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Trail of fear as Mungiki returns to full business

BUSINESS
By | November 23rd 2010

By Standard Reporter

Mungiki is back in business with full vengeance, even after the State continues to crack down on organised criminal gangs.

Last month, security agencies raided Mungiki bases in Nairobi, arresting dozens of gang members.

This followed gazettement of new laws that gives the police and prosecutors more powers to ensure suspected gang members pay hefty fines and/or get thrown behind bars.

Residents mill around the scene of a suspected Mungiki killing in Central Province

The grim aftermath of a deadly gang attack. Photos: File/Standard

But investigation by The Standard showed that Mungiki is back in business, this time with renewed vigour and tenacity.

"It is true Mungiki are out there and on the prowl," says Deputy Police Spokesperson Owino Wahono. "But this is a problem that cannot be handled by the police alone, it needs involvement of the society," he added.

But even more worrying is the fact that some police officers may be colluding with the gang in carrying out criminal activities.

"Due to fear Mungiki has instilled in people, very few are prepared to report to the police whenever they are harassed. This lack of reportage may also be linked to the fear that information given to police could be used for or against the individual," Wahono says.

The recent upsurge in Mungiki activity, The Standard learnt, was inspired by the need by gang members to raise cash to be used bail out arrested colleagues.

"We need to establish a sound financial base to allow us bail out our own in case they are been arrested. The fines are pretty high and we need to up our game," says a leader of the gang in Nairobi’s Kayole Estate, who identified himself as Sammy.

According to the Prevention of Organised Crimes Act, one who belongs or professes to belong to an organised criminal group shall upon conviction, be fined Sh500,000, or face imprisonment for a term not exceeding ten years or both.

criminal gang

The Act also stipulates a person is a member of criminal gang by his own admission, if he has been identified to belong to a gang or if one adopts the name, colours, symbol, style of dress and grooming, language and tattoos associated with a criminal gang.

It further states a person who recruits another to join a criminal gang would also be committing an offence, and will spend 14 years behind bars or pay a fine of Sh1 million or both.

Last week, it emerged hundreds of the sect’s members were in prison following a Government crackdown on the gang and subsequent conviction in court — perhaps explaining why the gang has recently staged attacks with such vigour.

"Close to 300 of our colleagues are in jail and we need to bail them out. It is not a small amount (of money) but we believe we can raise it," said Sammy.

But this comes at a high price. In Kayole Estate, for example, a resident moving into a new house or moving out has to part with Sh2,500 "security fees".

"We decided to raise the fees due to challenges we are facing. We have brought this to the attention of landlords and it is their duty to inform would-be tenants about this," Sammy tells The Standard.

For businesses, the fee charged ranges from Sh100 a day to Sh1,500 depending on its size. George, a bar owner, parts with Sh2,500 per month in "security fees" to the gang. He also must pay between Sh200 and Sh500 whenever the gang calls on him.

"Although my security is assured because no one has ever harassed me or my clients, it comes at a price due to extortion by Mungiki," says George, who declined to give his full names because of the possible risks involved.

Matatu woes

Meanwhile matatu owners, who may have heaved a sigh of relief from criminal gangs who took over bus termini, are up in arms demanding protection by the Government.

"The crackdown did little to deter Mungiki because they are back on the road extorting money from us," says James Kinyua, a matatu owner.

"This time they are charging us more apparently in revenge for the intensified police work. What is surprising is that they harass us right under the noses of police," he adds.

But Wahono maintains Mungiki is a societal problem, adding the gang cannot be eradicated without the involvement of wananchi.

"It is important to share information with the police if activities of the gang are to be stopped. This is where community policing comes in. But as it were, communities have not learnt or even appreciated this aspect of security," he says.

But even as Mungiki is back on the prowl, The Standard established another criminal gang Taliban is alive and kicking. The gang operates mainly in Kibera, Mathare slums and Kariobangi North.

Investigation shows the gang demands ‘protection’ fee from matatu owners and business premises.

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