Kenya: Mungiki, Govt Meeting Aborts
The East African Standard (Nairobi)
30 April 2008
Posted to the web 30 April 2008
The killing of two top Mungiki leaders has sent the sect into a panic and forced its members to abandon a high-level reconciliatory meeting that had been planned for Naivasha on Tuesday.
The meeting would have been the first formal contact between members of the banned sect and the Government, as proposed by Prime Minister Raila Odinga two weeks ago.
Although it was not clear who had convened the meeting, a senior Catholic bishop and a former Provincial Commissioner were expected to meet top Mungiki leaders and listen to their grievances. This would then have been passed on to the authorities.
Police confirmed to The Standard that the Catholic bishop and former PC were to attend the Naivasha meeting, which other sources said was an attempt by the authorities to reach out to the proscribed sect.
But following the Monday killing of the two Mungiki leaders on the Nairobi-Naivasha Highway, the sect’s leadership immediately saw a red flag over the Naivasha retreat. They suspected that the ‘meeting’ could be a set-up to arrest or shoot them dead.
The two leaders – acting chairman of Mungiki’s political wing, the Kenya National Youth Alliance, Charles Ndung’u Wagacha and treasurer Naftali Irungu – were executed in cold blood in broad daylight as they sped towards Naivasha Maximum Prison.
They were felled by bullets from unknown gunmen in a Hollywood-style shooting near Uplands Shopping Centre after being trailed from the Limuru area at about 1pm on Monday.
But families of the slain men pointed an accusing finger at the police, saying they had previously received threats against their children’s involvement in sect activities.
Before the meeting aborted, the first batch of the Mungiki representatives had already arrived in Naivasha town and proceeded to visit their national leader, Maina Njenga, at the Naivasha Maximum Prison.
But after the highway killings, the members chickened out, with their spokesman saying they could not go on with the meeting because Government agents were after them. The official said they were consulting from their hideouts before they could “come out again”.
There were reports that the bishop and the former PC managed to visit Maina Njenga at the Naivasha prison, where they held a lengthy meeting.
That notwithstanding, top Mungiki leadership has discounted theories that the ongoing killings and abductions were being staged by a renegade faction.
Njenga – who spoke through a trusted aide – and former leader-turned-pastor Ndura Waruinge said there were no internal divisions amongst them, saying the sect leadership was intact.
The sect spokesman, Mr Njuguna Gitau Njuguna, also denied the claims, terming them police propaganda. He said police were doing so to avoid answering questions on those behind the mysterious killings.
Waruinge said he was confident, from his past experiences with Mungiki, that the sect was still united.
“I was there and I know what Mungiki is. They are united and loyal and will not be divided. Those who are trying to drag my name into the saga are lying,” said Waruinge.
Police have repeatedly said that emerging divisions within Mungiki were behind the recent killings targeting their top leadership.
The divisions revolve around the control of the sect leadership and resources after Njenga was jailed for five years over drug and firearm possession.
Investigators say two camps, one led by Njenga and the other by Waruinge, are fighting each other, hence the recent killings.
Waruinge called The Standard newsroom to deny the claims, saying he had left the movement long time ago.
“I think that is propaganda being spread by the police. Why can’t they arrest those killing other people then if they think there are camps? I am not in the movement any more and I do not think the theory is true,” said Waruinge.
Waruinge announced two years ago that he had quit the movement to preach the word of God.
On his part, Njenga said Mungiki was still intact and determined to soldier on. He said the split theory was being fronted by the police to cover up their illegal activities.
“This is a religious group with rules to be followed and there cannot be two camps at all. We are united and peace loving people,” said Njenga.
Other Mungiki leaders said at least 20 of their followers have been killed since January and blamed police over the same.
The Monday killing of Mungiki leaders was the second high-profile death to plague the sect leadership in recent months. The bodies of Njenga’s wife – Virginia Nyakio and her driver George Njoroge – were found dumped in a forest in Gatundu on April 9.
Their killings sparked violent riots that saw 14 people killed and public transport paralysed in several parts of the country for almost a week.
The slain Wagacha was the elder brother of Nyakio’s driver, Njoroge, who is yet to be buried. The killing also came days after two other Nairobi leaders went missing from their areas of residence.
Ndung’u’s parents accused the police of killing the two and demanded justice.
“I know they are the ones who killed my sons. I’m sure of that because they have been warning me that my sons will be killed if they continued to follow Mungiki doctrine,” said Ndung’u’s mother Mrs Esther Wanja.
Ndungu’s father, Mr Joseph Wagacha, a retired Chief Inspector of Police, said he believed police had a hand in the killings.
“Why can’t they arrest them and take them to court if they know they are Mungiki members?” posed senior Wagacha.
The parents said they did not know how they would take care of eight children left behind by the deceased brothers.
Wanja said four police officers had visited their Mai Mahiu home last year, and warned her that her sons would be killed if they did not abandon the sect.
The parents, who visited Lari Police Station to view the vehicle Ndung’u was killed in, however refused to comment when asked whether or not their sons were followers of the banned sect.
The mother of five said she knows the police officers were from Nairobi because they had visited her home to demand logbooks of their vehicles.
She said her late son (Ndung’u) had called her on Monday morning to inform her that they were headed for a meeting with the former PC in Naivasha but did not elaborate. She was later called to be informed that her son had been shot dead alongside his friend.