NAIROBI, Jan 13 (Reuters) – Kenya targeted a banned sect notorious for mass slum killings and running extortion rackets among transport operators on Friday, in a crackdown on crime deterring investors from east Africa’s biggest economy.
Mungiki, or “multitude” in the Kikuyu language of Kenya’s largest tribe, groups thousands of young males, many of them former street children.
Slum dwellers say it is instils fear and respect by promoting archaic Kikuyu spiritual rituals, like taking snuff, swearing tribal oaths and wearing dreadlocks, capturing the imagination of poor, jobless youths.
However, the group was banned in 2002 after rampaging followers using long knives and clubs killed more than 20 people in a Nairobi slum.
“Despite the sect having been banned however there are obvious indications that it is still alive and perpetuating its nefarious activities,” Internal Security Minister John Michuki told reporters.
“It is now time for those who instil fear and terror in Kenyans to have a dose of their own medicine. The government will protect its people, whatever it takes,” he added.
President Mwai Kibaki’s government was swept to power in 2002 landslide elections on promises to stamp out crime particularly in the capital Nairobi, dubbed “Nairobbery” for its frequent carjackings, rapes and murder.
Michuki, praised in his previous job as transport minister for introducing seat-belts and “speed governors” on public buses to limit how fast they can go, said he had instructed the police to be tough on Mungiki.
“Its mode of operation is to instil fear in members of the public by causing unnecessary mayhem, extorting money and committing murder,” he said.
“In some cases, sect members have appointed themselves prefects of public morality by prescribing what women should or should not wear,” he added.