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Sect Leader Arrested in Kenya Massacre - 2002-03-06

In Kenya, police are cracking down on vigilante groups following the recent killing of over 20 people in the capital, Nairobi. The head of the Mungiki sect, which is blamed for the massacres, is among those arrested.

Police Commissioner Philemon Abongo has said Wednesday he has directed his forces to crack down on members of all self-styled groups that are responsible for crimes.

This follows the slaughter of 23 people in Nairobi's Kariobangi slums Sunday night.

Police are blaming members of the Mungiki sect, a group that is banned in Kenya, for the killings. According to the police, hundreds of the Mungiki, armed with crude weapons, came into the slum to avenge the murder of two sect members by a local vigilante group. The Mungiki are accused of hacking or clubbing people to death at random in the streets; they also are accused of invading homes and killing people.

Mr. Abongo says 29 suspects have been arrested so far, including the leader of the Mungiki sect, Ndura Waruinge.

"There is a self-styled leader of the Mungiki called Waruinge. We have arrested him and are holding him for interrogation. Mwenje is an antagonist in several places, in various places in Nairobi so there are likely to be several charges of incitement," Mr. Abongo said.

Many people in Nairobi are questioning why the police did not intervene more quickly to stop the attacks in Kariobangi.

Mr. Abongo has said the police did their best to protect the public in difficult circumstances. "These people must have taken the advantage of darkness and heavy human traffic to create confusion. It was a situation where you see even our men on patrol were not able to immediately know who was the victim and who were the criminals. Darkness, heavy human traffic and rain also contributed to this confusion during which time these crimes were committed. But of course, had our men not responded by the time they responded I think it would have been worse," Mr. Abongo said.

The police have also been accused of ignoring several warnings about the impending killings. Mr. Abongo says he has set up a special investigation team to address these claims.

Little is known about the Mungiki, a mysterious sect dominated by ethnic Kikuyus, Kenya's largest tribe. The Mungiki started out as a religious group, preaching a return to traditional Kikuyu practices, but have recently turned to politics.