A two-year old boy was found mutilated outside his house in a Nairobi slum on Wednesday, highlighting the spike in violent crime that has plagued the country. The killing took place amid a police crackdown on the Mungiki sect, a controversial group that has been causing terror among Kenyans this year. Arjun Kohli has more on the story from our East Africa Bureau in Nairobi.
The two-year-old boy was found beheaded and mutilated, two hundred meters from his home in a Nairobi slum. The boy's genitals were cut off and his chest lacerated. Kenya's police spokesman, Eric Kiraithe, says that the boy's head was found, half a kilometer away from his body, in a maize field, only hours after the parents had reported him missing.
The police spokesman says the grizzly discovery is part of an increase in murder and other crimes in Kenya that have been ignited in recent months by the criminal activities carried out by a quasi-religious group, the Mungiki.
"The national attention has been turned to this singular group who have been committing robberies, extorting, and also committing murder. In the month of June, that is compared to the same as last year violent crime and murder has increased by 6 percent," he said.
The police spokesman tells VOA that there is increasing pressure on the police force to solve the crimes, but he denies allegations by human rights groups that accuse police of extra-judicial killings using excessive force. He says that in order to better combat the problem they have launched a program, which is based on rallying support from ordinary civilians.
"Our major strategy is to involve the community - to be able to enhance community ownership [by] law," said the spokesman. "We are using our own officers going out there in schools, going out there in the public bazaars, meetings where the provincial administration meet the population to sell government policy. Our main strategy is to mobilize the community in support of prevention of crime, detection of crime, production of evidence in court."
Kenyans frequently complain about the crime and fear that plagues Kenya, but they tell VOA their fears have been enhanced by the Mungiki's activities.
Beheadings have become a regular occurrence in Nairobi and its suburbs, but the terror extends beyond, to the foothills of Mount Kenya in central province, which is a Mungiki stronghold. In recent days there are reports that the group has distributed leaflets to mini-bus drivers, threatening murder if money is not paid to the group.
Membership in the Mungiki is estimated to be in the tens of thousands. Media reports link the activities of the group with political moves to destabilize Kenya before the December presidential and parliamentary elections.
In interviews on television, senior Mungiki members say that they are the champions of the poor and want a return to the traditional values of Kenya's largest tribe, the Kikuyu.
The Kenyan police spokesman says the religious overtones are a sham.
"It started as a sect but now maybe calling it a sect is almost laundering it because when it was a sect there were people who were professing to be worshiping in a certain way, in the traditional way followed by [some of the] Kenya community," he said. "But really I don't know what worship would have to do with killing of two year olds, 70 year olds, extorting, robbing from women and children. We as the police are treating these people as neurotic psychopaths."
In addition to the wave of violent crime that has plagued Kenya, the police spokesman says the entire horn of Africa region is now being overwhelmed with weapons.