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Kenya sect leader now turns the hunted

NAIROBI, Kenya, Nov 4 – Mungiki leader Maina Njenga who was recently released from jail now fears for his life after he received threatening calls and text messages warning him that he would be killed in 30 days.

In an interview with Capital News on Tuesday, Mr Njenga said a stranger telephoned and warned him against denouncing the Mungiki, a criminal sect known in the past for beheading its victims among other criminal activities including running extortion networks across the country.

"Somebody called and said that even if I have announced an end to Mungiki, they would gang up and continue with it," Mr Njenga told Capital News at his Kitengela home.

"I was not able to know who it was, but he said they had already killed two people in Karatina. He said they have given me 30 days, after which they would finish me," he said.

Mr Njenga had not reported the matter to the police when he gave the interview, but said he would do so by Friday.

"I will inform you when I will be going to report the matter at the CID headquarters," he added.

"Some people have even been daring me to go to Kirinyaga and retaliate and hold meetings. I will not hold any meeting. They have been threatening me and saying that if I am man enough I should go to Kirinyaga .  I want to make it clear that there are no plans to retaliate, we are now for peace," he said.

The self-styled leader said:  "some powerful forces were unhappy with his recent announcement to transform Mungiki sect members into Christians."

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"There are those who have been benefiting from it (Mungiki) and are now getting frustrated, but as I said Mungiki is a thing of the past," he maintained, citing Christianity as his new way of life with his over five million members.

Below are the excerpts of the interview.

You have talked about Mungiki being a thing of the past. Does that mean you have disbanded the Mungiki?

A. I am saying Mungiki is a dead thing. We are going to organise for the burial ceremony of this organisation and it is going to die and die forever.

The things we are going to start are bible studies, and other sustainable projects like farming and planting trees.

. But even after you announced last week that it is dead, we still hear police saying they have arrested suspected Mungiki members involved in criminal activities!

A. All those people who are calling themselves Mungiki are not real Mungiki, these are criminals.  They are doing that intentionally because they want to cause chaos.  They want to build a parallel thing to show the public that the organisation is still there.  They are those people who want to disturb peace but they are not Mungiki.

Q. Mungiki is known to have membership of five million people or more, how do you plan to reach out to them and dismantle the gangs.

One way is to try and talk to these men, to try to encourage them to end all that madness. We start civic education and I want the churches to support me so that these young men can come to church and get religious education to help them so that they can do their own things without depending on any person.

Q. Being a leader of the Mungiki which has been associated with crime, murder, extortion and other criminal activities, many people are finding it extremely difficult to believe you when you say you are now saved.

A. What I would like them to believe is that my salvation is final and my salvation comes from God. God is the one who saves souls of people. They do not have to judge me, they should stay and watch.  I will not go back, I have gone to church. My work will be to preach the gospel. I am in the process of learning what I don’t know, and we are going to work together with church leaders so that we can be able to get more of my members into salvation.

How do you plan to end these extortion rings?

A. You know people have been having this notion that Mungiki are the people who collect money. Those who collect money along the roads and at the premises do not do that as members of Mungiki.  We are appealing to the government to provide leadership to these youth who are going to be saved from time to time.  Even money that was meant for the Kazi Kwa Vijana they can be used in funding these people so that they can develop their activities.

. Even after you announced that you are saved, we still hear reports from places like Kirinyaga where some eight men were arrested while taking an oath in Makuyu. Does it mean you are still recruiting?

I don’t have any association with that.  When I leave something, I leave it forever, and I don’t have to go back again.

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Q. There was a person who was beheaded and his body dumped in Eastleigh on Tuesday. Police and residents blamed it on the Mungiki. Do you have anything to say about that?

A. People should know that Mungiki is no more, those activities and killings are the work of criminals not Mungiki.

Do you ever regret forming the Mungiki, because it turned out to be the largest criminal organisation which has been blamed for murder and other serious crimes in the country?

I don’t regret forming such an organisation, but for the blames that have been there, most of them have been propaganda.  I have been in jail for five years.  I was not responsible for what was happening outside.   When you are in prison for such a period of time, you cannot be in control of people and everything that is happening out there.

Does it mean there are people who took control of your organisation and transformed it into a criminal gang?

Most of the things that I see, have gone out of hand, I am seeing activities happening, even when I was in prison, I am urging my people to stop doing criminal activities.

Q. What did you aim to achieve when you formed this organisation which has been demonised for its activities.

When I was forming Mungiki, I wanted it to be like a merry-go-round.  That was my original idea so that people can come together, farm together and pray together. The aim of the organisation was not to kill, it was not to hijack, it was meant for the good of the community.

You’ve talked of bringing your members together for income generating activities, what is your source of revenue in this new venture?

A.  I am going to work with church people and civil society organisations. I am also going to work with the government people. We are even planning to look for NGO’s to support us.  I am even planning to start creating cities so that the youth can get jobs.

Q. Tell us more about these cities.

A. One way of creating jobs to these young men is to build cities. I want to build seven wonderful cities.  I am starting with putting up a hotel here in Kitengela and later in other areas.  You know if I put up a hotel.  Someone else will come and put a shop, another person will put other facilities.

Q. You have also formed a political party, the Kenya National Youth Alliance, what do you aim to achieve? Does it have anything to do with the 2012 General Elections and your political ambitions?

A. Let us not talk about that at this point, may be you can ask Njuguna Gitau.

Q. When are you getting baptised?

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A. Definitely I will be baptised soon, but that cannot happen until such a time when I am through with baptism lessons, I am being taught about baptism and what it is all about.

Q. You are also arranging the burial of your wife Virginia and the other relatives whose bodies are still lying at the mortuary. How far are those arrangements?

A. You know when I came out of jail, I was told the mortuary fees have accumulated to Sh5 million, I am just arranging those preparations so that we can do the burial.  There is also the baptism plans for myself so once that is sorted, the whole issue will be taken care by the church.

Q. Should we expect to see you confessing about your past and about Mungiki now that you are saved?

A. I have said that I started preaching about the God of the tradition when I was only 20.  I used to say about the God of Mount Kenya but now I know about God of the Universe. That is confession.  And I want to pass that message to all my members.

Q. What are some of the challenges, you oversee in trying to reach out to them?

A. There are no challenges at all because there are churches in almost every village in the country. The church leaders will help us.

(This interview will be aired on 98.4 Capital FM on Wednesday November 4, during the popular afternoon show ‘The Jam’ which starts at 3 to 7pm)

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