KENYA: Slaughter of the innocents

By Standard Team
kenya_police_search.jpgKenya Police search for Mungiki
When daylight broke in Gathaithi-Kiangumara village in Nyeri East District on the foot of Mt Kenya yesterday, blood-soaked bodies lay on the roadside, their skulls split and throa

Father and son lay side by side, the singular but fatal blows to their heads revealing the precision of their attackers.

A few metres away, another man lay in a pool of blood, his head almost severed.

It had taken only 30 minutes to snuff out the lives of up to 30 men on
Monday night, only hours after hordes of armed young men arrived in the
village, in motorbikes and on foot, in clear view of the police.

It was not immediately clear why the murders were committed, but
residents suspect the proscribed Mungiki sect was avenging the killing
of 15 of their members in neighbouring Kirinyaga District, actions that
were similarly ignored by the police.

Vigilante group

The suspected Mungiki members were killed by self-styled four vigilante
groups going by the name of The Hague', alluding the UN International
Criminal Court that has been proposed for local leaders implicated in
last year's post-election violence.

Incidentally, the quasi-religious Mungiki purports to hold Mt Kenya in
high reverence, claiming it is the seat of their God. The senseless
bloodletting on the foot of the mountain, therefore, negates its
religious significance.

The Mungiki gang, numbering about 1,000 according to witnesses, visited
homes on Monday and took away young men. None of them returned home

Nineteen bodies lay on roadsides and a compound in
Gathaithi-Kiangumara, while seven others were on the roadside in the
nearby Kiaruhiu village. Some bodies were recovered in a tea plantation
later in the day.

Knocked door

Ms Anne Wairima, whose 23-year-old son, James Muriuki, was slain, said:
"They knocked on my door and asked me to wake my son up. They left with
him. In the morning, I learnt he was dead."

Muriuki was a Form Four student. Across the road, one person was burned
to death when the gang set on fire a house where he and his family

First, they surrounded the house and ordered its occupants to open the
door. They took away Mrs Jemimah Wanjira's husband, Gerald Muriithi,
and then set the house ablaze. The gang then split the throats of two
other men.

"I have not seen my husband since then," said Wanjira.

She still hoped to find him alive as his body was not among those found in the morning.

A woman who lost a son and grandson said: "I think there was a big
fight outside. I could hear people shouting cut the head'. Even during
the Mau Mau war, it was not this bad."

Mr Geoffrey Karoki, whose son, David Muriithi, was killed, said: "After
they took away my son, I heard sounds as if people were cutting grass."

Central PPO John Mbijjiwe said police have already arrested 37 suspects.

"They will face murder charges," he said.

The PPO and Central PC Kiplimo Rugut warned residents against
retaliating, even as another vigilante group visited the scene and
vowed to revenge. Hundreds of armed youths attended a meeting addressed
by the PC at one of the compounds where six bodies were found.

When residents were woken up and their sons taken away, parents thought they were merely being asked to join in night rounds .

One parent said: "They did not tell me what they wanted with my son. He just left with them."

Tension high

In the past two weeks, a vigilante group has killed 15 Mungiki
suspects, leading to a build up of tension, with residents in Kirinyaga
fearing Mungiki would avenge the deaths of their colleagues.

The previous night, at about 9pm, The Standard crew saw hundreds of
vigilantes on the Kerugoya-Karatina road, not far from the scene of the
attacks. The matter was reported to the police manning a nearby

The PC said officers would be posted at a police post built with CDF money.

He admitted there was a shortage of police officers and that the
Government could not at the moment send officers to many CDF-built
police posts. Plans are underway to recruit more officers.

The PC also gave a telephone line – 020-2370849 and asked residents to
call whenever in distress. Other senior police officers in Nyeri and
Kirinyaga were also asked to give their numbers to the public.

"The war and the hunt for Mungiki is on. But we have to use humane ways of dealing with them," the PC said.

But even as he addressed the residents in two meetings, youths insisted they had no faith in the Government and the police.

"We will help ourselves," a weapon-wielding youth said.

The Standard

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