|Eleven people died on Monday as members of the outlawed Mungiki sect went on the rampage spreading terror in Nairobi and nine other towns.
|A policeman arrests a suspected Mungiki member during their confrontation with the police in Dandora yesterday. Several people were killed. Photo/PETERSON GITHAIGA
They barricaded roads, burnt cars, disrupted public transport and blocked major highways in a brazen act challenging the law enforcers and authority, allegedly to protest against the killing of the wife of their jailed leader, Maina Njenga.
The violence erupted on the day President Kibaki convened a meeting with his top security and intelligence officials first at State House, Nairobi, and then at the Office of the President in Harambee House.
Most residents complained about “the slow response by police” as Mungiki spread terror using hit-and-run rebel group tactics.
Police spokesman Eric Kiraithe, while admitting that law enforcers had prior warning that something was amiss, said police had to weigh the situation before responding.
In Nairobi’s Eastlands, Mungiki adherents derailed a passenger train which was travelling to Ruiru to pick up commuters during the morning rush hour. Luckily, the train did not have any passengers at the time.
Four of those who died in the mayhem were Mungiki members shot dead in Nairobi. Three others were killed in Gatundu Town, one each in Ruiru and Thika towns and two were lynched in Eldoret.
Despite the police crackdown, Mungiki sect leaders managed to evade arrest and addressed a news conference at Ndunyu in Dagoretti, where they demanded Njenga’s release and an end to the arrest of their members.
The day of terror started between 4am and 5am for residents of Dandora, Mwiki, Kayole, Tasia, Zimmerman, Kahawa West, Kawangware and Komarock estates who woke up to the sound of heavy gunfire.
Those who had made it to the bus stop were ordered by rough looking young men to return to their homes as no business would be transacted until Njenga was freed.
In some instances in Dandora and Zimmerman, the men shot in the air to disperse people from bus stops.
There were no matatus on roads as Mungiki followers harassed and terrorised all in sight.
In Gatundu, Thika, Ruiru, Eldoret, Mombasa, Murang’a, Nyeri, Nakuru, Naivasha and Nyahururu, other gangs were taking charge of streets and roads and preparing to spread mayhem.
They took over sections of the main Nairobi, Kisumu highway at Gitaru near Kikuyu Town and commandeered long- distance trucks and commuter buses and stoned personal cars.
The gangs deflated tyres of trucks and threatened to set them alight before police moved in to disperse them.
Still, only a section of the dual carriageway around Gitaru could be used by motorists trying to travel to and from western Kenya because the gangsters had used trucks to block two of the lanes leading out of Nairobi, causing a major traffic jam.
In Mombasa, several youths linked to the outlawed Mungiki sect demonstrated at Uhuru Gardens where they accused the police of executing their group members.
The more than 30 members had gathered at the Gardens before holding the protest which lasted for less than 20 minutes.
Carrying placards reading “No more killings” and “We want our freedom” the youths ran across the TSS mosque demanding the immediate release of their leader before dispersing.
Njenga is serving a five-year prison sentence for having an illegal firearm.
The protests came two days after the murder of Njenga’s wife, Virginia Nyakio, and her driver. Their bodies were found in a thicket in Gatundu.
Tension remained high in Thika Town and its environs as five people died at dawn following Mungiki attacks that rocked Thika District.
A suspected Mungiki member was shot dead by police in Makongeni at 5am as they barricaded the Thika-Garissa highway.
Three bodies with knife wounds were found at Gatundu shopping centre, while another body of a suspected Mungiki member was found in Ruiru. It is not clear who killed the man.
The police shot in the air as they dispersed the demonstrators at the main bus terminus in Thika Town. Fear gripped the town forcing people to close their premises.
However, area deputy head of police Johnstone Kola declined to comment on the deaths, saying that only the provincial police officer had the authority to comment.
The police commander, Mr Patrick Mwakio, has been attending a course since last month.
At one point residents flocked supermarkets to escape the running battles between police and Mungiki supporters.
An old man escaped death narrowly when he fell near Thika roundabout as matatus drove away from the main bus terminus where a few were pelted with stones for carrying passengers.