Thursday, May 1, 2008



By Jerry Okungu

A few days ago, Raila Odinga appealed to the Mungiki sect leaders to stop senseless killings and harassment of businesses across the country. Curiously enough and in response to the Prime Minister’s plea, the sect’s leader who is currently in custody, addressed a press conference from his prison cell calling off nationwide protests while at the same time appealing to his followers to have faith in Raila Odinga’s leadership because he believed the Prime Minister had the resolve to listen to the sect’s grievances.

Political observers were quick to notice some disquiet with this development just moments after Raila Odinga had been sworn in as the country’s second prime minister in forty- five years. They saw the hand of regional politics in the new development. They were at a loss to explain why this Mungiki truce had not been offered earlier to either President Kibaki when he was sworn in as the country’s president in late December last year.

Why did the Mungiki leaders think that Raila Odinga and not Mwai Kibaki, was best placed to deal with their problems?
The answer may lie in the fact that the Mungiki movement is a fairly youthful organization of mainly jobless Kikuyu community who have over the years tried every method to endear themselves to the older Kikuyu elite to get a foothold in to the economic system of this country. Every time they have gone into some form of MoU either with KANU, NARC or PNU, they have come out the losers at the end of the day.

In their own mind, they have been used and discarded by their own every time there is a national political contest pitting their community against other communities in Kenya.

Perhaps in an attempt to exert their pound of less after a series of betrayals, they have in the past resorted to violent activities in Central Province and Kikuyu settlements in Rift Valley such as Limuru, Banana Hills, Muranga, Nyeri, Kangema, Naivasha and Nakuru.

The other reason is historical. The Mungiki followers are believed to be descendants of Mau Mau freedom fighters who led a rebellion against the British colonialists over land. However, as these warriors were in the forest fighting for their land, their own brothers, the s called home guards went behind their backs, collaborated with the enemy and in the end disenfranchised them by taking all their land. By the time the war was over, Mau Mau freedom fighters and their children found themselves landless squatters in their own country. Indeed they became the first internally displaced persons in Kenya’s independence history.

The background to the present IDPs’ problems facing the Raila Kibaki government has its direct link with the Mungiki sect. Their main agenda is economic empowerment.
Because they are the descendants of landless Kikuyu who were shipped out to the Rift Valley by the Kenyatta regime at independence, whenever there are ethnic land conflicts, they and their parents bear the brunt of ethnic conflicts in the Rift Valley.

Unfortunately, these young Kenyans are very conversant with their history. They know why they are in Rift Valley and not in Central Province. They know they have roots in Central Province but were forced out into Rift Valley during the colonial war by their own brothers and cousins who are still alive. Because they now see injustices done to their parents in the early 1950s by people still alive and living well in Central Province, they have decided that if these injustices cannot be corrected by the very people now enjoying political and economic power, they will fight back and inflict pain on the region.

How does Raila Odinga fit into the scheme of things? They see him as an outsider who has his ways with the youth and their dreams. They see him as having no vested interest in the inter Kikuyu conflicts that are a half a century old. They see him as a no-partisan external mediator whose word may carry weight with political players in Central and Rift Valley provinces.

Whether this new development will go well with Uhuru Kenyatta and George Saitoti in the battle for the Kibaki succession in Central Province; only time will tell. But one thing is for sure, George Saitoti and Uhuru Kenyatta will not be amused if Raila Odinga wins the confidence of this vicious murderous group.