Friday, April 18, 2008

Mungiki Calls for Ceasefire

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NAIROBI - The Mungiki leadership has called off the four-day violence, moments after Prime Minister Raila Odinga pleaded with the sect to stop the killings and destruction.

Jailed Mungiki leader, Maina Njenga, speaking from Naivasha Maximum Prison through an aide, said he had been touched by Raila's remarks that Mungiki members could be productively engaged in nation building. "Let all the youths involved in the countrywide strike stop and help Raila build this nation. We believe the Prime Minister will create jobs for us," Njenga said. The Mungiki leader said he had spoken to all the coordinators of the protests and requested them to call off the violence.

And Njenga's ceasefire directive carried a chilling message to any Mungiki follower who would go against the orders: "You will be punished accordingly. You must honour the ceasefire and stop rioting," Njenga said. The effect of Njenga's directive was immediate: Businesses reopened in all parts of Central Province, including Murang'a, Kenol, Maragua, Saba Saba, Mukurwe-ini, Othaya and Karatina which had been closed for the past four days. The transport crisis in many parts of the city and in Central Province eased as matatus returned to the roads. For the first time in four days, commuters sighed with relief as matatu operations returned to normal.

Plea to Raila
The ceasefire came only hours after a special anti-Mungiki police squad, Nyoka, was set up at Vigilance House in Nairobi. The unit is similar to the Kwekwe Squad that tamed Mungiki mayhem in Nairobi and the environs a couple of months ago. Meanwhile, Mungiki coordinator Njuguna Gitau Njuguna, who had earlier in the day insisted that the violence would go on, however, agreed with his chairman for a ceasefire. "We are impressed by the Prime Minister's remarks and we know he will bring reforms. The strike has been called off for now to allow development," said Njuguna on the telephone. Njuguna, who was preparing to address the Press and later issue Raila with a list of grievances, said they would from today ensure that businesses were re-opened in all affected areas. He also urged matatus to resume operations.

Police officers beat up a suspected Mungiki member in Dandora after gangs struck the area early this week. At State House, Raila made a passionate plea to members of the banned sect to stop fighting and to talk to the Government about their grievances. Njenga said he hoped to be released from jail soon to meet Raila and discuss jobs for the unemployed Mungiki youth. "I am coming out so that we can team up with Raila and other like-minded people in creating jobs to end the oppression Kenyans are witnessing. Let the youths stop fighting now," he said.

Njuguna introduced a political dimension to the Mungiki debate when he said leaders of the sect had on many occasions engaged in talks with many politicians in Central Province over varied issues.

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But as the two leaders called off the strike, some of their followers were wreaking havoc in some parts of Nairobi and Central Province. They threatened oil tanker drivers in Nairobi as they loaded oil products from depots in Industrial Area. Mungiki members confronted the drivers in the morning and told them to join in the strike or face the consequences. The threats temporarily affected the deliveries until police were called in to disperse the gangs.

Another group hijacked four matatus plying the Kikuyu-Nairobi route and attempted to burn them. The gangs had bought petrol before police were called in. One Mungiki adherent was shot dead as others dashed into the thickets. Ten suspects were arrested and four vehicles impounded for allegedly aiding the gangs. Another suspect was beaten up at Waithaka in Nairobi on Thursday.

Another gang had earlier in the night attempted to petrol bomb a chief's office in Kayole estate, Nairobi. Witnesses and police said five men drove to the officers and threw three petrol bombs, which did not, however, explode. Police also arrested another suspect found with 20 litres of petrol in the city centre. Central OCPD Tito Kilonzi said the man said he had been requested by a friend to help him buy the fuel.

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