NAIROBI, April 3 – More than 200 suspected Mungiki sect members were arrested in a major swoop conducted in Nairobi on Thursday.
The operation was carried out in Kayole estate where the police clashed with supposed members of the banned sect, which has been blamed for a string of murders, robberies and extortions.
On Tuesday, residents in the area staged demonstrations to protest the arrest of a man police described as one of the sect leaders – Peter Keige, popularly known in the area as ‘Murungaru’.
The suspect was later released after nearly 3,000 residents barricaded roads and carried twigs to show their solidarity with the man.
On Wednesday, the suspect presented himself to the offices of Release Political Prisoners (RPP), a human rights lobby group which offered to take him to hospital to treat injuries he sustained in the hands of the police. He claimed he had been tortured.
“They (police) told me I was a Mungiki member as they tortured me. My hands were tied behind my back before they ordered me to lie in the van,” Keige told reporters at the RPP offices on Wednesday evening.
On Thursday, police were at it again. They embarked on a major operation that netted 204 suspected sect members.
The suspects were arrested during an operation that included a house-to-house search conducted by both uniformed and plainclothes officers.
Two of the suspects were shot and seriously wounded when they resisted arrest and instead started running away. They were taken to hospital.
Kayole divisional Police chief Leonard Omolo could neither deny nor confirm the shooting of the two suspects, only saying that the operation was successful.
“It will be extended to other areas within this division,” he added.
The Capital News crew witnessed as the suspects were bundled into police vans and escorted to the Matopeni and Kayole police stations. Others were detained at two police posts in the densely populated estate.
Though some of the residents interviewed were in support of the operation, many complained at the manner in which police were carrying it out.
Anne Waithera, a vendor in Matopeni said; “Police are doing a good job in arresting these people (suspected Mungiki adherents), but they should not harass innocent people by forcefully entering their houses and beating up people.”
Journalists witnessed as the officers went from door to door, looking for the suspects.
Many were picked up from shanty houses where they had sought refuge upon learning that the operation was underway.
Some of those arrested yelled and shouted for help from journalists, saying they were being victimised.
Others said they feared they may not be subjected to the process of justice.
“I am a victim of circumstances. I am not a member of the Mungiki sect,” a dreadlocked youth yelled from one of the police vans.
For the better part of Thursday, there was tension in the estate as police shot in the air and carried out the multiple arrests.
Business was temporarily disrupted as traders closed their shops to keep away some of the suspects who tried to hide in some of the premises.
A senior police officer involved in the operation said the suspects would be interrogated and taken to court if found to be involved with the activities of the sect.
“Those who are innocent will be released. But anyone found guilty will have to face the full force of the law,” he said.