[Documents menu]  Documents menu

What Makes Mungiki Tick?

By Muthui Mwai, The Nation (Nairobi), 23 October 2000

Nairobi - Singing traditional songs and occasionally snuffing tobacco, the group of about 400 marches on - match boxes and petrol in hand. Ahead lies the Freemasons building on Nyerere Road, Nairobi.

"We will burn it down", they chant. "It promotes devil worship." A few weeks earlier, the object of their fury was the Muranga Police Station... and before that the Nyahururu Station, where scores of sect members were locked up for unlicensed assembly and, allegedly, conducting illegal oaths.

When the sect is not making headlines for advocating female circumcision, it is professing a mass conversion to Islam. No wonder Cabinet Minister Joseph Kamotho recently urged the churches to help counter it.

Said Kamotho: "Time has come for the Church to condemn the practices of this sect which is promoting outdated cultural beliefs."

Meet the Mungiki sect. It is purpotedly a revolutionary group which "will realise its goal in two years".

The recent merger of its members with Muslims, says national co-ordinator Ibrahim Ndura Waruingi, "will hasten the realisation of this goal."

"Islam means submission to God, while Mungiki means the masses. In two years, we will have converted Kenya or at least three quarters of it to Mungiki," he says.

He adds that Mungiki has about four million members in the country and hundreds of co-ordinating units from the national to the locational level.

"Our aim is to spearhead African socialism. We have a duty to mobilise and bring economical, political and social changes in society so that the masses can control their destiny."

Other goals are to fight against bad governance and social ills facing the society and to establish a just nation.

Regarding the Freemasons building, Mr. Waruingi earlier said: "It is only a matter of time. The halls must go... they must be destroyed."

This was a declaration that infuriated security officials at a time Internal Security Minister Marsden Madoka had told Parliament the Government would tame the sect.

Question: Why doesn't Mungiki seek registration?

Answer: "We will never do that. We do not need to be registered by (this) Government which only abets poverty, insecurity, killings and social instability."

Mr. Waruingi was reacting to Nairobi Provincial Commissioner Cyrus Maina's Moi Day challenge that the sect seeks registration "if it is transparent and has nothing to hide."

There are similarities between the pre-colonial Mau Mau Movement and Mungiki, Mr. Wairungi says.

"We (Mungiki) have Mau Mau blood in us and our objectives are similar. The Mau Mau fought for land, freedom and religion... and so do we."

However, he says, the Mau Mau did not achieve their goals. "Kenya today is controlled by the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, the Americans, the British and the Freemasons. It can't initiate its own development and has sold all its properties to Westerners in the name of liberalisation."

He describes pluralism as an American ideology which does not guarantee African development. "It has only promoted tribalism, nepotism and individualism, rather than socialism."

Mr. Waruingi blames the present system for allegedly helping the spread of Aids and devil worship in Kenya. He denies that his movement perpetrates insecurity and administers illegal oaths.

Advocates of the materialist theory claim that revolutions are not created in people's minds but out of adverse socio-economic conditions. And on this basis, they argue, the Mau Mau liberation war was started in the early Fifties by the Kenyan peasantry after it became disillusioned with the colonial oppressors and the African elite, who were compromised by the colonists.

Fifty years later, Kenya's history seems set to repeat itself. Mungiki - a shadowy movement - has been organising itself quietly and systematically as the Government downplays its threat.

Like the materialists, Mr. Waruingi argues that the Mungiki was actually the creation of the present social and economic crises in the country.

He says the Mau Mau took up arms only after the colonial government harassed them and forced them into the bush.

"Nobody actually intends to fight but one does so after being provoked. The more you persecute and oppress a people, the more you will turn them into militants. The Government has contributed to the birth of Mungiki through its high-handedness," he says.

Mr. Waruingi said that after Mungiki was accused of forcibly circumcising women and administering oaths, it invited the Government to its functions "to prove that we have no intention of causing chaos."

But, he says, by declaring war on the Freemasons, some top religious figures and Government officials started issuing threats to the movement.

"Why did an individual push the Kirima report on devil worship under the table instead of making it public?" asks Waruingi.

"It is clear to us that the probe was ordered only to find out how many devil worshippers' secrets had become laeked."

Waruingi accuses Mr. Madoka of criminalising Mungiki and says that no woman has gone to court to accuse the sect of forcibly circumcising her.

Question: Who are the real leaders of the sect?

Answer: "The movement was started by God. He is our chairman and decision maker..."

Lately, Mungiki has demonstrated a fearlessness and militancy that alarm other citizens and leaders.

Its raid on a police station in Murang'a recently was an ominous sign, as was its fight with the police in Nyahururu a few months ago.

Then, too, was the beating of police officers in Kirinyaga and the numerous clashes with law enforcers in Nairobi. If Mungiki members can snatch a gun from a police officer in Murang'a, what can stop them from firing it to defend themselves?

Meanwhile, the Mungiki group has been credited with two positive things, bringing order to matatu operations in Kasarani area, Nairobi, and being at the forefront of the campaign for a people-driven constitution reform. At the Kasarani area, no thefts have been reported since the sect members started their operations.

The group has flushed out several thugs and juveniles. 'Islam means submission to God, while Mungiki means the masses. In two years, Kenyans will submit to our ideals...'