For the past week, current and former members of the outlawed Mungiki sect have been fighting over 400 acres of land worth about Sh500 million in Athi River. The war, whose battlefront has been the grounds of Hope International Church in Kitengela, a church that was founded by former Mungiki leader Maina Njenga, has so far claimed at least three lives. About 30 others are reported to have gone into hiding, fearing for their lives.
Besides the land, some sect adherents have confessed that there is stiff competition for millions of shillings collected illegally by the group, including from levying transport operators.
Ironically, the land in question, according to some members of the sect, is part of a bigger chunk which was allegedly grabbed from East African Portland Cement Company by a vocal politician in 2010 to raise money for campaigns in the March 2013 elections. They claim the politician subdivided and sold out the land and later allocated them 400 acres so that they could offer political protection.
Our investigations have revealed that since 2010 one of the sect’s leaders charged with administering the land has been selling plots without surrendering money to the high command.
“They have been selling a 50by100 feet plot at between Sh150,000 and Sh200,000. The buyers are just given a share certificate bearing the name Kitanda na Mbuzi. At the same time 100 members have settled on the land,” sources said.
On Sunday, at least 12 people were injured when the two groups fought each other in the church in Kajiado County.
Tension remained high in the church and its environs as a contingent of police officers from both Administration and their regular counterpart patrolled the town.
The 12, who were armed with machetes and other crude weapons, were ambushed by church members who suspected they were on a criminal mission.
All that Njenga could say yesterday was: “What is happening is unfortunate. We are helping authorities to get to the bottom of the matter. We do not know who is behind this.”
Trouble started on May 4, at around 5am when four intercessors arrived in the church. After praying for about 30 minutes, some strangers clad in black suits arrived in the church.
A van, (registration number withheld) and a mini bus, bearing the label of one of transport companies in the area were parked outside the church. The vehicles, according to some witnesses, were later used to ferry church members who were later reported killed.
“I was just by the gate of the church about to get in when a stranger greeted me joyfully. We talked briefly and I encouraged him to get into the church but within a short time three others joined him and they directed me to an adjacent building where they beat me up. They then threw me into the Nissan vehicle.
“I tried fighting but they stuffed my mouth with a piece of cloth, warning me of dire consequences in case I screamed,” said the victim who is nursing broken legs at a hospital in Nairobi.
“Don’t tell them where I am. They will surely kill me,” he begged. He told The Standard that 10 worshippers were driven away in one vehicle and five in another while goons used yet another vehicle.
The captives were taken to an iron sheet structure at Kitanda na Mbuzi land at Athi River on the Machakos County side where they were beaten using blunt objects and their Bibles, phones and money taken away. The phones were crushed by the thugs.
“We saw one of us die and most of us were left in pain, bleeding with broken limbs,” said the victim.
John Ngugi, who spotted the last vehicle, a minibus at the church, tried to alert others church member as he ran after the vehicle to find out what was happening. A woman saw him getting into the bus, which had slowed down. His body was found on Tuesday evening by police officers not very far from the scene where the 15 people were tortured. Police say he was strangled using a neck tie.
John Muya Mburu, the church chief usher and a renowned mechanic in Kitengela, was tortured and died from injuries in the head, back and limbs. Church members say he was a close friend and confidant of Maina Njenga.
The third victim, John Mwangi Muchwe, died on arriving at Athi River Shalom Hospital. He was a senior official at the church and also a confidant of the church leader. Most victims survived after feigning death.
“They left us for dead after destroying all our mobile phones, luckily one of us had a second phone that dropped on the floor of the house. He scrawled out and called for help over the phone and soon several people came and rescued us,” said a victim.
Last Wednesday, about 40 women marched to Kitengela Police Station to report that their lives were in danger after their husbands disappeared after they were threatened.
“My husband is being sought by the gang. He has since left the town and the gang has warned me to leave the house which they say is their property,” one of them said. There are reports that sect members are also targeting properties of those who have gone against the Mungiki oath.
The women want the sect members behind the threats, torture and killings arrested before they can cause more deaths and harm to innocent people. Njenga, the former leader outlawed sect, who converted to Christianity, has a huge following of about 4,000 people in Kitengela Church alone.
Yesterday, a group of the sect members raided the church at around 5am in a bid to take it over the but found its gates locked. Undeterred, they jumped over the fence and pounced on a caretaker, the watchman and another man.
“Eyewitnesses tell us that they were beaten up inside the church before they were carried away by the attackers. We have informed the police and hope they will be rescued,” said a source.
– The Standard