Outlawed sect members posing as matatu crews

Lagos, Nigieria - There is a thin line between members of the Mungiki sect and genuine matatu crews.

And this is hurting efforts by police officers to rid the transport sector of the outlawed movement that extorts from matatus in the guise of offering protection.

The Nation has learnt that the sect’s members are now posing as matatu crews and route managers.

Tuesday’s shooting of five men in a matatu at Githurai 44 could prove to be the proverbial tip of the iceberg in the relationship between the sect, the industry and the police.

Kenya National Youth Alliance spokesman Njuguna Gitau said that some of the men who had been shot were members of his group, which is largely perceived to be the political wing of the outlawed Mungiki sect.

The statement by Mr Njuguna contradicted those of the public and operators on the route who had insisted that those killed were genuine matatu crews who had nothing to do with the criminal gang.

A matatu operator on another city route that has also experienced upheavals in the past, spoke to the Nation about the menace and why he does not see an end to it anytime soon.

“The kiama (council) is now stronger and has come up with new ways to avoid detection. They are collecting more money than before,” said the driver in an interview with the Nation.

According to the man, who says he has worked on the Wangige route for at least 15 years, the Mungiki sect — variously referred to as kiama, anake or njama — never really went away.

The driver said that the sect members have adopted new strategies that would make it difficult for someone without inside information to know their operations.

According to the driver, who cannot be named for his own security, members of the sect now have valid licenses and the paperwork needed to operate freely.

The police, he says, have also been roped in on the illegal sect’s activities, with their role ending when they collect their dues.

During the course of the interview at the Old Nation/Khoja roundabout, the Nation observed two policemen on patrol consult matatu crews at the bus stop before a patrol car stopped there.

According to our source, it is a daily routine and the mission of these ‘patrols’ is to collect ‘taxes.’

Sect members who collect the fees have also abandoned the scruffy looks and dreadlocks that were a dead give-away and now don clean, well-dressed looks.

The banned movement collects a total of about Sh650 from each matatu on the route every day, raking in nearly Sh195,000 daily. There are about 300 matatus on the Wangige route and several collection points for varying amounts ranging from Sh100 to as little as Sh20.