Shadowy Mungiki is feared by Kenyan churches and government

February 11, 2003

Kenyan church leaders, the media and legislators have joined forces in calling for the government to halt the violent actions of Mungiki, a shadowy outlawed group said to have links to traditional faiths. The group has been blamed for at least 20 killings in Kenya since the beginning of the year, all in brutal attacks at taxi ranks and bus terminals. The latest was the slaying and burning of a police officer in Nairobi's Dandora Estate.

Mungiki supports female circumcision, a practice of mutilation abhorred by churches and humanitarian groups. Kenyan media reports say Mungiki recruits members from Christian churches and that some of its leaders have converted to Islam, although Muslim leaders have also condemned the group's violence.

In March last year churches in Kenya were incensed by the slaying of 24 people, attributed to Mungiki, and carried out in a Nairobi slum area. People were hacked to death apparently indiscriminately in bars, streets and homes.

The Anglican archbishop of Kenya, the Rev. Benjamin Nzimbi, told ENI the latest killings attributed to Mungiki 'means the government has a duty to stop the taking of innocent lives.'

Mungiki claims a membership of around 2 million. The National Council of Churches of Kenya and a number of human rights agencies say its membership comprises mainly unemployed young people living on the fringes of society.

Nzimbi told ENI that more than two years ago the churches had commissioned a study to find out the origin, aims, and purposes of the organization. But the churches found the study inconclusive, Nzimbi said, explaining that more work was needed on it. 'We expect something very soon,' he said.

The formation of Mungiki, which some people see as a sect, remains a mystery to many Kenyans, and statements made about it are often contradictory. Some reports say the group may have started in 1988 with the aim of toppling the government of the then president, Daniel arap Moi, who was on 27 December voted out of power along with his Kenya African National Union party. Other analysts have said that some young Kenyans who cannot find a secure place in present-day society see Mungiki actions as akin to the bloody Mau Mau rebellion that fought British colonial rule, used ritualistic secret oaths and often engaged in brutal actions against outsiders.

Related Topics: