By Kipchumba Some and David Odongo
NAIROBI, KENYA: The former leader of the banned Mungiki sect Maina Njenga has gone into hiding following attempts on his life by disgruntled followers of the group.
The Nairobian has reliably learnt that Njenga’s older brother, Peter Kamunya, is leading a splinter group that is dissatisfied with his leadership.
The splinter group was responsible for a deadly attack on May 4 in Kitengela town in which Njenga escaped death by a whisker.
Five people were seriously slashed with pangas in a fight, which sparked a spate of night-long retaliatory attacks between the supporters of the two brothers.
The chaos spilled into Monday May 5 morning with the sect’s adherents battling in the streets of Kitengela.
At the heart of the rebellion is the control of Mungiki’s assets — mainly land, whose worth is believed to be running into millions of shillings.
Quit Christianity See also: Sect kills own men over parastatal land Another bone of contention is a proposal by the Kamunya group for Mungiki to return to its old notorious ways of murder and extortion, a suggestion that Njenga is opposed to.
Trouble began on Sunday, May 4 evening when for the first time in public, Njenga rubbished Mungiki members who wanted him to quit Christianity.
“There have been people here, among you who tell me we should go back to the old ways. I refuse. I tell you no. Let me serve God in peace,” he said.
Maina was addressing a crowd atop a makeshift platform in the compound of his church, Hope International Ministries, in Kitengela after church hours.
The meeting had been requested by the disgruntled Mungiki adherents for Njenga to clarify his position on the sharing of the property and their desire to return to the streets.
To these requests he said: “People tell me about the house of Mumbi and sniffing tobacco. I say, hayo ni mabo yaliopitwa na wakati. Haturudi huko nyuma.
(Those things are out of fashion and we will never go back again)” As he finished uttering the no-going-back declaration, palpable tension hung over the church’s air.
He hurriedly closed the meeting but no sooner had the last person set foot out of the church, than violence broke out.
A slugging match between Mungiki adherents dissatisfied with his statement and his bodyguards ensued and it rapidly degenerated into a full confrontation. In the confusion, Maina slipped through to his car, a black Hummer, which sped off. Kamunya, who was present at the church, also fled.
Later that evening, Mungiki members started attacking the converted members who were in Maina’s church with pangas.
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The church members fought back and the Mungiki members retreated into the night to regroup and returned for a revenge mission early the next day.
“Six people were slashed to death that Sunday (May 4) night, and several others were admitted at local hospitals,” said a source close to Njenga.
He disclosed that on the particular night, Maina headed to his Kitengela home but was alerted that an ambush lay in wait. He then turned and spent the night in an undisclosed location.
The next morning, Mungiki adherents poured into the streets of Kitengela to avenge their colleague’s deaths and slashed 13 people in the process.
It is said one person died during the fracas. Several of them were arrested by police but by that time, our source revealed, the group allied to Njenga’s brother had declared an all-out war.
On Tuesday morning, Mungiki staged a dawn attack on Maina Njenga’s Kitengela home hoping to get him asleep. In the ensuing fracas Njenga’s bodyguard was slashed to death.
Since the Sunday of May 4, people close to Maina Njenga reveal that more than 50 people have been killed in a war between Njenga and his brother.
“You only know about the ten deaths since Sunday, but I can confirm to you that more than 50 young men have died since Maina publicly declared in his church that he isn’t going back into Mungiki,” said our source.
The 50 people, he said, might not have necessarily died in the clashes in Kitengela, but in other clashes in Mungiki strongholds in Kenya. Another source close to the splinter group said that, a ‘general’ was sent on Wednesday to Nyandarua to marshal forces in preparation for what they promise will be a war of attrition against the Njenga group.
“We expect him to be back by Thursday or Friday. Alienda kutafuta jeshi sababu huku Nairobi na Nakuru, ni watu wa Maina Njenga. Liwe liwalo, Maina lazima amalizwe (he went to look for an ‘army’ because Njenga must die),” he said.
Nyandarau is Njenga’s birthplace but it is now believed to be the bedrock of his estranged brother Kamunya, who is seeking to eliminate him. It is thought that the bulk of Maina’s followers are in Nairobi and Nakuru where he is said to have founded the movement in the late 1980s.
Our source said the splinter group is no longer interested in talks and has vowed Maina must face the ultimate punishment for turning his back on the sect. “Maina swore an oath when he was in Mungiki: never to leave the group or reveal its secrets. He personally made others swear the same oath.
Now he has left the group. What befalls the others he has left behind?” asked our source in Kiswahili.
The genesis of Njenga’s problems with Mungiki started way back in 2009 when after being acquitted of a criminal offence, he got saved and renounced the sect’s activities.
But the differences became pronounced last July when a Mungiki regional commander allegedly stabbed Maina in the abdomen after a disagreement in his vast Kitengela estate. Although he vehemently denies the incident, witnesses claimed the incident occurred when Njenga called a meeting of other Mungiki members to discuss how to share the group’s wealth. “Mungiki members feel that during their heydays, before Maina converted to Christianity, they made a lot of money and they were well taken care of.
Ever since Maina got saved, times have been hard on members and it was decided that it was better to share the wealth Maina acquired through Mungiki.
That way, Maina will remain with his church while Mungiki can continue with their activities,” said our source.
At the height of its influence, members claim the group boasted as many as 500,000 members and collected Sh2 million daily in extortion fees.
From these proceeds, Mungiki is thought to have bought about a piece of land in Kitengela,estimated by some members to be 1,000 acres and other undocumented properties around their strongholds. Members from the splinter group say that majority of these properties are registered in the name of Njenga, and now they want them shared out equally.
Njenga owns a house in Kitengela, and another one in upscale Karen, which borders an estate where some of Kenya’s top politicians live. S
Efforts to reach Njenga throughout the week bore no fruit as his aides who had promised us an interview said he was too busy to honour it.