, NAIROBI, Kenya, May 12 – Mungiki sect leader Maina Njenga was on Tuesday arraigned in court over the murder of 29 people last month.
His lawyer Mbiu Kamau told Capital News that Mr Njenga did not take a plea "because this is a matter that can only be handled by the High Court", and not the Karatina law courts where he was arraigned.
“This is a matter that can only be heard at the High Court. He could not take a plea,” Mr Kamau said on telephone.
Mr Njenga is now scheduled to appear before the High Court in Nyeri town on Monday, where the murder charges will be read to him.
Police Spokesman Erick Kiraithe had said there was "credible information that he personally ordered the murder" of the 29 people in Karatina last month, when residents armed with crude weapons decided to revolt against the Mungiki, a violent Mafia-like extortionist group which then re-grouped and hacked some of them to death.
Mr Njenga, who was sentenced to five years in jail in 2007 for possessing drugs and firearms, successfully appealed the sentence and was set free on April 28. He was immediately re-arrested to face fresh murder charges.
Once a pseudo-religious group of dreadlocked youths who embraced rituals such as female circumcision, the Mungiki has now fragmented into a violent criminal gang notorious for activities such as extortion, murder and harassment of women.
Lately, at least fifteen sect members have been lynched by irate members of the public in Nyeri and Karatina, leading to the 29 deaths.
The government has vowed to fight the gang by targeting its top leadership.
Internal Security Minister Professor George Saitoti last week announced that police were under strict instructions to hunt down all sect members and their leaders, to ensure the gang is ‘completely dismantled’.
He has also pledged to ‘name and shame’ notorious politicians and businessmen known to fund or support the activities of the criminal gang.
In the latest Cabinet meeting held last week, President Mwai Kibaki ordered security organs in the country to ‘act decisively and firmly against the banned sect group’, which has threatened the country’s security.