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Thursday, January 10, 2008

Kibaki government activates murder gang

Kenya's embattled government has activated a murderous criminal gang to protect its supporters during a bloody confrontation over disputed elections, a leading human rights activist said on Wednesday.

Maina Kiai, head of the government-funded National Commission on Human Rights, said the Mungiki, an ethnic Kikuyu gang notorious for beheading its victims, had returned. "They are coming out again and being used by the state. We have firm evidence of that, some of their people came to us," he said.

Government spokesman Alfred Nganga Mutua angrily denied the claim: "If there is evidence of Mungiki, he should either table it -- and he had better make sure that it is the right evidence -- or just shut up."

There have been unconfirmed reports of Mungiki attacks on other ethnic groups in Nairobi 's slums since violence erupted after the disputed re-election of President Mwai Kibaki in a Dec. 27 poll. About 500 people have died. Many Kikuyus were killed in the Rift Valley and Nairobi 's slums as other ethnic groups vented their rage over what they say was a rigged result.

Experts have long said the Mungiki were manipulated by Kikuyu politicians. They were first established to counter violence by Kalenjin ethnic gangs during elections in the 1990s, when Daniel arap Moi, himself a Kalenjin, was president. But last year the human rights commission said police may have executed as many as 500 men during a crackdown on the Mungiki after the gang terrorised central Kenya with a wave of brutal attacks. Police denied the charge. Kiai said the government had offered the Mungiki protection in the future if they protected Kikuyus against supporters of opposition leader Raila Odinga, who says he won the vote. "They are now assured of security even afterwards. They said 'Okay we will not touch you again. We will not go for you as we did before'," he said.

Kiai called on Western powers to revoke visas for members of the Kibaki government, senior members of the civil service and their families as well as opposition figures. He said this was the only way to push politicians into negotiating an end to Kenya's post-election crisis.

"Bring them back to suffer with us. Maybe then they will be forced into talking to each other," he said. "If all visas are revoked you will see movement so fast, you won't believe it. Many of them think 'I have a valid visa to the UK . If things get really bad I am off.' They need to have the same stakes as us."

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