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Crackdown on Crime Sparks Frustration in Central Kenya


Central Kenya provided the largest base of support for President Mwai Kibaki in the country's recent elections. But as Derek Kilner reports from Nairobi, political leaders from the province are growing frustrated with the government's crackdown on a criminal gang from the region and its slow movement in resettling IDPs.

The Mungiki is Kenya's most notorious criminal gang, blamed for a crime wave last year that included several instances of beheading, and more recently an attempt to shut down traffic and businesses in Nairobi and Central Kenya.

The police have vowed a strong response. Last year, human rights groups charged the police with widespread extra-judicial killings in its efforts to crack down on the gang.

When two leaders of the gang were shot and killed near Nairobi on Monday, police said they suspected the incident was caused by an internal power struggle, but spokesmen for the groups, along with others, suspected that undercover police officers were responsible.

The gang is largely composed of young men from the Kikuyu ethnic group from Central Province, and leaders from the area say the government's response has caused growing anger in the community, which also happens to supply the bulk of president Mwai Kibaki's political support.

A group of political leaders from the community, including member of parliament Elias Mbau, called for the government to change its response.

"And these are the regions that also give our own president Mwai Kibaki his bedrock support and therefore it pains us very much when everyday and every week we are continuing to attend burials of so-called young people who have fallen by the gun, whose assassins are never brought to book," he said. "We supported Kibaki in our government to a man, and now these are the people who are suffering immensely."

Mbau said he would raise the issue in parliament. Former Defense Minister Njenga Karume, meanwhile, called for the government to allow the release of the Mungiki's jailed leader, Maina Njenga, on bond.

Negotiations were set to begin between Mungiki leaders and the government, but those plans fell through after Monday's killings.

Another Central Province leader, Catholic Bishop John Njenga, called for the government to move more quickly in resettling people displaced by violence following December's disputed elections.

"The IDPs must not find themselves having a first anniversary in the camps across the country. Let our target be that no IDP will be in a camp on December 30 this year," he said.

Some members of Kibaki's Party of National Unity already feel the president conceded too much in agreeing to share power with Raila Odinga, his rival in December's elections. Mr. Odinga has been given the post of prime minister and his party controls half the country's ministries.