Kenya police fire teargas to
halt gang protest
Wed 5 Mar 2008
NAIROBI, March 5 (Reuters) - Kenyan police fired teargas on
Wednesday to scatter street protests by hundreds of young men
demanding the release of a former leader of the outlawed Mungiki
gang from prison.
Police in riot gear chased the protesters through downtown
Nairobi, frightening residents still on edge after post-election
violence which killed more than 1,000 people and forced 300,000
from their homes.
"We demand the immediate release of Maina Njenga and his cars,
which were impounded by the police," a statement given to Reuters
by a rioter said.
John Maina Njenga, a former leader and founder member of the
Mungiki criminal gang, is serving a five-year sentence for
possession of an illegal firearm.
Mungiki, which means "multitude" in the Kikuyu tribal language is
notorious for beheadings, and was accused of killing hundreds of
people during the post-election violence.
Police were not immediately available to comment.
A new power-sharing deal negotiated by former U.N.
Secretary-General Kofi Annan has brought calm to Kenya, and
economic activity has resumed.
Last year, police killed at least 33 people in a crackdown on the
gang, blamed for a spate of brutal murders in Nairobi and central
According to local media, Njenga renounced the gang while in
prison, saying he had become a born-again Christian.
Mungiki began in the 1990s as a quasi-religious sect and portrays
itself as a champion of the poor.
Police say it is a large organised crime operation, which earns
money by extorting protection fees from minibus operators or
operating as political muscle-for-hire.
The gang was banned in 2002 after members armed with knives and
clubs killed more than 20 people in a Nairobi slum.