Fears of a thriving underground female circumcision ring were rife yesterday in Central Kenya following the arrest of seven suspects.
They are being questioned over reports they subjected eight children to the cut.
Two girls were rescued by officers from the Mukurweini Police Station at the weekend. Six others had already undergone the cut in Muthuthini village during the night ceremony.
Residents said FGM is still orchestrated by a new religious cult known as “Gwata Ndai”. It operates underground ceremonies supported by parents who want their daughters to be circumcised.
The perpetrators took advantage of the two-month school holiday after their ceremonies were disrupted in December by the new school calendar.
Residents called for heightened vigilance to stop perpetrators who seem to have learnt how to evade the authorities.
Kenya outlawed the practice in 2011, but it continues secretly, with many of those undergoing the painful cut being aged between nine and 17.
Police officers on Monday acted on a tip-off and busted the alleged ring leaders. Five women and two men were arrested.
Mukurweini Sub-County Police Commander Patrick Manyasi said detectives also arrested the owner of the house in which the cutting ceremony was being conducted.
Two women believed to have taken the girls for the cut are currently in police custody.
“We have arrested the woman who performed the exercise and two other suspects we believe are her accomplices. Our initial findings show that the girls did undergo the cut but we are still waiting for the full medical report,” Mr Manyasi said.
Yesterday, a court in Nyeri ordered the suspects to be remanded at Mukurweini Police Station. They are awaiting a ruling on a police application that they be held for six days as investigations continue.
Mukurweini Resident Magistrate Demacline Bosibori directed the respondents to be detained at the station until Thursday when she will rule on whether they will be granted bail. There is also a pending decision on whether criminal charges will be opened against them.
The suspects were arrested in the home of a suspect said to have escaped the police dragnet.
The six girls who did undergo the cut are undergoing a medical checkup at Mukurweini Sub-County Hospital.
The suspects include Christine Thenya, Alice Wandia, Cecelia Nyaguthii, Rose Mumbi and Esther Ngendo. Others are Aloise Waweru and Wahome Muriuki.
Investigation officer Elizabeth Mwikali said police were told some of the victims were taken to Mukurweini Level 4 Hospital after developing complications and were bleeding profusely.
The prosecution led by Mr Daniel Muthee sought six days to hold and interrogate the suspects and also to record from the suspects, witnesses and children.
Police also need time to recover the items used in the cutting ceremony.
Mr Muthee further told the court he needed time to access the victim’s ages and have their P3 forms signed.
“The offence is serious. Many of them are a flight risk and likely to interfere with the investigation bearing in mind some of those arrested are the children’s parents,” the prosecution said. Mr Muthee further said one suspect tried to escape custody.
Defence lawyer Ruo Mwarura however said there were no compelling reasons to detain the suspects.