Mungiki deaths: The hard questions
Story by Hon. KOIGI WA WAMWERE
Published by Sunday Nation- Date: 7/01/2007
Three months ago, I visited Cameroon. While there, I asked a journalist why everything looked so lacklustre! Because the soul of the nation is dead, he told me. There, leadership plays God and people dance to its dictates like zombies.
The soul of Kenya dies too whenever we have no regard for life, however poor, or when our leadership plays God and makes us zombies that dare not criticize or reason with it.
Ironically, the soul of the nation was more alive when we struggled against dictatorship than today when we are freer. Then, we knew evil and fought against it. Today evil people do not only roam our streets free but also want to be President.
When dictatorship abolished the secret ballot and replaced it with queue voting or mlolongo, we emphatically said no but when Narc Kenya re-introduces mlolongo, we beckon dictatorship by keeping quiet.
When the other day Mr John Michuki (Internal Security Minister) complained against courts for not jailing Mungiki suspects without sufficient evidence, most likely, people’s silence and the Chief Justice’s demand for evidence paved the way for the ongoing extra-judicial executions of Mungiki suspects by police.
But are we safer if, instead of using professional police hunters to capture Mungiki wolves that kill our sheep, many clad in sheeps’ skins, we recruit police leopards that often indiscriminately kill both innocent sheep and guilty wolves merely because separating the two in court is difficult? Once police leopards taste sheep’s blood, will they again leave the sheep alone?
In the Bible (Judges 19), when a man’s wife was raped to death, he put the blame not only on the offending youth but also on the entire Israel nation for allowing the abomination. We, too, must blame our entire nation for permitting the abominable Mungiki beheadings, dismemberment of human bodies and extra-judicial executions of Mungiki suspects by police, many who could very well be innocent.
Instead of rooting out the cause of Mungiki crimes of extorting money and killing defectors, we send our police to put out fire with fire, setting into motion an endless vicious cycle of crime and counter-crime.
One day, so-called Mungiki suspects gun down two police officers on duty. Next day, police kill 35 Mungiki suspects in retaliation. When the leader of the Mungiki sect is jailed, Mungiki suspects kill 17 innocent Kenyans. Police react by killing eight Mungiki suspects and so on, ad infinitum.
Had the killings in Nairobi and Central Kenya happened under Moi or elsewhere in Kenya, condemnation would be swift and nationwide. Why the prevailing silence? Is the life of a Kikuyu, criminal or not, worth less than that of others? Are Kikuyu leaders mum about the carnage as an offering of Mungiki suspects to the god of the so-called Kikuyu rule? Should we continue waking up only to read about five, 10 or 20 Kikuyu killed and hundreds detained every day?
As the undeclared war rages, the nation lies low, falsely hoping the storm will blow over. When some people propose peace talks to end these killings, others scream: an eye for an eye, without remembering, a life for a life will leave us all dead. Already we are afraid to talk in fear of what politicians, police, Mungiki or neighbors will say about us.
Tragically, the nation is blind to the growing rebellion by unemployed youths, who were not born pathologically violent. When poor youths take guns to fight in Nairobi, Central, Coast and Rift Valley provinces, we have a problem bigger than police can solve with extra-judicial executions. Now is the time to call upon our sociologists, peace makers, religious leaders and others to give help and hope to the youth.
In saying no to a dialogue with rebellious youth, we forget, not long ago, five MPs — Mr Mirugi Kariuki, Mr Bonaya Godana, Mr Abdi Sasura, Dr Mohamed Galgalo and Mr Titus Ngoyoni — died in pursuit of dialogue with Gabra and Boran warriors of Marsabit and Turbi.
If the Government could talk to clan warriors, why not dialogue with poverty and its underpinning manifestations like Mungiki?
At the very least, the Government should bless unofficial dialogue. Always, talking is easier and cheaper than killing. And if those who fight will ultimately talk, why not start with dialogue? But how can the Government talk to criminals?
So quickly, we have forgotten retired President Moi invited Mungiki leaders to State House to talk, counsel and neutralize them and the founding President Kenyatta offered an amnesty to all armed robbers who were willing to lay down their arms and give up crime. By talking, Mr Moi tamed Mungiki and Mr Kenyatta bank robbers.
It is now President Kibaki’s turn to talk to his wayward youths or at least allow them a legal avenue of self-expression. After all, is he not their father and protector also? Mr President, talking to Mungiki is not cowardice. It is statesmanship. And maybe young men are rebelling because we don’t listen to them enough or let them speak.
I heard a police officer argue that dialogue with Mungiki is useless. They are born evil and must be eliminated. This belief is scientifically incorrect and dangerous. People are not born inherently evil. They are good or evil on account of their social environment.
Equally, Mungiki must stop cheating themselves that they can form a quasi-government or terrorize and silence the nation with their barbaric beheadings.
The nation is dying and our youths contracting a madness we must cure. What person who is not mad or thoroughly dehumanized will behead and skin the head of another or kill an innocent citizen he is paid to protect?
Re-establishing a police state where police are free to kill suspects will not end insecurity. Legally, suspects are innocent people until they are proved guilty and, however much we hate crime and Mungiki, we must know it is a crime for a police officer to execute a suspect that a court of law has not sentenced to death.
This nation must save itself by saying no to criminals and also condemn official impunity of gunning down suspects. Killing suspects will not eliminate insecurity. It will only kill democracy and rule of law. Today it is I. Tomorrow it will be you. We must not substitute gangs with police crime.