Vigilantes, Mungiki brace for war

Nairobi, Kenya - The ghosts of the outlawed Mungiki sects have returned to haunt some parts of central Kenya.

Since the release of the sect leader Maina Njenga, tension has heightened in parts of Nyeri and Kirinyaga districts. Njenga has since his acquittal embraced Christianity. Last Sunday he urged Mungiki sect members to follow suit.

However, CCI investigations established that vigilante groups, which were outlawed by the Government after the killing of dozens of people in the area, have resurfaced. They are now readying themselves to offer protection to the villagers against attack from Mungiki.

Members of Mungiki are also becoming bolder, threatening to launch retaliatory attacks following the lynching of their colleagues at Ihwagi village in Mathira a fortnight ago.

Real threats

Ephraim Murimi, a member of a vigilante group in Mukinduri area, Kirinyaga, said local residents have not been sleeping as they wait for Mungiki to attack.

"We have mobilised our members to be extra vigilant. Most of us are patrolling our village at night because we don’t think that the police are providing adequate security," said Murimi.

He said members of the vigilante group were aware that the Government had outlawed their operations but they had been forced by circumstances to continue patrolling their areas.

"We know what these boys (Mungiki) are capable of doing. So many times they have outwitted the police but at least we the locals know how they operate," said Murimi.

Already, the might of the vigilantes has been exhibited by the recent killings of two youths in Ihwagi village in Mathira on suspicion that they were members of the sect.

The two, one of them a secondary school student, were brutally executed by members of a vigilante group in an area near Gathaithi village in Mathira where 29 people were massacred on April 21.

The two were flushed out of their houses by a gang of about 60 people who tied their hands from behind before chillingly slitting their throats open and leaving them by the


Charles Muriuki, 22, a form two student at Gikumbo Secondary School and Patrick Kamau Mbogo, 27, were killed by members of a vigilante group on suspicions that they were members of Mungiki.

In yet another incident in Kirinyaga, a suspected Mungiki member was brutally attacked by a mob before police arrived and saved him.

Francis Wanjohi Gathanji, who is currently undergoing treatment at the Kerugoya District Hospital, told CCI from his hospital bed that he was too terrified to return to his home in Ndiriti Village.

"They were determined to kill me. I am no longer a member of the sect but my attackers refused to heed my pleas," said a heavily bandaged Gathanji.

Gathanji said he knows his attackers but police were reluctant to arrest them.

Two days after these attacks, sect members circulated leaflets in several parts of Kirinyaga warning of imminent attacks

The leaflets, which are written in Kikuyu, have caused

panic in the area that was the epicentre of a major conflict between sect members and vigilante group members, leading to the death of dozens of youths.

Killing for honour

The leaflets, which were distributed a fortnight ago, warned that the sect would get a number of human heads as an honour to their leader Maina Njenga, who was recently released from prison. Njenga was facing 29 counts of murder relating to the killings in Mathira. The Attorney General terminated the case against him.

Residents woke up only to find the leaflets, which were distributed at village centres and on roads, warning them to brave for a strike anytime.

The leaflets partly read: "Ithui andu a mungiki Kirinyaga o handu yaruma, nitwihitite ati, kwirihiria no nginya twirihirie maunduini maria twikitwo ni andu a Kirinyaga (We members of Mungiki from every corner of Kirinyaga have vowed that we must revenge on the ills that have been meted on us by people from the area.)"

The notes are addressed to the residents of such areas like Kagumo market, Karaini, Kangaita, Ndiriti, Kiamaina Gatwe and Kerugoya town.

Others were residents of Kibingo, Mukinduri, Kiawaruguru, Kianjege, Kagio, Baricho, Kibiru, Kiania, Kabonge Kamuiru and Gathiti.The leaflets warn that Mungiki will get several heads from these villages as a statement that they have received their leader, Njenga, back from prison.

But even as this happens, the police are still in denial that the vigilantes are regrouping.

Kirinyaga acting OCPD Mr Patrick Oduma denied the existence of the vigilantes and said police were on top of things.

Oduma said police will not allow any act of lawlessness associated with the vigilantes on suspected members of Mungiki. He declined to comment further on the issue.

The CCI team visited Kagumo market, Kangaita, Mukinduri, Ndiriti, Kiamaina, Gatwe and Kerugoya town where members of different vigilante groups confessed that they were on high alert to prevent a possible Mungiki retaliatory attack.

Government’s failure

Tension that has been building in these areas has made it almost impossible for the locals to open up to strangers.

The Mungiki topic is discussed in low tones and the villagers would not open up to persons unknown to them.

In Kagumo market, the area where the notorious kangaroo court nicknamed The Hague was based, the vigilantes have a list of the names of the perceived trouble makers.

The Hague is the are where vigilante groups would hold mock trial before mercilessly killing those suspected to be members of Mungiki.

"We know their ringleaders and police have this information. We are daring them to carry out an attack and we will be on their doorsteps," said Paul Mithamo, a village elder in Kagumo.

He said the vigilante group had been strengthened as a result of failure by police to protect the locals from the Mungiki menace.

"We had to take law in our hands since the Government seems reluctant to get rid of these dangerous boys. They may outlaw our operations but we can’t sit and watch as our people are butchered," Mithamo said.