Celebrating East African Writing!
For days on end the outlawed Mungiki sect has been considered by some youth as a way out of poverty. But to most people it is seen as a sect out to extort the common wananchi, of their meager earnings. This has definitely created a hateful attitude from raia and left a bitter taste in the mouths of many.
The sect is said to have been conceived in Muranga District, Central Province, and like flu, it has spread on to the entire countryside, including neighboring districts and other rural towns. But that was just the beginning; it was just gaining momentum, it grew and still is growing to major towns including the very heart of our slowly collapsing nation, Nairobi.
Started as an organization that was trying to hold on tight to Kikuyu customs in a world that was changing fast, the conservative Mungiki has slowly changed into an organized crime machinery, they have become the black Kenya Revenues Authority in Nairobi, especially in the slums; Mathare, Kibera, and Dandora estates. All dwellers are expected to pay protection fess. This is in order to be protected against house theft and robbery. Once you buy a matatu you are expected to pay up a certain fee. If not, the consequences to such a defiant act would be capital punishment. Meaning a beheaded driver or conductor then your car is burnt down.
In Kagumo, one is expected to pay ‘tax’, for example, for a cow that you worked so hard for, taken care of and tendered to. But all the fruits of your labor are vain. Drivers were expected to pay an exorbitant fee for every carload of passengers. Mungiki had now crossed completely over the line.
Mungiki, who refer to themselves as Nyumba ya Gikuyu na Mumbi-House of Gikuyu and Mumbi, who are believed to be the Kikuyu ancestors, have a set of up to 48 commandments that guide them in all their endeavors.
One of the most outlined and highlighted one is ‘ONCE YOU ARE IN, YOU CAN NEVER GET OUT.’ If you were to try leaving, it is considered as betrayal, only punishable by death.
Another rule states that one isn’t to use his/her own strength (be it physical or mental) to be successful. Instead to them it’s just fine to exploit others, as a way of getting whatever one needs. This group is so organized that members are given an allowance of up to Kshs 500 per day. This is indeed an irresistible bait to many and so they end up taking it hook, bait, line and sinker.
The recruitment level has gone to a startling high, such that even primary school kids have been recruited and consequently dropped out of school. The disappearances and deaths of so many individuals have been connected to this. During oath taking better known as muma, the initiates take human blood and flesh. This phenomenon was put on as a fact when an individual who was a member was found in possession of these materials and apparently confessed their purpose before he suffered the same fate as those innocent victims he had taken accomplice in killing.
A rumor has been making rounds, and has spread like wild fire during a drought with wind blowing from all four corners of the earth. It was long rumored that a group of youth, tired of this exploitation and oppression by fellow tribesmen were starting a revolt.
In Kagumo there has been hue and cry from the oppressed and here it was conceived a
vigilante going by the codename Kenda Kenda.When this hullabaloo hit me I thought it was just another joke since it was April 1st. However, on this same day I confirmed that behind every rumor there is an ounce of truth. It was heading to 12 midnight when I was just about to get some beauty sleep. All was tranquil and all that could be heard was the
crickets with their non-melodious, ear piercing cries. I was just about to doze off into dreamland.
`Kenda! Kenda! Fungua! Mbona unalala mchana! Amka vaa na utoke na silaha!’came a thundering voice in clear Swahili accent. Kenda! Kenda! Open! Why are you asleep during the daytime? Get up, get dressed and come out with a weapon.
People had been saying that the Mungiki were using KENDA`S techniques to avenge for their ‘brothers’ decapitations. So as fast as I could, I left my warm, comfy blankets. At the first strike of a matchstick, my door received a banging kick, ‘Kumbafu! Tumekwambia uwashe taa ama uamke, uvae nguo na utoke na silaha!’ came the same terror instilling voice. Stupid! Did we ask you to light the lamp or wake up and get dressed and get out with a weapon?
So I put on a pair of trousers and a warm sweater that I always placed by my bedside for chilly nights and cautiously opened my door. Outside was a breathtaking crowd, the moon was glowing brightly and so enabled me scrutinize the guys who were close to me. They carried pangas and hand axes that were glittering in the moonlight due to their sharp edges. Before I was finished surveying these vigilantes…`Twende kazi, wewe sitakupatia
sita sababu ni mara yako ya kwanza kuamshwa. Twende ukaone vile wasio sikiza
na kuamshwa mara ya pili hudispliniwa. Na kumbuka kutoka sasa mdomo
yako haina kazi. Twende! Na uharakishe, hatuendi harusi!’ Let’s go to work, I won’t discipline you because it is your first time. Come and see what happens to those who don’t wake up the first time. And remember, from now on, your mouth has no work. Hurry up, we are not going to a wedding.
We headed to a neighboring village, the villagers there had been woken once so this time it was war against sleep. If you dared to bother us (‘you became automatically KENDA if you are not Mungiki’) you received double dosage. So you had to comply with whatever was demanded from you. But as kawaida, every market has a mad man or two. One of guys we woke up on being told to lie down said in kikuyu, `Ndingikoma thii muhure ta kihii ni kafa munjuragete.’(I can’t lie down and be beaten up like a not circumcised man, I’d rather you kill me.). Before he was finished, kicks, blows, slaps and canes were caressing every inch of his body. He screamed for forgiveness but not before he was given double dosage. He was so beaten up that he spent a week in hospital.
Afterwards we headed for another village that was so far away that my feet became sore. Rain clouds had formed and blocked the moonlight so one kept tripping on the stones on the road. The downpour was so heavy that it soaked me wet. The phone that I had just bought hardy twelve hours earlier was soaked wet to a point that it couldn’t be fixed, despite my efforts to hide it in the warmest part of my body.
Here we had gone to burst the bubble of both of a mwikwiro (the common term used for Mungiki members) and a jambazi, thug. It’s KENDA’S policy to grant those about to be sent six feet under a favor to choose what way they wanted to exit the earth. One preferred hanging himself rather than being cut into pieces or being torched to death. The other who was rather hardcore said `ndingika wana ta ushio.’ (I can’t do such a childish thing). Asked to make his last statement he claimed that all his life he has lived by the edge of the sword and is ready to die in the same way. The sight of watching him
being chopped into pieces by an enthusiastic crowd would make you think that a cow was being slaughtered.
To me it was like watching a horror movie unfold in my sight. The sight was sickening. Finally he was beheaded and his house burnt down, talk about a taste of your own
The next day two couples presented themselves and their four sons who had joined the group. They were here to seek redemption. But to their surprise their pleas fell on dead ears. The kids were murdered there and then as their parents watched.
These vigilantes have received enormous warnings to stop taking the law into their hands by being both judge and executioner. But no, Kenda Kenda feels the government stood and watched while Mungiki brought horror and terror.
This time, after risking their lives and enduring whatever it took to lock the very gates of hell, retreating would mean embracing the very enemy who had brought so much misery into their lives. So KENDA members have sacrificed sleep, their conjugal rights, endure harsh conditions till their cause comes full circle.
As their motto says “IT IS EITHER YOUR HEAD OR HIS HEAD.”
© Ian Munga 2009
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