Probe on Maina Njenga and claims of Mungiki sect return put to test

Former Mungiki leader Maina Njenga outside Nakuru law courts on November 21, 2023. [Kipsang Joseph, Standard]

John Maina Njenga Kamunya, commonly referred to as Maina Njenga, has for years fought hard to shed off and draw the image of a man who has severed ties with the dreaded criminal group Mungiki sect.

Although he holds no public office, Maina is undeniably a darling to a section of youth, who more often than not refer to him as Chairman, though it is not clear what he leads.

This year, Maina has been a guest of the State several times, when the government linked him to the Mungiki sect and plans to revive it.

Coordinated raids were conducted by the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) on multiple homes in different counties.

The raids were done on the morning of May 12 on his known residences, such as Wanyororo in Nakuru, Nyahururu and Ol Ng’arua in Laikipia and Karen in Nairobi.

Maina was not found in any of the three homes. In Wanyororo, the police arrested eight people. Three others were arrested in Bahati on the same day.

Among the items recovered were imitation firearm, a tokarev pistol, three pieces of ammunition, 96 rolls of bhang, notebooks and snuff which have since been adduced in court as evidence.

A warrant of arrest was issued against Maina, who surrendered himself to a court in Nakuru accompanied by his lawyer, Ndegwa Njiru, on May 24.

He appeared before Senior Resident Magistrate Emmanuel Soita, but the Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP) declined to proceed with the matter over procedures.

DCI officers present in the court accosted him and dramatically walked him to the Rift Valley Regional DCI offices, where he was grilled for an hour.

He was released and directed to appear at the DCI headquarters on Kiambu Road the following day.

Former Mungiki leader Maina Njenga at Makadara law courts where he was released on Sh100,000 cash bail on July 25, 2023. [Collins Kweyu, Standard]

This appearance was not without drama as thousands of youth camped outside, singing and dancing to traditional songs, which irked the police, who lobbed teargas to disperse them.

This did not augur well with Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua, who a day later and on other occasions vowed to deal with the alleged revival of the Mungiki sect.

“We shall never allow what we saw at the DCI headquarters to happen again. Any attempt to recreate this criminal gang and its activities will be dealt with accordingly,” said Gachagua at AIPCA Thika Cathedral.

On May 29, Maina appeared before Nakuru Principal Magistrate Kipkurui Kibelion accompanied by lawyers and politicians Martha Karua, George Wajackoya, Ndegwa Njiru, Jeremiah Kioni and Simon Mbugua.

He pleaded not guilty to seven charges linking him to the Mungiki sect and its activities and was released on a Sh50,000 cash bail.

Another raid was conducted on his Kiserian residence in Kajiado on July 20, 2023, where the police claimed to have recovered machetes, swords, rungus and jembe sticks.

He was presented at the Makadara Law Courts and charged with preparing to commit a felony, organizing unlawful assembly and having the weapons intended to be used in a manner prejudicial to public order.

Fast forward to September 16, 2023, Maina was allegedly abducted by unknown people while leaving a house in Banana, Kiambu County, at around 10:45 pm.

Twenty-four hours later, Maina resurfaced, claiming that the unidentified people could have been the police who dumped him in Limuru and offered him fare home.

The drama continued during his trial and his 11 co-accused persons at the Nakuru Law Courts, where the magistrate, Mr Kibelion, had allocated the prosecution November 20, 21 and 22 to present their over 30 witnesses.

Here, defence lawyers took their turns to poke holes in the case.

On the first day, Maina’s mother-in-law, Hannah Njoki, was the first in the bar.

“My heartbeat is not okay. Iam trembling,” said Njoki, seconds before she collapsed and was assisted out of the court.

The prosecution called the second witness, Eric Wainaina, a DCI officer based in Nakuru who was present during the raid at Wanyororo home.

He presented and narrated the items discovered at the home while lawyers challenged his competence.

Supporters of former Mungiki leader Maina Njenga cheer outside Makadara Law Courts where alongside his two other accomplices had been presented regarding a previous crime on July 25, 2023. [Collins Kweyu, Standard]

The lawyers pointed out gaps in his testimony, among them, failure to verify if Maina was the real owner of the home and how some of the items available in public markets were related to crime and the Mungiki sect.

Mr Wainaina was also at pains to explain why they charged the accused persons with holding a Mungiki meeting when the raid was conducted on the home at the wee hours of the night, during which he admitted the eight people were asleep in different houses within the compound.

Wainaina could also not explain how they narrowed down to the Mungiki aspect when they didn’t have minutes of the said meeting and its agenda.

On the second day, the case failed to proceed after police were deployed to stop Maina’s supporters from hearing the case.

“We are not ready to proceed with the matter when the police have denied the accused persons a public hearing of their case. The police must be withdrawn immediately,” said lawyer Njiru.

Mr Kibelion, the magistrate, adjourned the case three times to have the court administrators and the prosecution address the concerns, but the police remained unmoved until late in the afternoon.

In his directions, the magistrate directed the court administrators to ensure the police were withdrawn and screens mounted outside the court for people to follow the proceedings.

Only three witnesses testified on the third day; a police officer, a provincial administrator  and a community policing leader from Wanyororo.

Chief Inspector Ekiru Lobuun, who was among those who raided the residence, was placed on the defense with questions that faced his counterpart, Mr Wainaina.

“We did not find Maina Njenga in the home during the morning raid,” said Lobuun.

Wanyororo Location chief Godwin Kimani could also not directly link Maina to the meeting, the Mungiki sect or the residence, saying he had only seen a convoy of vehicles enter the home, which he learnt through residents that it belonged to Maina.

Nyumba Kumi leader Charles Gitau also faced hard questions.

“I know Maina bought the home from one Mzee Babaiyo many years ago. I have never seen Maina in the home since it is fenced off. I am also not aware of any Mungiki meeting that took place there,” said Mr Gitau.

The question of home ownership was answered by defense lawyers who produced search documents from the Department of Lands showing that Maina was not the owner of the property.

“According to these documents, which we sourced from government offices, the home is owned by one Hannah Njoki. Maina Njenga does not appear anywhere in the records,” said lawyer Steve Biko.

Mr Kibelion directed that the hearing would resume on May 20, 2024.