BBC News, Jan. 12, 2002
Recent violence in Nairobi and other Kenyan towns blamed on the Kikuyu fundamentalist sect, the Mungiki, concentrates the attention of the country’s papers.
National Security Minister Chris Murungaru on Friday pledged to pursue the sect, while offering an amnesty to any who quit the group.
His pledge followed a warning by the Mungiki that they would “fight fire with fire” unless the government ended its nationwide crackdown.
The papers echo concerns that although the sect ostensibly had its origins as a movement promoting the cultural traditions of the Kikuyu, Kenya’s largest tribe, it gained its current violent power and influence when it was a politically-sponsored terror gang during former President Daniel arap Moi’s Kanu rule.
“Although it passes itself off as a quasi-religious cultural movement, Mungiki is a terror gang,” says Kenya’s largest-selling paper, the Sunday Nation.
“There is no doubt that the sect has enjoyed the support of powerful individuals who perhaps wished to use it for political purposes,” it says.
The sect “portends grave danger for the security of the people and government of Kenya”, the paper adds.
“The time has come to crush it,” it demands.
In a similar vein, the Nation’s main rival, the Sunday Standard, calls on President Mwai Kibaki’s new administration to get tough with the Mungiki.
“It is clear that this band of uncultured zealots has no respect for law nor human life,” the paper argues, referring to the killing of 22 people in the Rift Valley town of Nakuru a week ago.
“The new government must hunt them down and eradicate this evil sect. They have held us at ransom for too long,” it declares.
Despite allegations of links between Mungiki and Kanu, the party newspaper, the Kenya Times, is equally harsh in its condemnation of the sect.
“These killers in our midst… must be flushed out of their hideouts with the most deliberate calculated speed, to face the full wrath of the law for their crimes,” it demands.
The paper also highlights allegations by Local Government Minister Emmanuel Karisa Maitha that some senior local officials have been protecting the Mungiki.
“There appears to be much more than meets the eye regarding this sect,” it says, recalling comments by Mr Maitha expressing “puzzlement” that members were often freed prematurely after the police had arrested them.
“This in itself is quite telling,” the paper believes.
“The police, civic administration and remand prisons owe Kenyans an explanation; the buck must stop somewhere.”
The Standard’s leading commentator, Kwendo Opanga, calls on Kenya’s new government to deal firmly with this “damning indictment” of the Kanu government.
“Mungiki is one of the residues of the Kanu era that the Narc government must deal with expeditiously. Mungiki is Kanu’s baby that started off as a menace and then grew into a macabre blood-sucking and death-spitting monster.”
However, the Nation’s commentator, Macharia Gaitho, while agreeing that “the government has every right to use all the resources at its disposal to rid us of any criminal gangs in our midst”, says this should not be done through shoot-on-sight orders, such as those issued recently by a senior police officer.
Such orders, Gaitho says, are “a throwback to the darkest days of one-party dictatorship”.
“In enforcing the law, the police must not break the law,” he adds.