Kigumo's dangerous Karurí town where Mungiki effect on youth refuses to fade

Karuri town

Karuri trading centre along Kaharatí -Kangarí road in Murang'a County that was under the capture of the proscribed Mungiki sect 

Photo credit: Mwangi Muiruri I Nation Media Group

Karurí trading centre in Kigumo constituency of Murang’a County is home to horrifying tales of cruelty that were instilled by the Mungiki sect between 1997 and 2008. 

And the effect has refused to fade away, the centre suffering stunted growth owing to insecurity.

Sandwiched between villages like Njora, Githama, Githuya, Gititu, Gakeu, Maica Ma Thi, Gikomora and Ndunyu ya Muthithi, the centre became centres of high-profile crimes that have influenced its character to date.

It is in Gikomora where the Central region Mungiki leader resided, until he reformed in 2008 under pressure from security agencies.

Mungiki had provincial administration-like ranks in its grassroots hierarchy of command, where the lowest-ranked was an ‘assistant chief’, and at the national level they had the equivalent of a president, who for fear of clashing with the law, was identified as national chairman.

That chairman used to be Mr Maina Njenga, who has since denounced the sect and today refers to himself as a Christian bishop and a Laikipia County politician.

Regional platoons

For its armed wing, the gang had military-like ranks and was organised into regional platoons, complete with spies for intelligence. This was the group that was behind extortion, forceful circumcisions and genital mutilations, attacks and murders against those that opposed their doctrines. 

The Karuri market centre was like a central zone for Mungiki adherents that operated in Muthithi ward.

So central was the area that the then internal security minister John Michuki ordered that a police patrol base be set up at Ndunyu ya Muthithi in 2006 and to be manned by General Service Unit (GSU) officers.

“I want the base to hunt down all the idiots going around forcing the children into a culture of even circumcising their own mothers, sniffing tobacco and preaching retrogressive and archaic doctrines that were practised by the cavemen era … Use lethal force if and when it demands,” Michuki said in Murang’a town on March 13, 2006.

Situated along the Kaharati-Kangari road on the way to good schools like Kigumo Girls, Kigumo Bendera and Njiiris High School, Karuri hit national headlines on June 2, 2007 when Mungiki members flagged down a Nairobi-bound matatu, herded passengers into a nearby Baptist church and beheaded the driver and the tout near the pulpit.

Impunity was the order of the day for the gang members because its members had previously lynched a police corporal in broad daylight.

“You have heard nothing yet … There used to be a gang leader nicknamed Nganika. Sometime in 2006, his wife reported to him that a local youth had made passes at her. What followed even to date is discussed in hushed tones because of the brutality that was involved,” said a local youth.

He reveals that Nganika armed himself with a razor-sharp machete and set about to discipline the randy youth.

Karuri church

The church in which on June 2, 2007 Mungiki adherents beheaded a driver and his conductor.

Photo credit: Mwangi Muiruri I Nation Media Group

“He beheaded two brothers and hacked to death the four cows that were in the compound. He also destroyed their houses as terrified neighbours fled their homes,” he said. 

“Despite police being notified, Nganika was never arrested and the casualties were buried. The Mungiki gangs went for the cows’ carcasses and for three days, roasted and feasted on them in nearby bushes.”

The incident at the Múthithi police station is recorded as "a case of mob justice by unknown assailants believed to be members of the proscribed Mungiki sect".

This conclusion was reached though the actions of the lone assailant were witnessed by dozens of neighbours and the cruelty was executed in broad daylight. 

The town has remained captive of the evil of Mungiki as the seeds that were planted continue to sprout.

It is one of several market centres where remnants of the sect control the Kaharat-Kangari road, where they extort an estimated Sh6,000 per day, charged as ‘toll’.

Each of the 300 matatus that ply the route must pay Sh200 as protection fee to the gang.

On October 10, a 55-year-old man was found sexually assaulted and hacked to death.

During his burial in Gakeu village, clerics and administrators railed at “the culture of crime that appears to hang around us over time”.

Special attention

Kenya Assemblies of God (KAG) Bishop Hiram Mwaniki said the area needed special attention from security personnel.

“We cannot continue like this … This village has shamed us for too long. What it projects about us to the outside world is bad and we know it is only a few elements amongst you. Security must deal with them,” he said.

KAG Pastor James Mburu lamented that “the kind of shame that we have here is phenomenal and it is the stuff that makes God’s wrath manifest in our lives”.

The village continues to lose its youths to lynch mobs and police bullets, locally and in Nairobi.

“There is a family here that has in a span of two years lost all of its four criminal sons. Three to police bullets in Nairobi and one to lynch mobs at Karuri trading centre,” said a Nyumba Kumi security committee member, adding that more than 30 youths have lost their lives in crimes in the past five years in the neighbourhood.

The member added that “about 10 people have lost their lives in the past three years to marauding gangs”.

Area leaders say Karuri is neglected by security agencies.

Commit crimes

“Our youths won’t even make any attempt to work for a living. They report to the market centre to idle and scheme on how to commit crimes. You will see them gambling and moving in and out of bars to spy on who to rob,” said a resident.

He added that the fast-moving goods bound to bring huge profits for traders are bhang, illicit brews in bars, dried tobacco leaves that are rolled to make unconventional cigarettes (kiraiku), gambling services and intoxicating benzodiazepine tablets.

“Police on patrol come and collect bribes and leave … Some of our male youths are lazy to a point that they cannot venture outside the village in search of wives,” said a woman from the area. 

“They marry their neighbours and the women are the ones who go searching for casual labour to provide for the family.”

During the burial of a resident, area Chief Mburu Muchoki said “the government is doing all it can to tame all forms of insecurity in this area”.

He accused residents of withholding crucial information from security agencies, adding that “if we were all to cooperate and pull together, we will secure our lives and properties more efficiently”.

The sentiments that are shared by Murang’a County Commissioner Karuku Ngumo, who said “we are concerned, we have taken note and we are going to act”.

Area MP Joseph Munyoro, during the same funeral ceremony, accused security officers of dereliction of duty.

“We have a problem with some of the security officers here. They are accomplices and do nothing to secure the area. I have raised concerns about many of them who have outlived their usefulness in this area. We need serious investigators and committed teams to help us realise a more secure society,” he said.