18 members of banned gang seized

Monday October 24 2011

Laban Walloga | NATION Officers shove suspected Mombasa Republican Council members into a police truck at Shika Adabu in Likoni on October 24, 2011. The youths were arrested on Sunday night for allegedly engaging in oath-taking.

Laban Walloga | NATION Officers shove suspected Mombasa Republican Council members into a police truck at Shika Adabu in Likoni on October 24, 2011. The youths were arrested on Sunday night for allegedly engaging in oath-taking.  

By Nation Team [email protected]

Police have arrested 18 members of the proscribed Mombasa Republican Council during dramatic raids on several premises in Likoni estate where the group was allegedly administering oaths to recruits.

A team of General Service Unit, Administration Police and regular police officers staged the Sunday evening raids in which a man was reportedly shot dead and scores of others injured.

Police have denied claims that a man was shot dead in the operation.

Members of the group, however, named him as Mr Bakari Salim Mwakunyapa, a 22-year-old fisherman.

They also said his colleague, Mr Rashid Juma Haga, was injured in the raids.

Paraphernalia seized

A renowned traditional healer, who was allegedly performing the rituals, was also arrested and his oathing paraphernalia seized.

On Monday, 16 people appeared in court and were charged with engaging in organised criminal activities.

The offences were allegedly committed on Sunday at Shika Adabu Village in Likoni.

Mr Japheth Chidzipha, representing the MRC members, made an application for the prosecution to supply copies of witness statements and other documentary evidence to the defence to enable it prepare for the case. The application was allowed.

Two of the accused were not in court and principal magistrate Mr Richard Kirui ordered the officer in charge of Changamwe Police Station to produce them on Tuesday.

The rest of the group denied the charges and were each released on Sh300,000 bond with surety in similar amount. The case was fixed for hearing on November 7.

Members of the banned group believe that taking oaths makes them invisible and protects them from arrest during crackdowns.

During the raid, police used teargas to flush out members of the group from houses where they were holding meetings.

Police said at one of the houses, an MRC member shot into the air in a bid to avoid arrest.

The police officers also stormed several video cafés and fired teargas to flush out some youth who had fled and sought refuge there.

Coast deputy police boss Jacinta Kinyua said the group would not be allowed to hold illegal meetings as they were a threat to security not only in Coast region, but to the whole country.

“We arrested 18 members of  the banned MRC, including a witchdoctor who was performing a ritual allegedly to make them ‘invisible’ and ‘bullet-proof’,” said Ms Kinyua.

“The group is among 33 gangs that have been banned because of their evil motives,” she added.

On Monday, the group accused the government of brutality.

“We condemn the use of excessive force on innocent children and youth who were watching a football match at a video café. Police are using excessive force to punish unarmed people,” MRC spokesman Mohammed Rashid Mraja said.

Spark violence

He warned the government to avoid using force to disrupt the group’s meetings.

“We call on the government to stop acting in a manner that could spark violence. If that is the way they want to operate, then the group will re-strategise and deal with them,” he said.

Mr Mraja said the MRC would not stand by and allow its members to be killed or injured by “rogue police officers”.

“If the Constitution allows us to hold meetings freely, why are the police behaving like this? We will continue to champion our cause,” he told Daily Nation.

Mr Mraja dismissed recent statements by Prime Minister Raila Odinga that the Coast was part of Kenya, saying, the PM was aware of agreements between the Kenyan government, the Sultan of Zanzibar and the British government.

Stories by Anthony Kitimo, Bozo Jenje and Philip Muyanga