Tag Archives: Uhuru Kenyatta

ICC Fails to Bring Uhuru Kenyatta to Trial in The Hague: The Story Continues….

20 Jan
http://United Nations.org

http://United Nations.org


On Wednesday December 3rd, 2014 amidst public grumblings that the International Criminal Court (ICC) would lift the indictment against the current President of Kenya, Uhuru Kenyatta, ICC Prosecutor, Ms. Fatou Bensouda did just that. On Friday, December 5th she withdrew all five counts of “Crimes against Humanity” against the newly- elected President of Kenya. Kenyatta had been previously indicted under the tenure of former ICC Prosecutor, Luis Moreno-Ocampo for funding and orchestrating the violent actions of a secret sect known as Mungiki and inciting its members to perform crimes of rape, arson, and murder within Kibera, the largest slum in East Africa, the city of Kisumu, and the municipalities of Nakuru and Naivasha during the 2007 Presidential elections. An estimated 1,300 people were killed as a result of this organized brutality while an additional 600,000 lost their homes or property and were moved by the government into displacement camps. It was determined that Kenyatta’s primary objective in inciting this violence among the tribes was to ensure the election of then incumbent President Mwai Kibaki, a close political friend and fellow member of the Kikuyu tribe. Mr. Raila Odinga, member of the Luo tribe and opposition leader from the Lake Victoria Region had been steadily gaining in popularity and Kenyatta was eventually accused by the court of creating and maintaining this civil unrest during 2007/2008 to ensure that Mr. Kibaki, not Mr. Odinga won the election. Mr. Odinga stated publically immediately after the 2007 election that he had been “cheated of victory” claiming that the voting “had been rigged.” Supporters of Mr. Odinga continued to riot well into 2008 causing President Kibaki to create a new position for Mr. Odinga appointing him Kenya’s Prime Minster in order to help stem the violence. Ms. Bensouda cited “lack of evidence” as the reason for her withdrawal but warned Kenyan officials that she reserved the right to re-file these charges if and when “substantial evidence” emerged to support the indictment.

Mr. Fergal Gaynor, the ICC- appointed lawyer for the victims of the 2007-2008 presidential election violence informed a host of foreign news agencies that the Kenyan government did not cooperate and “did everything it could to withhold information as well important documents such as bank statements and telephone records” that would have shown Kenyatta’s specific role in planning the bloodshed. He claimed that witnesses in this case had either been bribed to change their statements or threatened with death if they testified against Kenyatta and his associates at their trials. He went on to say that government officials “had systematically undermined the court’s ability to conduct a full and just investigation of this matter.” According to Gaynor, Kenyan politicians shielded their president from prosecution by “conducting a well- organized and united effort, planned to undermine the judicial process”. Ms. Bensouda supported Gaynor’s claims also accusing the Kenyan government of “failing to cooperate” and admitting that their actions had had a “severe impact on the court’s ability to carry out a complete investigation.”

Kenyatta, son of the first President and Liberator of Kenya, Jomo Kenyatta had voluntarily appeared before the court on April 8, 2011 to attend the Information of Charges hearing at The Hague in order to learn about the five counts brought against him. With the indictment against him withdrawn he will no longer have to suffer through a long drawn-out trial in Belgium and spend many months away from his office in Kenya. He took the news graciously at first then admonished the members of the court for displaying what he believed was a clear example of “political persecution”. He pointed out that the ICC prosecutor had incurred “a certain loss of respect” as a result of conducting what he deemed was “a very hurried and disorganized investigation”. And he wasn’t alone in feeling victimized just for being African. In September 2013, Kenya’s National Assembly passed a resolution to withdraw from the ICC in protest over the indictment of both their President and Deputy President. And in October of the same year the African Union organized a special summit to consider the current actions of the ICC. A motion was made that “every country in the Union immediately withdraw from the ICC” but was not acted upon. Yet the African Union did make their position on this matter perfectly clear in all subsequent communiques to the ICC stating that “standing heads of state in all African countries must not be placed on trial” and by November, 2013 the ICC had promised to consider the African Union’s request. Unfortunately, this was not the first time African nations had called for a mass exodus from the ICC. In June 2003, the countries of Comoros, Djibouti, and Senegal called for all African countries to withdraw from the ICC in protest over the fact that only residents of African nations “had been indicted, brought to trial, or convicted of Crimes Against Humanity” and were especially outraged over the indictment of Sudanese President Omar al- Bashir.

The International Criminal Court (ICC) was created in July of 1998 after the ratification of the Roman Statute the treaty which established the global mission of this court. The statue delineates the court’s goals, structure, and jurisdiction. It began its official judicial operations in The Hague, Belgium as of 2002 by establishing definitions for the four international crimes used in identifying and prosecuting all cases. The specific crimes have been listed as: 1.) Genocide, 2.) Crimes against Humanity, 3.) War Crimes, and 4.) Crimes of Aggression; although the court cannot prosecute anyone for Crimes of Aggression. None of these crimes are subjected to any Statue of Limitations and defendants can be tried freely at any time well into the future. This international tribunal is only permitted to investigate and prosecute individuals who have engaged in the first three crimes in countries who are unable or unwilling to do so themselves. The ICC may also be directed to investigate specific allegations of any one or all of these three crimes by the United Nations Security Council. By 2014 the ICC had a global membership of 122 countries, 34 of which are located on the continent of Africa. Since its inception it has publically indicted 36 individuals and convicted two. Thomas Lubanga Dyllo was tried and sentenced to 14 years in prison while Germaine Katanga was tried and sentenced to 12 for crimes committed during the two wars in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Had Kenyatta’s indictment not been dropped he would have been the second standing President to be charged by the court. Muammar Gaddafi was indicted for Crimes against Humanity as well in June of 2011 but was killed on October 20, 2011. Omar al- Bashir, President of the Republic of the Sudan was the first. Mr. Bashir was declared a fugitive by the court for not responding to his indictment or summons in 2009. He is still President of this country and lives openly in Sudan even traveling to other sympathetic countries in Africa when he chooses. The ICC has no standing army or police force of its own to enforce arrest warrants so must rely on the United Nations and/or host countries’ troops to locate and arrest indicted fugitives.

So why wasn’t the ICC’s indictment of Kenyatta able to stand on its own merit? Well, according to David Kaye, a specialist in international affairs it had little to do with Ms. Bensouda’s actions and everything to do with those of the previous ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo. In his 2011 article published in the Journal of Foreign Affairs entitled, “Whose Afraid of the ICC?” Mr. Kaye goes on to explain Moreno-Ocampo’s “poor management and decision-making style that alienated subordinates as well as court officials”. He describes Moreno-Ocampo’s “ petty battles over turf and resources”; “erratic decision-making; brash behavior; and charges of politicization,” all undermining his success as the ICC Prosecutor. He believed that “Moreno- Ocampo’s recurring judicial setbacks have cast doubt on his role as Prosecutor.” And Mr. Kaye was not the only one who’d demanded Mr. Moreno- Ocampo’s resignation.

In November 2009, Human Rights Watch sent a public letter to the ICC expressing their deep concerns about Moreno- Ocampo’s role as the ICC Prosecutor. They criticized his performance accusing him of “grandstanding and holding press conferences rather than collecting the evidence needed to support each indictment”. They added that in the case of Darfur he had not “adequately protected his witnesses from the Sudanese government.” Luis Moreno- Ocampo, an Argentinean lawyer started his position as first Prosecutor elected by the governing body of the ICC in June, 2003. His term ended in June of 2012 when he left to head the new FIFA’s ethics committee. There is only a Prosecutor serving the court at one time at the ICC. He/she serves for nine consecutive years and cannot be re-elected to this position.

On June 11, 2011, according to ICC court records Moreno – Ocampo was admonished by court officials for missing the deadline that would have ensured that all 59 victims of the Kenyan election violence who had applied to appear before the ICC were given the opportunity to testify in court. This was after he arrived in Nairobi swearing to the media that he would not quit until he saw that justice had been done on behalf of these victims.

And that was not his only blunder. In 2008 he tried to fire a subordinate in his office after the man accused Moreno-Ocampo of sexual misconduct. Moreno-Ocampo was eventually cleared of this charge but then had the man fired for unprofessional conduct. The staff member appealed to the internal disciplinary board at the ICC and won his case. The court found that Moreno had served on the committee that had fired the man and that had been a definite conflict of interest on Moreno- Ocampo’s part. The media spokesman was reinstated to his former position plus received a monetary settlement from the court of $181,362 (US).

Then unexpectedly on January 22, 2014 during an interview with Radio Netherlands Worldwide (RNW) Mr. Moreno-Ocampo completely changed his story stating that” the Kenyan indictments brought by him in the name of the ICC were trumped -up charges engineered by Western diplomats who asked him to bring these indictments against Kenyatta, and Ruto to keep them from running in the 2013 Presidential elections. And as a result of this admission Ocampo revealed for the first time that despite statements to the contrary, he’d never intended to seek justice for the victims of the 2007 election violence after all but was just one more puppet working for the west that’d freely allowed the USA and Great Britain to pull his strings.

What a movie this story would make! Are Kenyatta and Ruto really guilty? We may never know. But what we do know as fact makes a certain sense when you view it as a mystery novel. Kenyan Justice Philip Waki is appointed Chair of the Commission of Inquiry into the Post- Election Violence of 2007. No one expects too much from the man or his committee. They will take their lead from President Kibaki and will not uncover any more or any less than he wishes them to discover. Eventually the commission releases a public report stating for the record that it found there was not enough evidence to support any legal indictments in this matter at this time but if more information is discovered at a later date the commission will re-convene to consider it. And it seems like the issue has finally been “put to bed” like the good citizens of Kenya had expected it would. But then something unusual happens Justice Waki surprises everyone by personally handing a sealed envelope to Kofi Annan, former United Nations Secretary General in October 2008 during one of Amman’s visits to Nairobi. Inside this envelope rested a paper on which six names have been written- the names of the men who were behind the 2007/2008 Presidential election violence: Uhuru Kenyatta, William Ruto, General Mohammed Hussein Ali, Francis Muthaura, Henry Kosgey, and Joshua Sang.

By July 2009 Annan hands the contents of this envelope, the names of those six men over to Prosecutor Moreno-Ocampo. Ocampo declares that he will right this injustice by making an example of these six Kenyans and by December 2010 he releases the names to the media and prepares to serve each man with an indictment. After he leaves his position as prosecutor in 2012, Ms. Bensouda takes over the individual cases and all of the evidence supposedly gathered by Moreno- Ocampo. Ms. Bensouda forges ahead with her investigations and actually serves the indictments.

Then five years later Ocampo goes public once again -only this time he tells a much different story. In this second version he was never a superhero after all, and that despite all his bragging and bravado he was merely a pawn pushed around by diplomats from the USA and the UK whose only objective was to frame Kenyatta and Ruto for crimes they did not commit in order to keep them from running in the 2013 election so Raila Odinga would win. So why this change of heart- you ask? Didn’t Annan personally hand him those six names? He could claim the envelope never existed but too many people working at the ICC and living around Nairobi at that time knew that it did- including Kofi Annan. And what leverage could those diplomats possibly have had over him to make him do their bidding- he’s a citizen of Argentina? And why would an ICC prosecutor bend to their demands so easily? But I’m sure you can write the ending to this particular story. Who stands to gain the most now that Mr. Moreno- Ocampo has conveniently changed his mind? And what could he possibly stand to lose or gain by doing so? And how does Mr. Moreno-Ocampo currently spend his time?

And what about the six names on that list? Did Justice Waki make them up? I think not. I think he risked his life and those of his family when he gave those names to Annan knowing full well that his role in this matter would eventually come to light. So why did he do it?

Well, I’m praying he’s the true hero in this story, not the narcissistic Mr. Moreno-Ocampo who already admitted he was more than willing to bring false charges against innocent men. Just maybe Judge Waki is a man of real integrity who had no choice but to see that justice prevailed and that one day, no matter how far into the future, those six men would be held accountable for their criminal actions- but maybe not…..

As of January 2015 the ICC has withdrawn the indictment against Uhuru Kenyatta. The charges against Henry Kosgey and Mohammed Hussein Ali had already been dismissed in 2012 but the trials of Joshua Sang, a journalist and William Ruto, Deputy President of Kenya did begin as expected on September 9th, 2013 and continue.

And one more setback! Omar al- Bashir, President of the Republic of the Sudan proudly claimed victory over the ICC after Prosecutor Bensouda revealed in December 2014 that she was “shelving the investigation into his crimes in Darfur because of a lack of support from the United Nation Security Council.” Omar al- Bashir had been previously indicted by the court on five counts of Crimes against Humanity, three counts of Genocide, and two counts of War Crimes as a direct result of his actions in Darfur. This region of the Republic of Sudan has been decimated by violence beginning in February, 2003 when over 300,000 residents were systematically killed and another 2 million displaced from their homes then forced into refugee camps. The Republic of Sudan, especially al- Bashir, have been continuously supported by China who occupies a permanent seat on the UN’s Security Council and has blocked all attempts to bring al- Bashir to justice.

According to al- Bashir, “The Sudanese people have defeated the ICC by refusing to hand over any Sudanese to the colonial courts.”

Because of withdrawals such as these the ICC’s reputation has suffered greatly among the people of Africa who question the real motive behind its formation. Is The International Criminal Court truly a global forum where victims of a cruel world can come to be heard and evil men punished for their inhumane actions or is it merely a ruse, a kangaroo court invented by the first and second world in order to placate the third?

The story continues….


Kat Nickerson                           Kingston, Rhode Island










Massacre in Mpeketoni: “Pwani Si Kenya”, Political Retribution, or Terrorism?

29 Jun


On the night of June 15, 2014- less than two weeks ago, witnesses observed several vans filled with men enter the town of Mpeketoni and stop at the local police station. Subsequent reports now claim that these same policemen had been notified of a possible attack upon the residents living in the area earlier in the day making what eventually occurred a most tragic event indeed. After the masked gunmen who carried AK-47’s and spoke Swahili secured the station they divided their original group of 50 into smaller units then headed off to terrorize the nearby neighborhoods of Mpeketoni and Kibaon in search of infidels; shooting those who declared they were Christians and sparing those who could recite verses from the Qur`an accurately. While some of these brigands engaged in cold- blooded murder others set fire to local hotels, restaurants, and an assortment of administrative buildings creating orphans and widows in their wake. Two nights later a group of similarly armed, masked men appeared in the villages of Majembeni and Poromoko intent on looking for Christians while setting the homes of many longtime residents ablaze. By the time this killing spree had ended 58 people lay dead and another 30 had been declared “missing persons”.

Then in the aftermath of this slaughter things became doubly confusing. At first local media attributed these horrific events to the Islamic terrorist organization al- Shabaab claiming that the Somalia extremist group had assumed credit for these attacks claiming they were in retaliation for the presence of Kenyan military in Somalia and for the wanton slaughter of fellow Muslims there. But then Uhuru Kenyatta appeared on national television to give a much different explanation of the massacres. He declared that the attacks were the work of disgruntled politicians and opposition parties living in Lamu Province instead. Men who had sought to do some ethnic cleansing of their own in retaliation for past grievances over property rights and illegal land transfers. Not only that, Kenyatta claimed that these attacks were purposely directed at the descendants of some 30,000 Kikuyus now living along the coast who had been brought there by his father in the 1970’s as part of the Lake Kenyatta Settlement Scheme. In order to house his Kikuyus, the first President of Kenya took ancestral lands away from the Oromos and the local Muslims living in the area at that time who had laid claim to this territory for centuries. According to Uhuru Kenyatta, these were revenge killings carried out by fellow Kenyans who wanted the Kikuyu off their land and out of their villages. The Kikuyu tribe is one of the largest tribes in Kenya today whose ancestral home is located in central Kenya at the base of Mount Kenya. And to prove this, by the following week Wednesday, June 25, 2014 the Lamu County Governor himself- one Issa Timamy was arrested on charges relating to these heinous attacks.

And things became stranger still as Kenyatta and other members of his cabinet hinted that somehow former Prime Minister, Raila Odinga was linked to these attacks. Cabinet Secretary of the Interior & Coordination of the National Government, Joseph Ole Lenku went as far as to blame the current opposition party, The Coalition for Reforms & Democracy (CORD) for the attacks knowing full well that Mr. Odinga is the current leader of this party. On Friday, June 13, 2014 Odinga held the first in a series of rallies planned throughout Kenya to force Kenyatta’s government to address three of the most critical issues facing the country as of 2014: the rising cost of living, the escalation of terrorism within the country, and the reform of Kenya’s present electoral body.

Odinga, a member of the Luo tribe from the Lake Victoria region, had failed at his third bid for the Presidency of Kenya during the March 2013 elections while Uhuru Kenyatta, son of the country’s first President Jomo Kenyatta, a Kikuyu himself, had won the election. But with only a 50.5% margin of victory; he had not won this election by a considerable landslide leading many to believe that he was not the “people’s choice” as he’d previously described himself in campaign speeches.

In the 2007 Presidential election after running and losing to the incumbent President, Mwai Kibaki, also a member of the Kikuyu tribe, Odinga refused to accept the electoral commission’s decision and riots soon erupted on the streets of many major cities pitting Kikuyus against Luos and Kalengins. Finally in order to restore peace to the country President Kibaki resurrected the position of Prime Minister for Odinga making him the second Prime Minister in the country’s history since its independence from Britain. But in all fairness, Odinga’s claims of political wrongdoings during the 2007 elections were proven to be valid. Uhuru Kenyatta, even though he is a standing President, has since been indicted by the International Criminal Court and is expected to stand trial for crimes committed during the 2007 elections where over 1,000 people died and thousands more lost their homes and were forced to relocate to refugee camps.

So who is really behind the senseless slaughter of local residents in coastal Kenya? Many Kenyans would tell you that the new and improved Mombasa Republican Council (MRC) has had a hand in this brutal violence. This separatist organization was first established in 2008 as a platform for Muslims and Christians living along the coast especially in and around Mombasa to express their unhappiness with the substandard economic and social conditions they feel have been caused by the Kenyan government and their desire to secede from Kenya in order to create their own independent state. There is a catch-phrase in Kiswahili often bantered around the streets of Mombasa, “Pwani Si Kenya,” which means, “The coast is not Kenya.” Many residents there are convinced that the creation of a new country along the coastline would give the local tribesmen possession of their ancestral lands once again – those same lands that had been stolen away from them by any number of conquerors from the British and Persians to the Portuguese and Arabs.

The MRC is currently based in Mombasa, the second largest city in Kenya and the oldest with a history steeped in warfare and violence. Recently the MRC reshaped itself aligning themselves to Islamic interests which has caused many residents of Mombasa to wonder if it’s also connected itself to Islamic terrorist organizations such as al- Shabaab or Kenya’s own al- Hijra as well? It’s common knowledge around the city that the current leadership of the MRC is being funded by wealthy and influential Arabs living in Yemen and Saudi Arabia. It’s also no surprise that Yeman’s considered one of the foremost training centers for al- Qaeda-connected terrorists, Results of a current survey conducted by the researcher, Paul Goldsmith on the influence of the MRC found that the organization had almost “universal” support among the people living along the coast.

In July 2012, the current Chairman of the MRC, Omar Mwamnwadzi, made this dire prediction concerning the future of Kenya’s coastal belt. “There will be no peace, this I cannot hide from you. The coast will have no peace at all.” Although he was referring to the 2013 elections which did take place in Mombasa without considerable violence his warning has never appeared more true than in the year 2014. Mwamnwadzi also stated that the people of the coast have a perfect right to secede from Kenya now because Kenya no longer has any title to this 11.8 mile strip of land. He bases his claim on a June, 1963 accord document supposedly signed by then Prime Minster Jomo Kenyatta and Mohamed Shante, Sultan of Oman granting the newly independent country of Kenya a 50 year lease on the 19 km strip of coastline known as Zanj of which Mombasa is a central part. He also stated that the MRC is in possession of physical documents and signatures that prove his claim. According to Mwamnwadzi, Kenya’s lease expired in June of 2013 meaning that Kenya has no legal right to Zanj anymore.

Government officials have taken a different view of the situation especially their interpretation of the supposed lease. In their version the 1963 Lancaster Negotiations as they were called at the time, recommended that this same strip of land be made a permanent part of Kenya and that the Sultan of Oman was compensated with money and other favors for the transfer of his land at that time once all of the documents relating to the negotiations had been signed. But members of the MRC have remained firm on their intention to create a separate state in order to right the wrongs done to them over the past centuries. Their goal- to take back the land belonging to the indigenous peoples of the coastline from those who currently control it- namely people from “up country” ( inland Kenya) the bulk of whom are Members of Parliament and government officials living in Nairobi. They remind everyone that until recently only the President of Kenya could approve of the sale of beach property along Kenya’s 300 mile coastline and that Jomo Kenyatta appropriated large parcels of land along the coastline for himself as soon as he became President of Kenya. This same property continues to be owned by his descendants. And members of the MRC are correct in claiming that most of Kenya’s shoreline belongs to the political elite of Kenya rather than the people who’ve lived there for centuries.

There is a strong Islamic influence throughout this island city and the mainland coast evident in its architecture and daily routines. Although Muslims make up only 11 % of the total population of Kenya, 60% of them live along the coast. And so, delicate, white minarets dot the winding landscape while muezzins use loud speakers to call the faithful to prayer, (adhan) five times a day. According to historical records Mombasa is an ancient settlement founded by Shehe Mvita, a Muslim of great learning, in 900AD. Eventually his descendants transformed the city into what it is today. There are still direct descendants of Shehe Mvita living in Mombasa enough so, that they actually have been given a name- “ Thenashaw Taifa” or The Twelve Nations.. Control of Mombasa alternated between the Sultan of Oman and the Portuguese from1593 until 1824 then the British took over in 1826. The Sultan of Oman returned again from 1826 – 1887 and the East African Protectorate (Britain) from1887 until Kenya’s independence in 1963. For many years Mombasa served as the capital of the East African Protectorate until the British finally made their capital city Nairobi in 1906.

I visited Mombasa with friends during the summer of 2007, lived in a white, stucco villa located on Shelly Beach and can still recall how the sensual odor of fresh jasmine mingled with the scent of the Indian Ocean as I made my way through the small shops located around Fort Jesus. In my mind there is no finer city in the world and I can understand why its residents would give their lives to keep it that way. Which is why it bothers me greatly to think that Mombasa may never experience a peaceful day again- not until the government of Kenya really starts listening to its Muslim constituency?

Mombasa has been called, “Kisiwa Cha Mvita” in Kiswahili meaning “island of war”. This is an apt description lately whether because of riots between Christians and Muslims or violent retaliations by Kenyan police. Mombasa has been on the verge of revolution for a full decade now and it seems that the current violence has pushed it far closer to the “edge of no return” than ever before. In my previous blog post I discussed the formation of Kenya’s terrorist organization- al- Hijra and the reasons young Muslim boys are attracted to terrorist organizations in the first place. Kenyan Muslims have claimed for five decades now that they have been systematically swindled out of land and businesses by inland Kenyans especially politicians who own large shares in the many resort hotels lining the coast plus they see little monies from a most profitable tourist industry which fills only the government’s coffers. And although Mombasa is the major shipping port supplying all of East and Central Africa with goods, the port itself is controlled not by locals but by a government which excludes Muslims from its employ.

I think that if history has taught us anything it’s that happy people make poor terrorists. People who are respected by the community, have good jobs, earn enough money to make personal plans and fulfill their dreams don’t go around causing trouble. But them that have no hope of building a better future for themselves and no means of improving their lot in life- they’re the ones capable of carrying AK-47’s in the streets and hiding bombs inside matatus. Until the Kenyan government understands this nothing in Mombasa will change- in fact it will only get worse.

Give these boys good- paying jobs where they can master skills that expand their horizons and watch their attitudes change. Respect their choice of religion and culture by seeing to it that tourists staying in the many resorts clothe themselves decently when walking through the streets or visiting the local marketplaces. See to it that alcohol and drugs are kept away from children and adolescents- not sold out on the streets as so much candy like they are now. Help plan a peaceful future for these young men or they will plan a much more violent one for themselves. And intolerance will only exasperate the situation no matter your belief in the effectiveness of a heavy hand. People who have no reason to hope  are a dangerous breed indeed – undeniably prone to anarchy. In the words of the conscience of 60’s, poet/ songwriter Bob Dylan “When you got nothing- you got nothing to lose.”

So who’s responsible for the massacre around Mpeketoni? What does it matter when the outcome’s sure to be the same? Whether or not the current killings are the work of opposition parties, Somali terrorists, or a disenfranchised Muslim population in the end more violence in response to these actions by the Kenyan government will only divide coastal loyalties further and push people into using more violence. The MRC claims that it has not yet joined forces with terrorist organizations but as more and more young men return to Mombasa from the training centers in Somalia thoroughly skilled in the art of terrorism and join the MRC what then?

On Tuesday, June 10, 2014 Sheikh Mohamed Idris chairman of Kenya’ Council of Imam and Preachers was shot to death by armed men driving by on motorcycles as he left his house to attend morning prayers. Idris had been threatened by members of al- Hijra and al- Shabaab for urging Muslim youth not to join with terrorist groups. He had been run out of the mosque he had served for the past 35 years by young men armed with knives because of his stand against violence and the fourth cleric to be assassinated in Mombasa in the past two years. Out of a total population of 1.2 million people now living in Mombasa, over 300,000 or 37% are Muslims. Their high numbers alone ensure that they can provide an unlimited amount of warriors willing to participate in open rebellion. Young Muslim men have demonstrated that they have become a force to be reckoned with and whether it’s due to their lack of education, meaningful employment, or zealous beliefs they will be the ones leading the revolution as Mombasa erupts and it surely will.


Kat Nickerson                                                     Kingston, RI

The Mystery that is Mungiki: Part One

1 Apr

Mungiki Arrested by Police Photo: 2006, News de Francais, Kenya

Much speculation has occurred lately in newspaper articles and television news programs throughout Kenya beginning in the fall of 2012 up to late February,2013 especially in the capital city of Nairobi about the dreaded “Mungiki” and whether it would return to wreck havoc in the March 4th 2013 presidential and general elections.  Would this secret Kikuyu society disorganize the elections of 2013 the way members had in the December, 2007 elections by organizing violent riots, murdering members of opposing tribes, and openly defying the Nairobi police?

Thankfully this was not the case on March 4th of this year but no one truly understands why. Opinions rule the day but no one has come forward yet to provide a viable explanation concerning their extremely noticeable absence. Was it because their favorite son, Uhuru Kenyatta remained one of the frontrunners during the entire presidential pre-election campaign polls so there was no need to show their disdain or was it because the men responsible for the violence in 2007 are no longer alive? Or maybe it all came down to a far more practical reason such as they were no longer paid by wealthy men to incite these riots, intimidate voters, or murder police officers? Whatever the case, the men and women connected to the illusive Mungiki society stood on the sidelines watching quietly as the current campaign ran its course. There is no evidence that they were responsible for disrupting voter registration by inciting violence as well as leading and murdering voters at any time during the 2013 election process – but if not, then why not?

Before tackling that question it is imperative that the reader understand just who and what Mungiki has come to signify in Kenya? The ideals espoused by the members of the Mungiki sect seem to have expanded since its inception in 1980’s but maybe not?  Maybe it’s merely the fact that the rest of the world has never quite understood the need to create something like Mungiki in the first place.  So it’s imperative that we begin by exploring each one of the stages in the development of what  is considered Mungiki in order to answer this question.

First there was Mungiki, the religion. In the late 1980’s the term Mungiki was first introduced as religious doctrine created by two teenage boys, Maina Njenga and Ndura Waruinge after they heard the God of their ancestors speaking to both of them. He told the boys to bring the members of the Kikuyu tribe back to their former way of worship. The Kikuyu were farmers who lived on the southern and western sides of Mount Kenya. This mountain located in Central Kenya had always been a holy place to them as well as  the other tribes living around the mountain. The Kikuyu believed that their God (Ngai ) lived on Mount Kenya when he visited Earth. There he met with Gĩkũyũ, the father of the Kikuyu tribe who climbed to the top of this mountain to visit with Ngai.  Mount Kenya was an integral part of Kikuyu life and a Kikyu farmer would be sure to construct the entrance to his home facing the mountain so that it would be the first thing he viewed as he offered up his morning prayer to Ngai. And so the boys began to retell the old tales about the gods especially Ngai and refashioned a new religion from the ancient oral traditions.  It did not take long before many members of the Kikuyu tribe living in the area joined them and began observing the old waysonce more. This revival of Kikuyu traditions eventually spread into the Nairobi especially into the slums of Mathare, Dagoretti, and Kangema brought there by Kikuyu families who had left their tribal lands in central Kenya and the Rift Valleyto seek out paying jobs in the city of Nairobi.

Second, there was Mungiki the tribal operative responsible for standing up for the rights of Kikuyu tribesmen by creating and arming a local militia in order to protect Kikuyu farmers from having their lands illegally confiscated. This was being done by members of the Maasia tribe living around Mount Kenya area who were supported by corrupt government officials in the administration of then president, Daniel arap Moi. The militia fought for justice for the local Kikuyu farmers and violent land wars began where Maaasi marked by the Kikuyu as “greedy land-grabbers” suddenly went missing from their homes. The appearance of these vigilante fighters using guerilla tactics around Central Kenya and the Rift Valley caused the Maasia and the dirty government officials to become far more wary in their illegal dealings with Kikuyu farmers.  

By the late 1980’s, the young people of Kenya had two choices: remain with their tribe and farm small plots of land or migrate to cities and towns and find employment for which they would be paid in money or comparable goods. Many young Kikuyu men of the most current generation had no desire to engage in subsistence farming like their parents before them, so left their tribal lands in order to find work especially in the city of Nairobi. The Kikuyu prospered in the market places of Nairobi quickly demonstrating that they were astute business men very adept at the art of “The Deal.” They earned reputations as shrewd barterers but men who were not always so honest in their negotiations with others.  But despite this they carved out highly successful careers for themselves in “town” -as Nairobi was and still is called. In time word filtered back to the tribe describing the “good life” many Kikuyu families had made for themselves in Nairobi and hundreds of young Kikuyu males followed suit – all seeking the “good life.”

Kenya had continuously suffered from a severe shortage of jobs causing  a very high unemployment rate. This rate measures the number of people actively seeking a job as a percentage of the labor force. From 1999 until 2011, Kenya’s Unemployment Rate averaged 22.4%. It reached an all- time high in December of 2011 of 40% and a record low in December of 2006 of 12.7%.  At the same time as thousands of young Kikuyu males were flocking into the city, Kenya’s unemployment rate continued to rise because improvements in water quality and medical care had caused rapid population growth. Thousands of young Kikuyu males and their families found themselves trapped in the slums of Mathare, Kangama, Kibera, and Dagoretti with no place to work and nothing meaningful to do.

Third, there was Mungiki, the secret criminal society. By the 1990’s this organization had been introduced into the slums of Nairobi. The society borrowed much of its ideology and structure from Bolshvik literature prior to the Russian Revolution of 1917. The group used a “cell” structure based on the communist cells at the beginning of the twentieth century. Each contained 50 members who then were divided into “platoons” composed of ten individuals. It based its protection and collection methods on scenes from the film, “The Godfather” using the same extortion tactics employed by Italian immigrants arriving in New York City in the early 1900’s who eventually founded “The American Mafia”. Hundreds of estranged, unemployable Kikuyu youth living within the slums of Nairobi pledged their lives in ritualistic initiation ceremonies in order to become part of Mungiki because membership in this organization ensured power on the streets, a cultural as well as a political identity, and the money they required  to live their lives as they chose.

So around the early 1990s, their leaders devised a grand plan to extort money from local businesses throughout the city. They initiated their racketeering endeavors by demanding monthly protection payments from the matatu drivers then the “Taxi –Cab drivers working in Nairobi . Matatus are privately- owned, government –licensed vehicles  similar to Volkswagen buses that carry small groups of about twenty people back and forth on the main roads from town to town all over Kenya but the largest number of Matatus transport workers to and from the city of Nairobi. Most begin at sunrise and operate well into the late evening hours. Cities and towns are also filled with privately-owned taxi cabs that convey passengers, day or night but at a cost far greater than a Matatu ride.

It was well known out on the streets that Mungiki’s extortion schemes had been blessed by the President at that time, one –Daniel arap Moi because Mungiki began handing out monthly pay-offs to him and his corrupt ministers. The society continued to grow and local newspaper articles at that time claimed that the membership in this criminal faction had increased to half a million members. That estimate was vehemently denied by the government but the group’s use of brutal violence and torture made it a highly feared organization on the streets of Nairobi. In time, it widened its extortion  ring demanding payments from other businesses located in the city such as trash collection, construction, and even charged their neighbors in the slums of Mathare individual fees to use the electricity, public toilets and water services there.

Fourth, there was Mungiki the political “fixers”. By 2002 Mungiki had begun a new criminal venture aligning themselves with local politicians who wanted to win their election race by means of intimidating their opponents into removing their names from the ballot. And Mungiki was willing to terrorize even severely beat these rivals for a price. They agreed to injure competitors so severely that they would be sent to the hospital but demanded money and political favors in return. Kenyan newspapers reported stories of politicians running for election in local campaigns for MP (Minister of Parliament) who along with their families had been threatened with death if they did not withdraw from their campaigns immediately. Those who resisted incurred injuries or broken bones that often prevented them from continuing on with their campaigns. Entire slums like Kangema were intimidated and threatened with dire consequences if the people did not vote for the candidate of Mungiki’s choice. It was whispered that Mungiki’s influence had increased considerably with some government officials and word on the street was that they were closely connected to officials serving in the Kenya African National Union ( KANU) the first political party formed in Kenya and those who had served  in President Moi’s administration. But the newly- elected president, Mwai Kibaki had not used Mungiki’s services during  his campaign for president of Kenya and vowed to end their criminal activities once and for all- as soon as his presidency commenced.

So Kibaki ordered his police commissioner, Major General Hussien Ali to find and arrest these Kikuyu criminals and the Nairobi police began a monumental crack-down on Mungiki by raiding Mathare, which had been confirmed as a Mungiki stronghold in the city. They arrested anyone they suspected of being a member of or working for Mungiki. They used paid informants to help them identify these men but these “rats” were criminals themselves and began fingering innocent people just to provide the police with names in order to earn their cash rewards. The Nairobi police didn’t care about the truth and grabbed anyone who had been identified as Mungiki making countless mass arrests. They threw piles of young males into the back their trucks and drove off with them to jail. The police force tolerated no opposition and shot anyone who they even thought was resisting arrest, many times in front of their wives and children. Hundreds of Kikuyu men died before they could stand trial.

By the time the police had moved their raids into the slums of Kangema and Dagoretti both Njenga and Waruinge had been arrested on other charges and were already serving time in a Nairobi prison. Why they had not been murdered by police as they served out their time testifies to the influence they both exerted within the slums of Nairobi. The government was very wary of the possibility of the riots that might ensue if either one of these Mungiki’s leaders were assassinated in prison so kept them alive when so many other young Kikuyu men had been  mercilessly gunned down.  Word on the street was that these men continued to dominate every operation in which Mungiki was involved but the two publically swore to the Kenyan press and anyone else who would listen, that they were only ever involved in Mungiki, the religious sect. They continued to explain that they had no connection whatsoever to Mungiki, the secret society or Mungiki, the political ruffians and about a year later even confessed that they had stopped practicing the old religion entirely and had become Christians again. But no one believed them- especially not the police.

Fifth, There was Mungiki, the terrorists, prior to 2006 Mungiki had gone farther “underground” than ever before in order to elude the police. They continued to keep a low profile and lay off the matatu and taxi cab drivers for a time although they continued to receive pay-offs from their other extortion activities. But by January 2006 a significant change occurred in Mungiki and it came back with a vengeance and doing something no criminal organization in Nairobi had ever done as a group before- they began shooting back and killing the Nairobi police.

Three police officers were gunned down by armed men that sped by in a matatu at the Globe Cinema Roundabout as the officers tried to disperse a riot composed of angry matatu drivers and touts. The Police Commissioner later identified the assassins as members of Mungiki and went on to threaten all members of this society.He firmly announced that  “every last one of them” would be hunted down “once and for all” including the sect’s sympathizers and financiers. This was the first time that a public official openly admitted that the government was aware that people with power and money had been supporting the illegal activities of the Mungiki Brotherhood. The Minister of Security, John Michuki pledged on local news stations that the government would “never relent in its war to eliminate Mungiki” stating that he would personally  “increase security details for Members of Parliament who been recently threatened by the criminal society.”

“Word on the street was that this drive-by shooting has been carried out by Mungiki in retaliation for the hangings of five men along Thika road in Kagunduini the previous week because the police had “suspected” them of belonging to Mungiki. And this was the prelude to the violence that would soon escalate into dramatic proportions during the summer of 2007. But all that and more will be included in my next posting. Kenyatta & Mungiki: Kenyan Elections, Part Two

Kat Nickerson                  Kingston, Rhode Island            USA