Mungiki’s Changed Objectives

In recent years, there have been increased vigilante activities across Kenya, leading to crime and violence.

Nairobi, as the country’s administrative capital and commercial nerve centre, has attracted the largest number of vigilante groups.

In the early 1990s, as the country moved into political prulalism, such groups were in vogue in capital city.

Although they were believed to be an antidote to increased crime rate, politicians hijacked them for selfish ends soon afterward.

As Kanu fought to remain in control in an increasingly hostile environment in the city, vigilante groups became pawns in the power game.

In the ensuing imbroglio, the groups engaged in extortion and violence at the behest of their political patrons.

Mungiki was one of these groups. Believed to have been started in the mid 1980s, the movement spread rapidly, attracting disillusioned and unemployed youths.

Most of the Mungiki adherents are 30-years-old or below, and the majority are believed to have been staunch Christians before.

Mungiki espouses a bigoted philosophy embedded into the Gikuyu culture. After the ethnic clashes of 1992 and the 1997 General Election, many of the displaced youths moved into the city slums.

Taking advantage of their hopelessness and disenchantment, Mungiki architects drafted them en masse. Mungiki preached a return to the cultural roots and asked their loyalists to abandon Christianity.

In the city, the group evolved into an outfit different from the prototype organisation founded at Ng’arua, Nyandarua

A Mungiki follower from Dandora says Mungiki’s objectives were watered down in the city. “When Mungiki first came to Dandora, it was a peaceful organisation that preached peace.”

He confesses that once Mungiki set up shop in Dandora, it turned into a vigilante organisation that was supposed to fight insecurity in the area. Many of the new recruits were hoodlums, who had been engaging in crime, making it a case of sending a thief to catch a thief. They earned wages, which discouraged them from being criminals.

A Dandora resident says: “Mungiki was a good outfit and we all liked them because they kept the peace, and, as long as no one interfered with them, everything ran smoothly.”

It only deviated from its mandate after politicians infiltrated it, he adds.

Another member from Githurai Kimbo concurs: “Even after they picked Githurai as one of their meeting points, the area remained safe for a long time.”

As the configuration continued, the group became entangled in a war over the control of matatu terminuses. Soon afterward, it found itself in violent battles with other vigilantes, such as the Kamjesh, which had been doing the job.

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The East African Standard
July 19, 2004

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This post was last updated: Monday, November 30, -0001 at 12:00 AM, Central European Time (CET)