Mungiki go underground amid tough police crackdown

Sunday October 9 2011

By NATION CORRESPONDENT

Nyeri

A change in police strategy in dealing with Mungiki gangs in central Kenya has yielded results, leading to members of the outlawed sect taking a low profile.

Central Provincial Criminal Investigations officer Henry Ondiek said detectives were relying on intelligence to launch raids and pre-empt attacks in areas where the sect was still active.

The move has seen police conduct raids in matatu stages — where sect members run extortion cartels — and in their hideouts where they conduct oathing ceremonies.

The new strategy is a departure from the past where police seemed to be reactive to gang activities, zeroing in on them after they had engaged in major criminal activities.

Mr Ondiek said several sect members had been arrested in the recent past and prosecuted under the Organised Crimes Act, which is more punitive and has helped serve as a deterrent.

“We are no longer charging them with touting as was the case before. Once we have the evidence, they face the more serious charge of belonging to an outlawed sect,” he said.

Mungiki are known for their paraphernalia such as taking snuff, and mostly hang around matatu termini, extorting money from operators.

Although the police admit that the sect is still active, their activities have been more covert to avoid a brush with the law.

Last month, the Mungiki sect clashed with taxi operators in Gatundu who sought to resist attempts by the gang to extort money from them.

In the same month, tens of Mungiki suspects were arrested in Kirinyaga as they prepared for an oathing ceremony.