African Press International (API)

"Daily Online News Channel".

Releasing Njenga (Mungiki’s leader) and negotiating with Mungiki is the right way to go if Kenya cherishes lasting peace

Posted by African Press International on May 7, 2008

Publisher: Korir, africanpress@getmail.no source.nation.ke

Mungiki has been blamed for many killings in the country. The politicians want to talk to them now, but the police do not want that to happen. The question is why the police do not want the Mungiki to have a dialogue with the government. The reports reaching API confirm that some police officers are afraid of the outcome of such talks because some of the Mungiki members have been killed by the police indiscrimately. The police are forgeting that these are young people some are said to be the sons and daughters of some Kenyan leaders. These are young people who feel left out with no opportunities in sight and they become enemies of the establishement they see to be recycling leaders leaving no room for them to get jobs. Some of them are educated and are unemployed.

The government can easily solve the problem by having a serious dialogue with the leaders of Mungiki and understand them and deal with what they want. Some of them have stated that they want jobs, business and other opportunities. It is true if they get opportunities that will change their lives and Kenya will stabilise. API

Why Mungiki sect leader is a cut above the other inmates

He cuts an ordinary body frame and his eyes reveal an innocent man in jail. His brown complexion radiates in sunshine and when our eyes first meet, I doubt whether this is the man behind all we hear about the dreaded and banned Mungiki sect.

Mungiki sect leader Maina Njenga. He looks healthy and smart even in jail. Photo/FILE

But mystery surrounds Maina Njenga, the man believed to be the force behind a sect that is known to extort, intimidate, and kill in cold blood.

When we seek to meet him at the Naivasha prison, we are, as expected, filled with curiosity.

The Nation team visited him in prison to get an interview with the man believed to be leading the movement that is believed to have a following of over two million members.

To Park aside

Having never visited a prison before, it was all challenging and reaching the gate, the warder asked what our mission was. And straight, we told him we were visiting a prisoner.

We were asked to park aside and give our details to be given a pass. The thought of saying who we were visiting scared us with the possibility we may even get arrested.

A small white gate pass was issued, which we presented to the officer at the next gate.

Luckily, there were some officers outside, and we were ushered in after waiting for about half an hour.

An elderly warder, identified only as Makau, showed us a small office and yes; here was Maina Njenga, the man I had read so much about.

He looked younger and more energetic than seen on TV.

He welcomed us and once again introduced himself.

Spoken on phone

Frankly speaking, we had spoken on phone earlier informing him that we were on the way.

Looking at him, you would think we were visiting a prisoner in a Hollywood movie. He looked healthy, and his face shone unlike other prisoners, a clear indication that he gets enough of sunlight.

His hair was well kept. He wore smart open shoes with clean socks, unlike the normal prison scenario whereby inmates are always in open shoes made from old car tyres, commonly known as akala.

We met at an office-like setting where the warder sat as the host, while we sat facing each other, unlike the case with many other prisoners. (I have heard you see them through a grille with limited time).

We were treated with utmost respect right from the gate, so to speak, and apart from the search at the gate using the metal detector, all was well with us.

The interview lasted for over one hour, but mostly Maina leaned on his history, saying that he attended Ortum Secondary School in West Pokot.

I have lived with Pokots, Turkanas, Ugandans, Kalenjins, among other tribes. Many people look at me and think I am a tribalist. I appreciate cultures of the different communities I have lived with, Maina said.

I had decided to keep my paper and pen safely in the pocket as we had posed as friends visiting an inmate. But I was shocked when Maina asked me to write and even make calls and not to fear anything. He was very strong and agile and stressed every point that he put through.

Analysing what he was talking about, he stressed on the importance of dialogue, and that there was hope, especially after the Prime Minister, Mr Raila Odinga, invited Mungiki sect members to dialogue after the naming of the grand coalition Cabinet.

The sect leader is known to claim that he had died and resurrected after four days.

Bible verses

In this respect, Maina seems to have become quite spiritual of late, quoting Bible verses every now and again, notably from 1 Corinthians 13:11.

The verse reads: When I was a child, I understood as a child, I spoke as a child, but when I became a man I put away childish things.

He stressed that from 1987 when he started the sect, he was worshipping as a child, but now he has grown up and that he was ready to change the dreaded sect members to good people.

He adds that God is his shield and they will no longer face Mt Kenya while praying.

Though at the beginning, the Mungiki were said to be fighting modernity, they are seen to have shifted goalposts to fight against poverty and other social injustices.

The warders

The sect members say they are the children of the Mau Mau, who were forgotten during the land allocation after independence.

Prisoners are known to languish in pain and misery while behind bars. However, former Vice-President Moody Awori is known to have reformed the institutions although he seems to have forgotten about the warders.

The latest warders go-slow revealed some of the issues that have not been dealt with for decades.

Maina was arrested on February 2, 2006 and was convicted in June of being in possession of 22 rolls of bhang worth Sh1,220 and an Italian Bandeli pistol, though he always claims they were fabricated.

The two offences were also bailable, but his efforts to be out on bond always proved futile.

Naivasha maximum security jail was built in late 1969, and has held some of Kenyas well-known prisoners, including Delameres grandson Tom Cholmondeley and Naivasha businessman Fai Amario.

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African Press International – api

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