Associated Press, Jan. 6, 2003
NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — Police have arrested 38 people in a crackdown on a religious sect involved in fighting for control of bus stops in two central Kenyan towns, the new head of the country’s internal security said Monday.
National Security Minister Christopher Murungaru, who was sworn in Monday with the other members of President Mwai Kibaki’s week-old government, said 12 people have been killed since Sunday when members of the outlawed Mungiki sect attacked minibus operators in Nakuru, 135 kilometers (84 miles) northwest of Nairobi.
Mungiki members killed nine people, and police killed two sect members while trying to restore order, Murungaru said. A twelfth person was killed Monday when Mungiki members attacked minibus operators in Muranga, 60 kilometers (38 miles) north of the capital. It was not clear whether the two indicents were related.
However, a former Mungiki member, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said the sect, which was outlawed in March, no longer existed and the deaths were a result of fighting among the minibus operators in the two towns.
Minibuses — known as matatus — are the main form of public transport in Kenya, earning owners millions of shillings a day. In the past year, Mungiki members have fought with minibus owners over control of bus stops in a number of Kenyan towns.
Mungiki is believed to have thousands of adherents, all drawn from the Kikuyu, Kenya’s largest tribe. Members pray facing Mount Kenya, which the Kikuyu traditionally believed to be the home of their supreme diety. The sect also has encouraged respect for traditions like female genital mutilation and using tobacco snuff.
Speaking at his first press briefing, Murungaru said the new government would “do everything possible” to get rid of the “Mungiki menace” and to ensure that matatu operators are not harrassed in a business vital to the Kenyan economy.