August 18th 2017

Top Stories / National

Mungiki comeback becoming real while govt downplays its threat

What has confounded watchers of the security sector is that the government is keen to maintain a tight lid on concerns by political leaders about Mungiki’s reemergence, with security officials warning the leaders who may wish to discuss the matter.

By Free Press Reporternewsdesk@kenyafreepress.comThursday, 12 Jan 2017 16:08 EAT

Mungiki adherents at a past demostration.

Leaders from Central Kenya have sounded the warning about the increased activity by Mungiki adherents in the region, only months before the hotly-contested general elections coming up in August. Two governors from Central Kenya have expressed their concern over the sprouting of the gang which is feared by the residents of the region due to the terror they have usually unleashed on the people.

Muranga Governor Mwangi wa Iria yesterday warned that some politicians were using Mungiki members, who were now operating under a new name, to intimidate their opponents. Mungiki was called ‘Njaama’ but the new group calls itself 'Njaa Nene', shortening 'Njaama' to 'Njaa' in order to deceive security officials keeping tabs on the group’s activities. The governor said the gang members are registered at night and also transported to venues of political meetings also at night where they are used to intimidate their patrons’ opponents.

Earlier in the week, Kirinyaga Governor Joseph Ndathi also warned of the new assertiveness by Mungiki adherents in his area. “We are once again faced with the threat of having to deal with the Mungiki gang. They have re-emerged through saccos and boda boda networks and they are supported by well-known people, including businessmen operating in Nairobi,” the governor told the Daily Nation.

What has confounded watchers of the security sector is that the government is keen to maintain a tight lid on concerns by political leaders about Mungiki’s reemergence, with security officials warning the leaders who may wish to discuss the matter. Last month, the Kenya Free Press reported on the reemergence of Mungiki cartels in Nairobi estates and the difficulty junior police commanders faced in dealing with their threat they pose.

The governors' warnings drew the ire of security officers who downplayed the threat posed by Mungiki. Kirinyaga police boss Joseph Nthenge warned politicians (read Governor Ndathi) against spreading “alarming” information about the sect’s revival. “Politicians should stop saying that there is a group here or there that wants to stop their meetings. If one sees that there is a group out there to ruin their meetings they should come forward and report the matter instead of spreading the word because this will spread tension to the residents,” the Citizen TV website reported him as saying.

In Muranga, county commissioner John Elungata conceded to there being security fears from a controversial group that police officers were already investigating, but he could not call it Mungiki or an illegal gang. “We know (of) the existence of the said group after we received reports from local leaders. We assure people that action will be taken immediately they are linked with criminal activities. We cannot (for now) label them as an illegal group,” Mr Elungata said.

In Nairobi, suspected Mungiki members operate under different names in different estates such as Mathare, Kayole and Mlolongo. Security officials on the ground report of the absence of a coordinated plan to crack down on the group, and some say that top officials are determined to tighten the lid on intelligence linking the new groups to criminal activities.

As the group's threat rises, Jubilee-allied politicians have expressed concern. The Nation reported that former cabinet secretary for Devolution Anne Waiguru, who is seeking to depose Governor Ndathi, is also concerned about the group: “We are very, very concerned about the Mungiki stories. As a woman candidate this is something we want to urge the government to deal with. We want peaceful elections,” she was reported saying.

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