, KARATINA, Kenya, Apr 22 – Prime Minister Raila Odinga on Wednesday vowed that the government would take stern action against criminal gangs that demand illegal levies from members of the public.
Speaking at a public baraza held at the Gathaithi Primary School, the PM said the court systems should take responsibility by prosecuting wrongdoers.
“I am very sorry about what happened here the other day. I want to assure you that the government is going to beef up security here.”
“We have also given out two vehicles to ease patrols in this area. Those who live by the panga (machete) will die by the panga,” the PM said.
Mr Odinga led a high powered government delegation to Cheche Sub-location, Karatina on Wednesday following the violent murder of 29 people in fighting between residents and suspected Mungiki sect members on Monday night.
The PM called on residents not to pay levies being demanded by the outlawed Mungiki sect.
“I hear that there are people who go around demanding levies for various things; Sh200 for a wooden house and Sh500 for stone houses and even 5 percent of the dowry paid to you!”
“I want to urge you to refuse to be abused in such a manner,” he said.
This followed a two-hour closed door meeting that he chaired and which was attended by Internal Security Minister George Saitoti, Police Commissioner Major General Hussein Ali and 18 MPs from Central Province.
The mood in the town was tense with residents fearing another attack was imminent. The provincial administration had to on numerous times plead with the residents to enter the venue of baraza, amid residents’ fears that they would be marked out by sect members.
Mr Saitoti assured the residents of Karatina that the government would beef up security to deter a repeat of the killings, and asked young people to steer away from crime and look for work to do.
“Recently the government introduced the Kazi Kwa Kijana initiative. The youth should make good use of it to sustain themselves.”
“The government will take care of all the expenses. We will ensure that such an incident does not occur again,” promised Mr Saitoti.
The Internal Security Minister said that the government would not rest until those responsible for Monday’s killings are brought to book.
The PM and Internal Security Minister later made a stopover at Karatina town, where they reassured citizens of the government’s commitment to ensure their security.
The sect had regrouped in Karatina to retaliate against the killing of 14 of its members by vigilantes; after villagers, fed up with the sect’s tyranny and extortion, had decided to smoke them out.
President Mwai Kibaki on Tuesday ordered the Minister Saitoti to get to the root cause of the killings in the Mathira Division of Central Province.
The Head of State said the killings ‘were a matter of great concern’ and further ‘condemned the loss of lives’, directing that the culprits be brought to book as soon as possible.
The government confirmed that police are holding 63 people are following the violent clash.