We are not talking to Mungiki: Saitoti
Story by BERNARD NAMUNANE
Publication Date: 5/14/2008
The Government on Tuesday seemed to issue contradictory signals on the Mungiki sect with a statement in Parliament saying there would be no negotiations with the outlawed group.
Mothers and wives of Mungiki followers flee after they were dispersed by police as they sought audience with Prime Minister Raila Odinga last month. Yesterday, Prof Saitoti ruled out talks with leaders of the outlawed sect. Photo/FILE
The statement by the Internal Security and Provincial Administration minister, Prof George Saitoti contradicted public appeals by Prime Minister Raila Odinga for talks with the controversial sect.
However, Prof Saitoti admitted the gravity of the security problems posed by Mungiki and other illegal militia groups and stated that new ways were being sought to eliminate the threats.
Wave of terror
During his installation as Prime Minister Mr Odinga called for talks with Mungiki, a Central Kenya-based movement that has caused a wave of terror in the province and adjacent regions in the Rift Valley and Nairobi.
Shortly afterwards a group of former and present MPs from Central Kenya led by former Defense minister Njenga Karume called a press conference to call for negotiations with the group an release of its leader Maina Njenga who is serving jail term.
The government has since not reacted to press reports that emissaries, including some clergymen and former senior civil servants, have been quietly despatched to talk to Mr Njenga in jail.
The Mungiki leader claims to have been visited by emissaries from State House, the Office of the President and the and the Office of the Prime Minister, and in return has called on his followers to cease their violent activities.
Apart from Mungiki, the government has previously classified 20 organisations in various parts of the country as illegal outfits and warned their members to disband them or face the full force of the law.
They include the Sabaot Land Defense Force in Mt Elgon District currently being battled by the unprecedented deployment of a Kenya Army unit.
Others are the Baghdad Boys in Kisumu, Chinkororo in Kisii, Taliban in Nairobi and Mulungunipa based in Kwale, among others.
Mr Njenga has named a Catholic priest, a former senior provincial administrator and a Nairobi political activist among those he alleges to have approached him on behalf of the government.
Mr Odinga has also acknowledged that some sort of negotiations were taking place, likening Mungiki to a movement born of injustice and inequality in Central Kenya.
Other who have supported the calls for talks with Mungiki include church leaders form the region led by Nairobi Catholic Archbishop John Cardinal Njue.
In Parliament on Tuesday, Prof Saitoti acknowledged proposals by Mr Odinga and others for talks with Mungiki, but avoided being drawn into comments on what the Prime Minister has said.
He insisted that the law of the land would remain supreme and that he would not compromise on the security of Kenyans and their property. “It is true that we have to admit that we are dealing with a complex matter of not just one group. It is an issue of dealing with a plethora of militias. The only thing as a minister that I will not compromise on is the security of Kenyans and their property,” he said.
Challenged on the proposals for dialogue floated by the Prime Minister, Prof Saitoti sought refuge in the House rules that do not allow debate on Member without a substantive motion, but he he was reminded by deputy Speaker Farah Maalim that the issue at hand was the Government policy on Mungiki and other armed militias.
“We are not discussing the Prime Minister or any other Member. What we are seeking is the Government policy on Mungiki,” said Mr Maalim.
MPs Bonny Khalwale (Ikolomani, New Ford-K), Charles Kilonzo (Yatta, ODM-K), Kiema Kilonzo (Mutito, ODM-K) and Lucas Chepkitony (Keiyo North, ODM) had pressured the Internal Security minister state whether or not the Government had changed its position on Mungiki.
They also argued that if there to be negotiations with Mungiki, the same approach the same approach should be used in dealing with the Sabaot Land Defence Forces (SLDF), the militias who executed post-election violence in the Rift Valley and other armed gangs like Chinkororo, Taliban and Jeshi la Mzee.
“There is confusion. The Prime Minister Raila, who is his boss, has said that the Government should negotiate with Mungiki but the minister has said No. Can he make it clear whether the Government will negotiate with Mungiki and if that is the approach that has been adopted, they should also let the Sabaot Land Defence Forces and the Rift Valley youth who part in the post-election violence choose dialogue as the way out. Or are you trying to tell us that you are in different governments?” posed Dr Khalwale.
Prof Saitoti stated that they were serving the same government with the PM and was not contradicting the statement by Mr Odinga. His grounds of argument, he said, were driven by the dictates of the law and vowed to pursue it.
“The fact that many people have talked about it shows we have a complex matter that requires serious reflection without compromising security. It has to be addressed in a well thought manner and considered way and that is what we are doing by seeking to get to the root problem,” he said.
The matter arose as he was delivered a ministerial statement on the killings two suspected Mungiki leaders, Charles Wagacha and Naftali Irungu, on the Nairobi/Nakuru Highway near Lari two weeks ago. The statement was requested last week by Maragwa MP Elias Mbau (PNU) who was not in the House.
In his statement, Prof Saitoti said that the two, according to information provided to police by the public, were killed by a group of five people in two cars who blocked their car near Lari and sprayed them with bullets.