WorldWide Religious News

Africa - Mungiki

Kenya police tear-gas banned sect
("BBC," April 18, 2008)

Nairobi, Kenya - Police in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, have fired tear gas at women belonging to the outlawed Mungiki sect.

They had been trying to deliver a petition to new Prime Minister Raila Odinga about their grievances.

The Mungiki called off a week of deadly protests on Thursday after Mr Odinga appealed for dialogue as he was sworn in to head a coalition cabinet.

"Let us stop killing one another," he said, promising to take steps to unite Kenyans after the post-poll crisis.

The Mungiki, mainly drawn from President Mwai Kibaki's Kikuyu ethnic group, run transport rackets in the capital and are likened to Kenya's version of the mafia.

Ethnic tensions were behind much of the chaos that erupted after December's disputed presidential poll.

Some 1,500 people died and 600,000 fled their homes in the violence.

Mr Odinga and Mr Kibaki signed a deal in February which prescribed an equal share of power.

Patrols

"We have been to hell and back. We must preserve the sanctity of our nation and remain united but our unity cannot be based on words and goodwill alone," Mr Odinga said on Thursday.

The women say the petition was being delivered to his party's headquarters in response to Mr Odinga's speech.

Earlier, Mungiki spokesman Njuguna Gitau Njuguna said the group wanted to give Mr Odinga time to address its grievances, which include the release of its jailed leader Maina Njgenga.

The violence this week, which has killed 14 people, was sparked by the death of the Mr Njgenga's wife, who was found beheaded last weekend.

The BBC's Noel Mwakugu in Nairobi says dozens of policemen are patrolling the streets of Nairobi in anticipation of chaos ahead of her burial.

On Thursday night, police spokesman Eric Kiraithe warned that they would apprehend anybody who attempted to hijack the funeral to commit a breach of peace.

"We have information that people wanted by police for serious crimes have planned to assemble during the burial to further illegal activities anyone who attempts this will be arrested," Mr Kiraithe said.

The Mungiki is angered by the police action and want a special unit set to counter their activities to be disbanded.

Last year, more than 100 suspected sect members were killed in a police crackdown after a series of grisly beheadings blamed on Mungiki.