Despite having been outlawed almost a decade earlier, the Mungiki sect resurfaced in 2009, causing anxiety among the public.
The government of President Mwai Kibaki responded by launching a major crackdown on the sect, in which many suspected members were killed; sect members responded by organising revenge attacks, raising the issue of extra-judicial killings both locally and internationally.
In April of that year, suspected members of the sect killed 29 people in Gathaithi village in Nyeri East.
The attack came in the wake of complaints that the sect members — who advocate female genital mutilation and tobacco sniffing — had resurfaced to extort protection money from matatu operators in Nairobi.
Villagers in Kirinyaga West District had also taken the law into their own hands, killing 15 people and burnting 22 houses believed to belong to sect members, arguing that the police had failed to protect them.
In the same district, a vigilante group hacked to death a widow, Jane Nyaruia, and burnt down her house, accusing her of funding Mungiki activities.
That same year Gitau Njuguna, spokesman of the National Youth Alliance, Mungiki’s political wing, claimed that the police had killed more than 1,000 youths since a crackdown on the movement began in June 2006.
EVIDENCE TO UN OFFICIALS
Mr Gitau had led a group of about 200 women, who claimed to be widows, to give evidence to the UN officials at the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights offices in Nairobi.
“The list we have is the one we can claim as evidence, because relatives say they saw their loved ones being arrested before they went missing or their bodies were found dumped in thickets,” said Mr Gitau, who was later gunned down in downtown Nairobi by people suspected to be security agents. The crackdown on the Mungiki was linked to a special police unit, the Kwekwe Squad.
There was speculation that politicians, businessmen and professionals from Central Province were financing or protecting the sect for their own selfish motives.
Mr Kamau Kang’ara, the director of the Oscar Foundation — who was later killed near Nairobi University — led some of the demonstrations, claiming that tens of youths branded Mungiki had disappeared.
While the majority of Central Province politicians were supportive of the crackdown, Martha Karua and lawyer Paul Muite condemned the it.
Ms Karua, then MP for Gichugu in Kirinyaga County where the Mungiki menace was serious, argued that there was a need for consultation between leaders, the youth and parents to find a permanent solution to the Mungiki problem in the region.
In March 2009, the UN Special Rapporteur for Human Rights, Prof Philip Alston, called for the sacking of Police Commissioner Maj-Gen Hussein Ali and the resignation of Attorney General Amos Wako.
RUNNING DEATH SQUAD
In his report, Prof Alston accused the police chief of running a death squad, which he said had executed hundreds of young men on suspicion that they were Mungiki members.
He also accused Mr Wako of having failed to show substantial progress in prosecuting extra-judicial-related cases.
Prof Alston received most of the evidence from the KNCHR, which had interviewed and recorded the confession of a former police officer who claimed that he had participated in the execution of 58 Mungiki suspects.
But the crackdown continued and in June 2009, President Kibaki, while addressing Madaraka Day celebrations at the Nyayo National Stadium, said outlawed groups were a serious threat to security and needed to be dealt with firmly.
In November 2009, Mr Muite released a petition he said was to be presented to the ICC prosecutor by murdered Mungiki spokesman Njuguna Gitau, to demand a probe into the execution of more than 7,000 youths.
He handed over the petition by mothers and widows of those they alleged had been killed to the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights. Muite also swore an affidavit urging the ICC prosecutor, Luis Moreno Ocampo, to take up the issue and investigate the objective of prosecuting the culprits in accordance with the Rome Statute.
He said some of the country’s top leaders had sanctioned ‘‘extra-judicial killings of Mungiki suspects”.
To date, the police have not found a permanent solution on the Mungiki meancesince the sect has gone underground and its operations can hardly be distinguished from other criminals.