans "Mungiki Must Die!" and "Mungiki Lazima Waende" (Mungiki Must Go), the group gathered at Kagumo town in Kirinyaga central, passed through Kiandai in Ndia constituency to Kagio and Ngurubani in Mwea to Kutus in Kirinyaga central and back to Kerugoya. They held a meeting at which they vowed to continue their operation until they rid the district of sect members.

The vigilante spokesman, James Maina, said apart from the matatu extortion rings, the sect had forced residents to pay protection fees.

Residents have, since August last year, been forced to pay Sh15 a day for semi-permanent homes, Sh100 for timber-structures and Sh800 for permanent stone buildings. Those residents who do not pay are raided, their homes broken into and property stolen, or even killed.

Many of the motorcycle taxi owners became angry when the sect members decided to levy a Sh300 per person a day "fee." The boda boda operators, like other residents, were expected to deposit their "fee" at strategic places at Kerugoya Stadium.

"Several holes had been dug and a plastic bag was inserted inside and held down by a stone. You were required to stuff money inside the bag and walk away. Some of the sect members are located at strategic places within the area and take note of all the people who have paid. Nobody dares steal from them," a boda boda operator, who joined yesterday's operation, said.
Police joined the convoy of vigilantes riding motorbikes at Kagio and followed them as they moved through the different towns. Five young men who claimed to be sect members gave themselves to the police after the assurance that they would be given protection.

At Ngurubani, the vigilantes brought traffic to a standstill as they blocked all entries and exits to look through documents and question matatu touts and drivers.

They claimed a majority of the drivers and touts of the Kukeba matatus are sect members. They arrested four of the touts and handed them over to the police led by the Kirinyaga deputy police boss Patrick Oduma and five reinforcements from Sagana police. Ngurubani area DO1 Daniel Mlevu abd three APs had a rough time trying to control the traffic jam caused by the vigilantes.

"We will continue our operations until we make the sect powerless. Be warned that if any of them resist, they will see more blood flow," was the message Maina and his vigilantes gave at each of the more than 24 homes they visited.

He claimed that they had been allowed to carry out the operation by the police.

"They [police] have given us a paper to say they are supporting us. They are helping us. They have given us recognition and they know what we are doing and are behind us," Maina said at the end of the operation yesterday.

Last week, area police boss Herbert Khaemba told the vigilante group that the police were unwilling to take any action because of accusations that they were carrying out extra-judicial killings.

Oduma said nobody had been arrested in connection with any of the deaths.

"The matter is being treated as a lynching and therefore we are not looking for any suspects," he said.



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