In Kenya, the Mungiki are a gang made up of tens of thousands of followers. Created as a self-defense group against the Kalenjin of dictator Daniel arap Moi, this organization is now a mafia involved in all the criminal activities of the country...
"What the hell is this!?" ". This is the title of a research on the Mungiki sect, conducted in Kenya by two Norwegian sociologists. And after months of research, the two men only came out of their investigation with more questions. Questions about the secret behind the Mungiki's bloodlust, their influence that would reach millions of Kenyans and the blood rituals that forge the legend of this gang.
In reality, the Mungiki have gone through several phases throughout history. Originally, they were a Kikuyu rebel militia — the majority ethnic group in Kenya. The name means "the many" or "the majority" in Swahili. In 1988, the Mungiki wanted above all to face the repression of Daniel arap Moi. Kenya's second president was of Nilotic ethnicity, and relied heavily on his Kalenjin warriors to suppress the Kikuyus.
However, the Kikuyus were not only the majority in Kenya, but it is also a proud tribe, from which the Father of independence Jomo Kenyatta came. And the Mungiki therefore rose above all to defend the legacy of the latter and his famous doctrine and the motto of the country, the Haraambee – to act together.
Thus, the Mungiki have drawn greatly from this infinite well of tribalo-anti-colonial pride. The former British Empire also took the opportunity to smear the Mau Mau. So, from the beginning, the Mungiki locked their own traditions in a vicious circle.
Incredible brutality, but not really invisible
But all that is from another era. Activist and historian Onyango Oloo, who died in 2020, said: "To understand Kenya, we cannot limit ourselves to the data recorded by colonialism". And to continue: “If you want to understand the Mungiki, you have to go into the woods, get out of Nairobi, get your hands dirty and pay attention to the stories of the mad and the old”.
In recent research on the Mungiki for El Confidencial, war reporter Maria Ferreira rightly explains that “ the Kikuyus leaders relied on the Mungiki to do their dirty work and control the populations. Thus the sect has become the terrorist and murderous group that controls many areas in Kenya”.
An accusation of instrumentalization of this group, which has become a gang, addressed to President Uhuru Kenyatta therefore. The current outgoing president of Kenya is, indeed, Kikuyu and the son of Jomo Kenyatta. But he had also greatly reduced the number of members of this sect. Hundreds of Mungiki have received heavy prison sentences since 2013.
In any case, when it comes to the Mungiki, the daily life of Kenyans is much less political, ethnic and even less romantic. Dismembered bodies in garbage cans, Tramadol vendors at crossroads in all cities across the country, “purification campaigns” – raids where gang members perform genital mutilation on women…
The violence of the Mungiki does not stop there. They are also involved in arms sales, human trafficking, racketeering and the assassinations of footballers, journalists and politicians.
End of political violence and new Mungiki leadership
It is therefore difficult to believe that this phenomenon of organized crime, one of the best known in Africa, is not protected by the State. The Mungiki are also the mafia with the most members on the continent, after the Black Ax of Nigeria.
The 2007 post-election violence in Kenya had to lift the veil on the mobilizing power of the Mungiki. Indeed, the murder of 15 policemen and 27 civilians in 2007 by alleged Mungiki leader Njoroje Kamunya drew international media attention to the very existence of this gang.
Nevertheless, during Mwai Kibaki's presidency, the Mungiki only became richer and more powerful.
In the east of the country, shell companies belonging to this mafia own thousands of hectares of land. Hard drugs - cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine and Tramadol - were selling at record rates across the country, as well as in western Somalia and northern Tanzania.
The Mungiki and the Kenyatta, two parallel lines that never meet
In 2013, and the arrival of Uhuru Kenyatta, who had links with the Mungiki if we are to believe the opposition, serious crime has greatly decreased in the country. According to research by Africa Confidential and the daily newspaper The Star, things are not so simple.
Indeed, in August 2000, the Mungiki performed their blood ritual, heralding the start of the war, by killing 9 civilians and burning an effigy of son Kenyatta in front of his father's grave. But Uhuru Kenyatta was then only Deputy Prime Minister, with no real power.
If the investigations of the two newspapers mentioned are to be believed, the leader of the Mungiki at the time, Njoroje Kamunya, had deep differences with Kenyatta. But the coming to power of the Kenyan president has changed things for the Mungiki as well.
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Indeed, 2013 was the date of the rise to power of Maina Njenga, the spiritual leader of the Mungiki under Kamunya. Njenga had spent years in prison, accused of two murders, before being mysteriously cleared in 2013.
If he says he "found the way to God" on his release from prison, it is not very convincing when we know that the Mungiki have statuettes of the man in their houses...
Additionally, Maina Njenga is currently at the center of a fraud case, estimated at $20 million. The presumed leader of the Mungiki also supports the candidate for power, Raila Odinga, of whom he magically revealed the details of a "friendship that has lasted for 30 years". And even more recently, Maina Njenga declared that Daniel arap Moi was a “good president”.
No paradox. Especially when we know that Njenga and his alleged predecessor at the head of the Mungiki, Kamunya, did not agree on the violence of this mafia. Njenga is considered "softer" than his predecessor, perhaps this is the secret of the Mungiki's discretion since 2013, and their leader's entry into politics.