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Re-emergence of brutal Mungiki gang strikes fear into traders and residents

Wednesday June 03 2020
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Mungiki suspects in a past raid. FILE PHOTO | NATION MEDIA GROUP

By GEORGE MUNENE

The night of April 20, 2009 is one that Kamau will never forget.

On this day, the dreaded Mungiki gang killed 29 men in Gathaithi village, Nyeri County, in a brutal attack.

The killings were the culmination of revenge attacks between Mungiki and vigilantes in Kirinyaga and Nyeri counties and happened at the height of the government’s crackdown on the gang in the region.

“Our fathers, brothers, sons, nephews were either stoned or hacked to death during the overnight fighting between vigilante groups and an outlawed criminal sect. Some of those who committed the act ran away, never to be arrested,” Kamau told the Nation last Saturday.

But 11 years after that attack, Central Kenya is again under a security watch list over the resurgence of the group.

The gang has resurfaced and embarked on its extortionist mission, causing fear among traders in counties in the region. They are exploiting traders who operate businesses in various towns by demanding protection fees.

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Their return and criminal activities have once again sent shock waves across the region, which has been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic.

Gang members demand between Sh500 and Sh1,000 from the traders and those who fail to pay are threatened with death.

They are more concentrated in Kirinyaga, where they have established their bases to milk the traders, who are struggling to survive due to the prevailing economic hardship occasioned by the Covid-19 outbreak.

Gang members move from one place to another, instilling fear even among residents as they stamp their authority.

Traders told the Nation they normally send money to the gang members by M-Pesa or take it to their bases through emissaries.

“We are forced to fork out the money and those who refuse are warned of dire consequences,” said a trader in Ngurubani town, who sought anonymity fearing victimisation.

The traders complained that life had become difficult due to the invasion of the region by the merciless gang.

“Mungiki don’t make empty threats. They maim and hack to death those who defy them,” another trader said.

Matatu operators have not been spared either. They complained that they were being fleeced by gang members.

“We normally pay them between Sh50 and Sh100 per trip. The situation is serious and something urgent should be done to tame the extortionists who are exploiting us,” an operator added.

In Kirinyaga, gang members are even being used by some politicians to disrupt meetings held by their rivals.

Interior Principal Secretary Karanja Kibicho last week acknowledged that the terror gang is active in the region.

He ordered a crackdown on its members and instructed county commissioners and police commanders to implement his directive immediately.

“Mungiki have returned and they are causing fear among traders. They should be tamed,” Dr Kibicho ordered on Wednesday at Ngurubani Stadium during a tour of projects in the area.

“The Mungiki should be fought and handled like the coronavirus,” he added while ordering county commissioner Jim Njoka and police commander Leah Kithei to wake up and ensure that sanity is restored.

Dr Kibicho said he issued the order after complaints that the gang had taken control of the region once again. He noted that traders struggling to earn a living were losing their hard-earned cash to the criminals.

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