Police in Mombasa have arrested 201 people they claim participated in an oath-taking ceremony to join the Mombasa Republican Council (MRC).
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Those arrested in the Tuesday night swoop were 91 men, 60 women and 51 children, who had converged in an iron-sheet shade neighbours claim was once used as a church.
Jomvu police boss Alfred Nthiga said the suspects started to stream into the building in Mlironi area of Jomvu Sub-county at 6pm.
"Ten of the men arrested have pending cases in court linked to MRC and are out on bond. We were told the building is a church, but it did not bear a name of any denomination," said Mr Nthiga.
A detective involved in the investigation said the suspects were conducting an end-year Mijikenda community ritual.
Residents said Tuesday morning they cited a group led by a man riding a horse marching from Mlironi to Jomvu, chanting slogans associated with MRC. "They arrived at the stage, briefly did some prayers and returned," said a tout at Jomvu stage.
Officers from Jomvu and Changamwe police stations hesitated confronting them fearing a bloodbath, and sought reinforcement.
Yesterday Nthiga said they released women and children after interrogation. "We were to arraign them today (yesterday) but courts are closed. We have 91 suspects of MRC in our custody. They were having an illegal meeting and smoking bhang. They had slaughtered a cow and were taking oath," he said.
On July 30, 2012, a three-judge bench ruled that MRC was legal. MRC Secretary-General Randu Nzai said the suspects were government moles out to derail their agenda. "Those arrested are not our members, I have made several calls and none of our members was arrested. This is the strategy being used by the State to ensure we do not speak in one voice," said Nzai.