Revelations of jailed Mungiki leader
Published on May 1, 2008, 12:00 am
By Standard Team
The Government has broken unprecedented ground by formally making contact with the outlawed Mungiki sect and launching talks with its jailed leader, Maina Njenga, in a bid to tame the group’s daring excesses.
Details of how the Government has sent high-level emissaries to talk with the Mungiki leader emerged in an exclusive first media interview he granted The Standard on Wednesday at the Naivasha Maximum Security Prison.
As Njenga spoke in jail, an indicator of how the Government is changing tact in handling Mungiki was given by seven central Kenya politicians who called for his release. Former Cabinet ministers Mr Njenga Karume, Mr Joseph Kamotho, former MPs Mr Macharia Mukiri, Mr Waithaka Mwangi, Mrs Jane Kihara, Mr Daniel Karaba and Maragwa MP Mr Elias Mbau met in a Nairobi hotel from where they called for the sect leader’s release.
Njenga sounded optimistic of his possible release, saying he had told his family to stop the burial of his slain wife pending the outcome of the talks.
In a lengthy three-hour interview, Njenga made stunning revelations, saying he had met with a delegation led by former Provincial Commissioner Mr Cyrus Maina, who broke ground for talks to seek peace between the Mungiki and the Government.
Njenga said he had twice met the former Nairobi and Coast PC Maina, Catholic Priest Fr Ndikaru wa Teresia and ODM pointman Mr SK Thande.
Maina and Fr Ndikaru, the latter who is well-known to Njenga, were said to have been sent by the Office of the President while Thande, the Lang’ata Constituency Development Fund chairman, represented the Prime Minister’s office.
The first meeting took place last weekend but the initial contact was scuttled by the mysterious killing on Monday of two key Mungiki leaders on the Naivasha-Nairobi highway, Njenga said.
Giving dialogue a chance
He added that the two leaders, acting Mungiki political wing chairman Charles Ndung’u Wagacha (chairman of the Kenya National Youth Alliance) and treasurer Naftali Irungu, were heading to Naivasha prison for a second scheduled meeting between him and the Government team, which aborted after they were killed.
But despite the killing of his lieutenants, Njenga said he still held another meeting on Tuesday with the former PC and his team, in which he presented Mungiki tribulations as targets of the police.
Njenga said despite the killing of his close allies, he agreed to the Government request to call on his sect to end all forms of violence and give dialogue a chance.
“We believe our talks will bear fruit and I have directed all our followers to stop engaging in violence. Police should also stop killing innocent youths now. We want peace,” he said.
Njenga claimed he had talked to Raila on phone over the ongoing situation of alleged police brutality. He said Raila told him that the Government was now different, and he could not allow it to oppress the poor.
He said he spoke to Raila on April 21, in a telephone conversation also overheard by senior prison officers. The Mungiki leader claimed the PM assured him that justice would prevail as long as he served in Government.
A fortnight ago, the PM had made a proposal to pursue peace with the banned sect.
Njenga, who spoke in a secluded section of the prison while clad in the stripped prison uniform known by inmates as kunguru, said his two deputies who were killed had documents implicating police in arbitrary executions, which they wanted to hand to the Government team.
“But we still managed to get photocopies of the documents later and handed them to for PC Maina on Tuesday to give to the President and the PM,” said Njenga.
He blamed police for high-level the executions, including that of his wife early this month, saying they plotted to finish the group’s top leadership.
He claimed for the first time that his former lawyer, Juliana Orieyo — who was killed mysteriously late last year — was a victim of police execution.
Njenga said he wanted the whole country to know of the start and progress of the talks between the sect and the Government.
The officer-in-charge of the prison, Mr Patrick Mwenda, confirmed that emissaries had visited Njenga twice in a bid to find peace over the ongoing clashes between the sect followers and the police.
Njenga said he would pursue the path to peace offered by the Government but demanded that police be restrained from killing suspected Mungiki youths.
He spoke bitterly, with tears welling up in his eyes, of his slain wife Virginia Nyakio, and dismissed as police propaganda, claims that he may have ordered her death due to infidelity.
Njenga said he had stopped the burial of his wife, her driver George Njoroge and the two men who were shot dead on Monday to await the outcome of the talks.
“There is no need for us to bury them and allow for more such killings,” he said.
The sect leader said all the four deceased were his relatives and he was in agony. But he encouraged his followers not to fear death and to soldier on as members of the movement.
Njenga said the movement had demanded an overhaul of the leadership of the police force as “it was letting down the Government”.
He demanded that Mungiki followers be allowed to give their views at the yet-to-be formed Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission.
A composed Njenga, who was armed with three political books and a Bible, said the ongoing clash between police and Mungiki youths was political and vowed to solve it.
Njenga caressed the books — 48 Rules of Power and Nelson Mandela’s Long Walk to Freedom, both of which he said were sent to him by Raila, and Cry of the Oppressed, which he said was given to him by Fr Ndikaru.
“The war on succession in Central Kenya is behind the brutality that you are witnessing. A clique of the region’s elite is fearing the Mungiki revolution and now they are using police to suppress and oppress the youths but we will not accept that. We believe the new Government will listen to us,” he said.
He said the Central Kenya elite feared that the youths no longer supported them politically.
Njenga feared that innocent youths would continue to be killed under mysterious circumstances if the talks failed.
He said there were no divisions in the sect, and challenged anyone with parallel leadership to come out and let the public know.
He also revealed that his movement supported ODM in the last General Election and the sect feels it is now part of the Government.
Njenga went ahead to urge Embakasi constituents to back an ODM candidate in the coming by-election, saying the late area MP, Mugabe Were, had been his personal friend.
The Central Kenya leaders who supported Njenga demanded his release so that he could lead talks between the sect and the Government.
“We ask for the release of Maina, even if on bond, so as to lead a delegation to see the PM. The PM has assured them that he would address their plight. That’s the way to go if we want to end the crisis,” he said.
“Mr (Raila) Odinga has shown the wise way of ending the crisis. This is the only sure way of striking a compromise between the sect and Government. Bullets and guns will not end it,” said Karume, the immediate former Defence minister in Kibaki’s Government.