Kenya women running from police during raids aimed at the Mungiki Sect based in the urban areas around Nairobi.
Originally uploaded by Pan-African News Wire File Photos
Mungiki women petition Raila ;
Story by MUCHEMI WACHIRA
Publication Date: 4/21/2008
Mothers and widows of members of the outlawed Mungiki sect released names of 59 people they claimed have either disappeared or have been executed by the police.
This was the list they had wanted to present to Prime Minister Raila Odinga on Saturday before police dispersed them.
The mothers and widows of the victims want Mr Odinga to order an investigation on police officers alleged to be involved in the executions or abductions.
Independent sources, however, told the Nation that a mechanism is being set up by the Government to start informal discussions with members of the sect, who now call themselves the Kenya National Youth Alliance.
“A team of private citizens will hold discussions with the group to ascertain their grievances and how they can be addressed,” the sources said.
In their petition, the women say their sons, husbands or brothers have, in the past year, been abducted by police officers attached to special squads. They are taken from their homes in broad daylight and are never booked in the Occurrence Book, the women claim.
Some are never seen again, they claim in their petition dated April 18.
“Some of the young people call home and report their arrests. Later, their phones go off. We demand to know where they have been taken and if they are dead, we want their bodies for burial,” the women say in their petition.
On Sunday, ODM’s director of communications, Mr Salim Lone said: “The PM has assured that all credible grievances are being looked into, and of course no grievance is greater than unlawful death or disappearance.”
He said both the KNCHR (Kenya National Commission on Human Rights) and Oscar Foundation had documented a large number of extra-judicial executions of young Mungiki suspects.
Mr Lone said Mr Odinga ‘‘will ensure that all credible accusations of unlawful killings, including those by security forces, are properly investigated.”
Kenya National Youth Alliance spokesman Njuguna Gitau Njuguna told a press conference in Nairobi they will seek an appointment with Mr Odinga this week.
“We have collected enough evidence of extra-judicial killings by police of our people, which we will discuss with Mr Odinga,” Mr Njuguna said.
Cases of sect members disappearing under mysterious circumstances have become common. A vivid case involves Kimani Ruo, whose name is on the women’s list of members who disappeared.
Mr Ruo went missing on June 21 in the grounds of the High Court in Nairobi.
He had just been set free by the High Court when plainclothes policemen struck and whisked him away.
Never seen again
Mr Ruo, who was the Mungiki coordinator in Rift Valley, has never been seen again.
Police have denied involvement in his disappearance, and sect members have expressed fear that he was executed.
“Despite the killings being highlighted in the media and by human rights organisations, police usually deny any involvement,” the women say in their petition.
“People who break the law should be subjected to the due process of the law, and should not be killed indiscriminately,” they say.
Among those killed recently, they claimed, were Virginia Nyakio Maina, wife of jailed sect leader Maina Njenga and her driver, Mr George Njoroge.
But sources said the two may have been killed by a splinter group of the sect, which was unhappy with the way Mrs Maina was handling sect’s funds.
These killings sparked off mass protests by the sect to demand the arrest and prosecution of rogue police officers, who they accuse of being behind the executions.
The women said in their petition to the PM that they would not rest until the Government acts on their demands.
Mungiki merely a symptom of a deadly Kenyan disease
Story by RASNA WARAH
Publication Date: 4/21/2008
LAST WEEK, AS I LISTENED to a television interview of Njuguna Gitau Njuguna, a spokesperson for the Kenya National Youth Alliance (KNYA), I had a déjà vu experience.
For a moment, I thought I was in the pre-election period, when ODM leaders talked of fighting for justice, human rights and equity — the very things that the articulate Njuguna claimed that the alliance was clamouring for.
Njuguna also stated that Kenya National Youth Alliance was not the political arm of the Mungiki (which he claims no longer exists) but a political organisation in its own right with a membership of some 1.5 million people.
This view is not shared by police spokesperson Eric Kiraithe, who has described Mungiki and all its affiliates as “criminal gangs” that need to be wiped out.
So is Mungiki, or shall I say the Kenya National Youth Alliance, a legitimate civil society movement, a political organisation or a criminal gang?
These questions have been the focus of much debate in the academic world. In a paper published in African Affairs in 2003, Peter Mwangi Kagwanja, a director at the Human Sciences Research Council in South Africa, argues that the Mungiki, like the Kalenjin “warriors” of the Rift Valley or the Maasai “morans” of Laikipia, are an outcome of the “ethnic clashes” that took place in parts of the Rift Valley before the 1992 and 1997 elections, when communities began mobilising to repulse attacks in the absence of state security.
However, in the process, he says, members of Mungiki got co-opted into the “divide-and-rule” tactics employed by the Government, political party leaders and the ruling elite “to employ violence covertly to undermine political opposition and counter multiparty democracy”.
In other words, Mungiki were recruited by the Government to organise violence against its citizens.
Others argue that the emergence of Mungiki must be viewed against the backdrop of Kenya’s past and recent economic and social policies that have “intensified urban decay and encouraged social exclusion”.
According to Kenyatta University lecturer Godwin Murunga, “Kibakinomics” (policies that focus exclusively on economic growth at the expense of social justice and institution-building) “has given Mungiki some social legitimacy”.
Proponents of this view argue that in the absence of any State-funded social welfare programmes or services, particularly in urban areas, Mungiki serves as a kind of welfare organisation that provides social and economic support to its paying members, who are drawn mainly from the urban underclass.
Although the Mungiki have a strong constituency among the rural landless and squatters in areas such as Londiani, Molo and Laikipia, it is essentially an urban-based movement, says Oxford University lecturer David Anderson.
THE BULK OF ITS NEARLY TWO MILLION members (of which an estimated 400,000 are women) are thus to be found in the urban slums of Githurai, Dandora, Korogocho and Kibera, among others.
Lack of police protection and extra-judicial killings have further augmented Mungiki’s membership, says Anderson, who notes that high levels of crime in slums have sprouted vigilante groups, which are viewed by many low-income groups as “an appropriate response to the problems of urban insecurity” and a form of “community policing”.
In other words, Mungiki is a product of failed state institutions and security apparatus. It has also been noted that members of Mungiki have now allied themselves to various community-based organisations and are employing “the language of rights” to gain legitimacy and acceptance in the eyes of the general public, which still views it as a murderous criminal gang that is ethnocentric and materialistic in character.
Critics of Mungiki argue that a mass movement based on exclusion of other ethnic groups, and which uses extortion, intimidation, violence and other terror tactics, cannot gain mass support or legitimacy and should be stamped out with brute force.
This view is apparently shared by Kenya’s security forces.
The problem with this violent solution to the “Mungiki menace” is that it will only cure the symptoms of a disease that is systemic, institutionalised and rooted in an unjust political, economic, social and legal system that criminalises the poor and lets the rich and the powerful get away with all types of crimes, including grand corruption.
Even if every single member of Mungiki is killed or put in jail, we as a society will still not be secure because our insecurity stems from deeper problems, such as corrupt and inefficient institutions, lack of social safety nets, poverty, unemployment among youth, inequitable allocation of resources, and an elite that is more concerned about its own welfare than the welfare of the majority of Kenyans.
While it is important to open dialogue with Mungiki as proposed by Prime Minister Raila Odinga last week, if we want a permanent solution to the Mungiki problem, we must also change the social and economic conditions that created Mungiki in the first place.
Ms Warah is an editor with the UN. The views expressed here are her own and do not necessarily reflect those of the United Nations. (firstname.lastname@example.org)