NAIROBI, Kenya, Apr 28 – Mungiki leader Maina Njenga was on Tuesday arrested over last week’s killing of 28 people in Karatina, moments after the High Court freed him. Mr Njenga who served two years in jail after he was convicted for possessing a pistol and 22 rolls of bhang, had successfully contested his jail term and enjoyed minutes of freedom before policemen pounced on him as he left the court cells.
"The leader of Mungiki was arrested following credible information that he personally ordered the murder of 28 people in Chehe village, Gathaithi area of Nyeri West district last week," Police Spokesman Erick Kiraithe said in a statement.
He added: "He will also be investigated in connection with several other serious criminal offences committed by the outlawed criminal gang under his leadership."
Mr Njenga was handed a five year-jail term but appealed against the sentence, which led to his release after the Attorney General failed to defend the case.
Through Lawyer Kibe Mungai, Mr Njenga had urged the court to set him free, arguing that he was convicted on the basis of presumption and that there was no proof he possessed a pistol and bhang.
State Counsel James Mungai told the court the AG Amos Wako had instructed him not to oppose or support Mr Njenga’s appeal, leading to his release.
The spokesman of the Kenya National Youth Alliance – a political wing of Mungiki – Njuguna Gitau said they were caught by surprise following the latest development.
"The Police are not genuine, they have just arrested him moments after he was set free and now they are saying it is over the Karatina killings which occurred when he was in jail," he said in a telephone interview on Tuesday evening.
Earlier on Monday, Mr Gitau had told Capital News that the Mungiki were not involved in the killings.
The victims were killed on the morning of April 21 when Mungiki sect members clashed with vigilante group members who had been hunting them down.
The killings followed weeks of tension, mainly in Kirinyaga and Karatina districts where 15 suspected Mungiki sect members had been stoned or burnt to death by residents tired of their extortion and harassment.
It is this operation that angered Mungiki sect members who then re-grouped and duped some of the vigilantes that Mungiki were to strike on that fateful night.
Unaware that Mungiki were on a killing mission mainly targeting them, the vigilantes came out in large numbers only to be attacked by the vicious sect members who were hiding in tea bushes.
"The vigilantes were duped to come out and met their death just as they tried to attack the suspects. But we have warned residents against lynching suspects, they should leave the work of providing security to the police," he told Capital News.
Soon after the ruling his lawyer said the evidence in the initial case was fabricated.
"Secondly, the alleged drug haul is claimed to have been recovered in a cupboard of a house which we don’t know to whom it belongs. The prosecution has not shown that he is the owner of the house or if he is aware of the alleged drugs in the house. Therefore the judge ruled that there was nothing in the evidence produced that proved he was selling the drugs."
He also said he was proud of the judge’s decision to free Mr Njenga.
"The judge was categorically in the judgment there was no offence in accordance with the law. There is serious doubt as to whether what the police were alleging was actually true in the first place and the judgment speaks for itself," Mr Mungai told Capital News at the Nairobi Law Courts.
Following the move to re-arrest Mr Njenga, Mr Mungai said: "If he had committed other offences before he was arrested some time in February 2006 then he can be held lawfully for those charges but the police have never said that there was anything he had done prior to that but am not saying the police can’t surprise us."