News 2008


Mungiki storm city, stage demo

March 6, 2008


By Standard Team

Hundreds of followers of the outlawed Mungiki sect staged a demonstration in Nairobi’s Central Business District, where they demanded the release of their leader Maina Njenga.

It was not immediately clear what brought out the chanting, placard-waving members of the sect in such full force only weeks after they had been repeatedly linked with an alleged plot to unleash a new wave of violence as talks in search of a political settlement out of the post-election crisis appeared to drag on endlessly.

Apart from running extortion rings largely targeting the matatu industry, the Mungiki kill in the most gruesome manner, usually by beheading their victims.

The killings, which appear as meant to instill fear, are often preceded by threats. Sometimes the gang organises sporadic attacks mounted as raids or carjackings.

It is alleged the sect enjoys high political patronage, hence the audacity with which they emerged.

Streaming into the Central Business District in such large numbers on Wednesday, the Mungiki caused a momentary security scare, catching everyone by surprise.

Police action was delayed for a frighteningly long spell as the early morning drama unfolded.

The demonstrators, estimated to be close to 3,000, poured onto several streets waving placards bearing the portrait of their leader, Maina Njenga, who is presently languishing in jail. They insist he is innocent.

A flag bearing the inscriptions, ‘Kenya National Youth Alliance’ is displayed by members of the outlawed Mungiki sect during a protest march in Nairobi, on Wednesday.

Njenga was jailed for five years last year for being in possession of a firearm and narcotic drugs.

Officials John Maina Kamunya and Njenga - now a professed Christian - had previously been freed on another charge of recruiting Mungiki members.

Mungiki "still exist"

His followers called for his unconditional release and also demanded their own freedom of association, movement, worship and right to ownership entrenched in the Constitution.

It appears the Mungiki may have taken advantage of the relocation of hawkers from the city streets to the new Muthurwa Market to mount a demonstration and pass their seemingly politically loaded message momentarily, catching police off-guard.

The Standard reliably learnt that the majority of the demonstrators were transported from Murang’a and Maragwa overnight and assembled at River Road ahead of the early morning march.

When the police finally showed up, they seemed reluctant to stop the protest. The sect members were later dispersed near the Central Police Station as they finished their protest. This was after several businesses in the city had hurriedly closed in fear of violence.

Some of the demonstrators confessed that they wanted to send a message that they "still exist".

"The Government has been boasting that Mungiki is no more. Tell them we are there and we are human beings," shouted one of the protesters.

And they warned that their mass protests would continue if their demands were not met.

Drama began when the followers, some of them sniffing tobacco, joined hawkers at Muthurwa before proceeding through Haile Selassie Avenue to Harambee Avenue that houses Vigilance House and the Office of the President.

As they filed past Vigilance House - the police headquarters - and other offices in the CBD, occupants watched in astonishment.

The demonstrators then went through Parliament Road, City Hall Way, Kimathi Street, Kenyatta Avenue before branching to Muindi Mbingu Street.

One of the placards had a colour photo of a handcuffed Njenga sandwiched between two prison warders with the inscriptions, "The Forgotten Hero."

Another placard, which was printed in gross paper read; "Restitution for the 4,500 ‘Kenya National Youth Alliance’ youth genocide victims 2007".

Others, who included women, carried a flag of the banned Kenya National Youth Alliance party.

They said they wanted to deliver a memorandum at the Central Police Station.

However, their journey was cut short when police who had been "mobilised" by then lobbed teargas canisters at them.

The sect followers were forced to disperse but later regrouped at the Globe Cinema roundabout where some of them jumped into matatus and sped off.

As police battled with them, some residents were overheard wondering how the group met and planned the demo without the police’s knowledge.

Nairobi Deputy PPO Julius Ndegwa, who went to the Globe Cinema roundabout, said the protesters took the advantage of the relocation of the traders from the streets to stage the demo.

"Whether they are Mungiki or any other group, their demonstration is illegal," said Ndegwa.

The sect leadership later issued a statement demanding, among other issues, a Truth Justice and Reconciliation Commission and the sharing of wealth.