NAIROBI, April 14 – Suspected Mungiki sect members staged countrywide demonstrations on Monday and paralysed transport to protest the killing of the wife and driver of their founding Chairman Maina Njenga.
As a result, at least 12 suspects were gunned down by police across Nairobi, Central and Rift Valley provinces after the illegal group launched a massive pre-dawn protest that saw them burning cars and blocking traffic.
There were two civilian casualties. One occurred in Thika, where a man was shot dead by suspected sect members at 3 am.
Central Provincial Police chief Philip Ndwiga said six people believed to be the sect associates had been arrested in connection with the killing.
“We have already arrested six of them and the operation is still going on,” he said.
In Nairobi’s Makadara estate a man was hacked to death overnight Sunday and his mutilated body recovered early Monday morning.
In Naivasha, police shot and killed a suspected Mungiki sect member who was part of a group that had blocked the main highway to Nakuru.
Two other suspects of the banned sect were shot dead in Eldoret.
“The two were part of a group that attempted to demonstrate to town. They were armed with pangas and other weapons,” said Munga Nyale, the area divisional CID chief.
In Nairobi’s Kariobangi estate, two young men said to be sect members were also shot dead when they were found blocking the road.
Another suspected outlaw was killed on Kirinyaga Road in downtown Nairobi, while two others were killed in both Ruiru and Murang’a.
At least 30 cars were burnt in Nairobi, mainly Embakasi, where public service vehicles and private cars were set ablaze.
“I cannot believe my eyes. I bought this matatu three weeks ago. Now it has been burnt. How will I pay the loan,” James Kamau, a trader said.
Kamau was among several other traders who woke up to a rude shock, finding their vehicles reduced to shells. Many of them were parked at fuel stations on Outering Road.
A fuel attendant at one of the stations said he saw more than 300 armed youth who vandalised the cars and threw petrol bombs at them.
“I ran for my dear life and that is why I am still alive,” he said.
Embakasi divisional Police chief Julius Muthuri said police were caught unawares and could not respond in time.
“It is so unfortunate what has happened but we are now firm on the ground,” he said.
And even as traders and city residents struggled to come to terms with the outcome of the violence, the gang leaders issued a statement and claimed they ‘were fighting for their rights’.
Njuguna Gitau, the spokesman of the Kenya National Youth Alliance, a political outfit of the outlawed gang, appeared on a local television channel and said Monday’s atrocities were just ‘a beginning’.
“I wish to confirm that we are the ones who called for the countrywide civil disobedience, and mass protests. We shall not relent. We are not cowards and the police should know that well,” he said in a statement.
Incensed by the utterances, Police Spokesman Erick Kiraithe hurriedly convened a press conference and warned that stern action would be taken against the gang.
“Those issuing such statements must know that we are hot on their heels. We are firm on the ground and the full force of the law shall be applied,” he said, while dismissing allegations of police brutality and the alleged execution of Njenga’s wife and driver.
“This is a professional force, we cannot go to the extent of using machetes to kill any person as alleged by the group. Those are outrageous remarks,” he said.
The bodies of Virginia Nyakio and her driver were found dumped in Gakoe forest in Gatundu on April 8. They had gone missing for three days.
Family members said the two were last seen on Lang’ata Road in Nairobi.
“We are investigating the twin murders and anyone with credible information should volunteer to assist us,” Kiraithe said.
For the better part of Monday, transport was paralysed in Nairobi’s Zimmerman, Dagoreti, Kayole, Dandora, Komarock, and Shauri Moyo estates.
“We don’t know what is happening and surely the government should do something. That’s why we have the police and the intelligence unit,” a businessman in Embakasi carped.
Nairobi Provincial Police Chief Njue Njagi said anti-riot officers had been deployed to the affected areas to quell the unrest.
“We are doing everything possible to stop the riots,” he said firmly.
In Nakuru, two vehicles were set ablaze in Bahati by about 200 sect members who barricaded the Nakuru-Nyahururu Road.
The rowdy youth also lit bonfires on some streets in the town before they were dispersed by anti-riot police.
The sect members also blocked roads in Naivasha town bringing activities there to a standstill.
A senior police officer told Capital News that security had been beefed up at the Naivasha Maximum prison, where the imprisoned leader is.
Njenga is serving a five-year jail term after he was convicted of being in the illegal possession of drugs and a firearm.
About two months ago the sect members staged daring demonstrations twice in Nairobi’s central business district, demanding their leader’s release.