Tuesday, May 19, 2009



May 19, 2009

By Standard Team

A social crisis is unfolding across Central Province, with the community turning against itself and violent beheadings becoming the order of the day.

In areas worst hit by violence linked to Mungiki, neighbour has turned against neighbour, and vigilantes policing villages have made matters worse.

Now, residents in Nyeri and Kirinyaga are living in fear of Mungiki and vigilantes.

Two of a kind

Whereas the Mungiki extort from the residents and kill anyone who stands in their way, the vigilantes have carried out gory killings of those they think are involved in crime.

Since the killers are well known, the executions blamed on vigilantes have created a sharp rift among residents. Most of the vigilantes are parents and neighbours of those they have executed.

"People are no longer talking to one another," said a resident of Kabaru village near Keruguya town, where four suspects were executed. We wonder if we will ever be able to live as one people again."

The small community of mostly farmers has worked together and helped one another, but with the killings, the communal spirit is falling apart.

The scenario is replicated in other places where the violent killings have been carried out. A month ago, even before the war between vigilantes and Mungiki began, more than 10 people were beheaded in grisly attacks in Kirinyaga.

Now, sociologists warn the situation could worsen unless problems facing youth, especially unemployment, are tackled decisively.

Church leaders say there is urgent need for dialogue to reconcile the community and hold it together.

Further Turmoil

A psychology expert, Prof Samson Munywoki, says the Mungiki menace is a social problem that if not addressed may lead to further turmoil.

Munywoki, a lecturer at United States International University (USIU), described the people involved in the brutal killings as "a group of frustrated youths with feelings of helplessness." He said: "They are people who cannot meet their daily needs and the way to satisfy themselves is to vent their anger on the society, which they accuse of neglecting them."

He said for a human being to resort to such weird actions that involve severing body parts, it shows they are "terribly desperate". "They are people who seem to have lost hope in life as everything seems to be against them. This makes them behave in extra-ordinary ways," said the lecturer. Some victims of the macabre deaths last month had marks of cult killings, with body parts, including ears and tongues sliced off.

The killers of two women in Ngurungu village, Esther Wanjiku and Susan Kirunda, slashed off their breasts, while another victim had his tongue forked out.

In Maragwa District, Bernard Macharia and Lawrence Muguro had their heads sawed off by killers in Mugumo-ini village last month.

Their deaths were ritual like:

Their ears and tongues were cut. In the past few years, the greater Murang’a has had its unfortunate share of grisly beheadings, most blamed on the underground Mungiki gangs.

Young Killers

The killings are executed by young men, mainly aged between 20 and 30, a generation that should be at the forefront making the community better.

Leading psychiatrist Frank Njenga said the Mungiki problem is more of a social problem than a medical condition. Dr Njenga said contrary to a widely held belief, the youths carrying out the killings are highly unlikely to be suffering from any medical condition.

And counseling psychologist Jane Ngatia says the killings are a result of psychological disorders among the youth involved. Ms Ngatia said for a human being to reach the level of carrying out such grisly killings, the person must be suffering from a social disorder. "They carry out bizarre things to get extra-ordinary pleasures that are due to their social backgrounds or drug-induced," said Ngatia, a Nairobi-based psychologist.

The best way to deal with the Mungiki menace, Ngatia suggested, is for the Government to change its approach and engage the youth in dialogue.

Church leaders agree and say they will spearhead a healing programme to bring the community back together.

They will also offer counselling services to affected families. Central Bishops Forum Chairman Bob Kabugi said the decision is aimed at healing wounds left by the murderous acts of Mungiki and vigilantes because residents are living in fear.

Bishop Kabugi said the programme would involve gradual healing, as well as bringing the communities together.