The dreaded Mungiki sect is back, this time recruiting even schoolchildren in central Kenya.
Already, authorities have arrested more than 90 people linked to the outfit. The sect is usually known to hibernate only to resurface under new names and organisations.
Findings by the Nation reveal that Mungiki has re-emerged under the guise of Nairobi's Kayole-based criminal gang Gaza.
The gang is identified by a unique dress code that has been taken up by many teenagers, most unaware of its links. Skinny jeans usually ankle length, open shoes, beach shirt and a cap are synonymous with the Gaza gang and now the new Mungiki outfit seems to have adopted the fashion. The sect has also been known to spot scout shirts and military attire.
Mungiki members have pitched camp in Mwea and Kutus in Kirinyaga County, Nyeri town and Kiriaini in Murang’a as well as parts of Nyandarua. Their biggest base is believed to be in Kiandutu slums and Makongeni in Thika.
Like the traditional Mungiki sect, members are extorting money from public transport operators and residents in popular estates in the name of protection fees. They have also been demanding exorbitant fees from construction sites and businesses.
However, unlike the past Mungiki, this particular gang has not exhibited oath-related rituals, but it has adopted muggings and break-ins to amass finances. Detectives have hinted that the group is building a central financial organisation, where they extort money from civilians, and split the proceeds later.
Although their traditional brutality which involved gruesome killings is not yet as visible as it was in the past, victims are frightened to speak of their existence. Those who agreed to speak to Nation about the gang’s activities did so on condition of anonymity. In Nyeri Town, the main operation base for the gang is the lower bus terminus in central business district. Four touts are suspected to be behind the group’s operation and are said to be collecting the “protection fees” from matatu operators.
Some operators claim the group has been asking for up to Sh50 per trip.
The sect members are also known to demand similar fees from residents of Witemere, Blue Valley and parts of Ruring’u. Residents are forced to part with between Sh500 and Sh1,000 per week for “protection”.
The gang is also reported to have recruited schoolchildren, who are tasked with the muggings and burglaries.
A parent in Gatitu who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of victimisation revealed that high school boys are being recruited into the gang. “They have been exhibiting a lot of defiance and after pressing them to speak out, they admit they have been recruited into a group calling itself Gaza. They steal and pickpocket after which they get a commission. Most parents are even scared to report to police because we still do not know how deep and connected these boys are,” the parent said.
Boda boda riders are also victims as the gang demands 'protection fees' from them. Boda boda groups’ official also believe that the business has been infiltrated by the gang who spy for them.
In Mwea, Kirinyaga County, there are fears the brutal gang could be plotting retaliation against vigilante groups, which eliminated the outlawed group in the county 10 years ago.
A resident said the gang is extorting money from traders. Traders who fail to give in to their demands are either violently robbed or their properties are destroyed. “Robberies and other criminal activities such as assault and burglary are the order of the day in Mwea,” said the resident.
Rogue rice field owners leasing out their parcels to farmers are also using the group to intimidate and silence farmers when there is double allocation of the fields, according to the source.
“The group is back and some are boda boda operators under grip of an upcoming politician. They are being used to intimidate his opponents. Land owners doing double allocations of rice fields are also using the sect to silence complainants,” said the source.
He, however, noted that the group has been unable to spread to other parts of the county due to fear that the vigilante groups could also resurface.
The vigilante groups were also outlawed by the government after they armed themselves to protect residents against attacks by Mungiki. The result was a bloody retaliatory war that resulted in the massacre of 29 people in Mathira in the neighbouring Nyeri.
In Murang’a, the sect has been on and off, rebranding frequently in a tactic seemingly aimed at throwing authorities off track in their trail. Here, the sect was initially called Njamaa, but it has rebranded to Njaa nene and now Gaza. Notably, the Kayole-based Gaza gang is known to have roots in Murang’a. One of the highest ranking members of the gang, George Mwaniki alias Mwanii and his wife, Clair Njoki alias Clea Adi Vybz, hailed from Murang’a.
Mungiki’s re-emergence has jolted authorities into action with 91 arrests being recorded between June and October. Central Regional Commissioner Wilson Njega told Nation 11 suspects were arrested in Nyandarua and 80 in Kiambu. “They can call themselves Gaza or any other name but we know they are Mungiki. We will deal with them ruthlessly. That kind of business has no place in Central,” Mr Njega said.
Nation has also learnt that during his recent meeting with regional security bosses in Nyeri, Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang'i ordered a crackdown on the sect.
In a communication from the security committee seen by Nation, divisional police bosses have been ordered to suppress the sect within 100 days.
The officers from the Kenya Police, Administration Police and Directorate of Criminal Investigations have been directed to expedite and sustain the directive until December 30. The business community has also demanded action, expressing concern that the group will cripple trade in Central.