From murderous sect to the pulpit: Confessions of a former Mungiki adherent

Thuku wa Thuo

Thuku wa Thuo.

Photo credit: Mwangi Muiruri | Nation Media Group

He grew up in the Christian Akorino sect, with parents who believed and hoped that he would grow up to be a God-fearing man and in his way shine light to the world.

Born in Likia village in Nakuru to Daniel Thuo and Mary Wairimu, Thuku wa Thuo and his five brothers and two sisters were all brought up in the Akorino traditions and he faithfully donned his religious white turban while adhering to their beliefs.

That was until 1999 when Thuku rebelled against his Christian upbringing, dropped out of school in Form Three and became a miscreant, in his own admission.

He says he kept bad company and in 2000 he joined the Mungiki sect, whose goal at the time was to “rediscover the traditions of the Agikuyu community, avenge for perennial tribal clashes in the Rift Valley and seize power on behalf of the traditionalists to rule as per their god of Gikuyu and [his wife] Mumbi”, who are believed to be the first couple of the Agikuyu and resided in Mt Kenya.

“Mine was not a case of poor upbringing. My parents were very concerned about my life’s course. They … wept for me. Mine was simply a case of a rebel without a cause,” Thuku says.

At first, he was drawn in by the ‘preaching’ of sect members about peace, love and unity among the Agikuyu that was used to snare followers. The sect targeted bright young people in schools and even professionals who were already working.

“We were given a visualisation of a formation that loved peace ... loathed the vices of alcoholism, infidelity, substance abuse. The only thing we were permitted to do was sniff tobacco, because it was rated as some sort of cultural purifier,” Thuku says.

Inside the sect, Thuku used his background in the Akorino, who are known for their singing prowess, to good effect. He became synonymous with singing captivating songs like “Ndí Múnjama”, “Múmbúro” and “Nyonia Rúkarara” that mobilised fellowship and promoted cultural practices – many archaic, like female genital mutilation – and so passionate to the cause was he that he was among its most respected soldiers.

As days passed, Thuku became one of the movers and shakers in the special programmes of the outfit, which had Laikipia politician Maina Njenga as its national chairman before he, too, reformed.

Thuku initially practised Mungiki doctrines in Nakuru before he moved to Nairobi in 2005.

But he says the projected beauty of the Mungiki dream was not to be because as the sect grew in numbers, some members went out of control, blatantly defied the orders of its founders, and developed many command wings. And by 2002, the society had simply run amok and was known more for crime than cultural purism.

“With time, the peaceful recruitments that we had and which were so persuasive to a point women would volunteer to be circumcised were abandoned and we gained a monstrous face,” he says.

“We started hearing of cases of deranged male youths running after women to undress them [with the] excuse that they were indecently dressed.

“We started hearing of forceful mutilations of women [and] insulting the elders. The damage caused was great and still haunts many of us to the point that we are ashamed.”

As resentment from society grew, the government started cracking down on the sect.

In 2006, Thuku was arrested in one of the crackdowns and jailed for one and a half years.

While in jail, he began auditing the gains and losses in his 10 years of active fellowship in the sect. The more he thought about it, the more he questioned his decision to join the Mungiki.

It was also at that time that many reports emerged of disappearances and extrajudicial killings of Mungiki adherents.

“My remorse is that some of those who faced such tragedies were my recruits. In the years that I remained behind bars, I did not see even a single senior member who came to check on me. Only my parents visited me alongside a handful of my friends,” he said.

“I wondered how together we were in the movement … I realised that I was living a con game. I knew that all along I had lived a lie and I decided to desert.”

As a Mungiki adherent, he said, he realised he was getting further away from the roots of his parents, and God kept “talking to his soul”. He felt that he was running out of time to escape his death unless he reformed. 

When he was released from jail, Thuku felt he no longer wanted to be a Mungiki adherent, and even if he had rejoined the group, it would have been risky as the government had gained the upper hand against the sect.

“The crackdowns had scared many into submission. The society was now bolder in even confronting adherents. We had lost too much ground. Many leaders in the sect had cowered ... many [were] dead. It was only a fool who would identify with its projects.”

Thuku then tried his hand at becoming a gospel artiste, but his background came back to haunt him and the stigma was too much. He then ventured into bhang trafficking and later the trade in game meat, and in both cases he was nearly arrested.

The near arrests led him to reflect on his life – how he had lived since he dropped out of school – and he concluded that crime did not pay and decided that it was not too late for him to change his life.

“I had since discarded my turban so as to sin without remorse. I had been Mungiki, sold bhang and fed Nairobians with game meat – I had sinned against man and God. My only atonement could only be found in repentance,” he says.

Changing his ways, he revealed, was not easy and was a process. And even as he tried to turn his life around, he needed to work to survive.

“To earn my daily bread, I started singing in clubs. I would sing my Mungiki songs,” he says.

But these would again cause him problems with the government.

“I remember that in 2017 I was barred from performing in Murang'a County by the area security committee ... I was accused of trying to revive the sect,” Thuku says.

After this, he decided to completely change and serve God.

“My real transformation came in 2018 and I am now a Christian apostle engaged in pure evangelisation of the true Christian gospel. I am serving the true God and so far, the peace of mind that I have known is monumental,” Thuku says.

Thuku's father is relieved that his son has changed. "My son was rescued by God from a discourse of self ruin. I am happy to see him revisiting what I intended him to be in life," he says.

Nairobi County Police Commander James Mugera said he has no knowledge of Thuku currently being under any investigations or police watch.

“If he is a man whose past criminal enterprise was punished by the due process, or, was never complained against officially so as to warrant investigations, we have no business interfering with his current life and occupation,” he says.

“As far as we are concerned, we can only pursue him if there is any suspicion in his current life, has any warrant of arrest against him or if someone complains against him.”

Now, Thuku's goal is to guide young people, especially in Mt Kenya, where he sensitises them against alcoholism, drugs and gang life.

“I have been in it and I know how wasteful it is to live as an outlaw. I have come to realise that the only institution that loves you unconditionally is family,” he says.

“Our youths must be taught on how to value family and keep off all negativity that drives them down the gallows of life.”

He added that he has resolved to partner with the government, society and other stakeholders “to rally Mt Kenya youths to a cause of thinking positively, exploiting their potential and becoming responsible”.


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