Mungiki and Violence in Kenya

What is happening at Tenderfeet this week? As I often say, life in Kenya is very hard.

In this case, the school is being affected by events in Kenya related to a radical group called the Mungiki.

The Mungiki is an organization that strikes fear into the hearts of most Kenyan citizens. This secretive group resembles the mafia in some ways, in other ways it is like a cult. They are said to achieve their goals through violence, extortion, and death threats.

The Mungiki control all the matatus (public transportation vans) in Nairobi through intimidation. All drivers must pay protection money.

Mungiki members and supporters argue that they are misunderstood and that the government and police vilify them for political purposes.

The government is ultimately to blame for organizations like Mungiki being so strong. Because of corruption and lack of basic services, groups like the Mungiki step in to fill the void. For instance, in some of the worst slums like Mathare, there is no police presence to provide security.

When the Mungiki show that they can provide a form of security and social services (which they do), even with all their drawbacks, they gain credibility and power. This is similar to how Hamas gained power in Palestine and the Sadrists gained power in Iraq.

The best way for the Kenyan government to reduce the influence of the Mungiki would be to do a better job of bringing real security and social services to the slums.

The Mungiki is a Kikuyu group. There is no Mungiki presence in Kibera, because Kibera is dominated by the Luo and Luhya tribes, which are hostile to the Kikuyu tribe.

Recently, the police have been cracking down on the Mungiki. Unfortunately, the police operate in such a heavy-handed way, they end up causing a backlash. The brutal way the police violently hunt down the Mungiki cause even those who don’t like the Mungiki to resent the police.

As a result, protests were organized throughout the city of Nairobi (see photo) and surrounding areas this past Thursday. Public transportation was paralyzed and roadblocks were set up throughout the city. Areas like Riruta (where Mama Margaret lives and Tenderfeet has a school location) were very much affected.

In fact, Margaret told me the whole area is closed down. Shopkeepers were too scared to open their businesses, and nobody could get anything done. Many of the schoolchildren didn’t come to school, and life overall came to a grinding halt.

Meanwhile, it appears that some police gunned down some human-rights workers who were involved in the protests, only inflaming the situation more.

Please pray that the situation won’t get out of hand like it did last year with the post-election riots. Kenyans have a saying, “when elephants fight, it is the grass that is trampled.” In other words, when these political forces clash, it is the poor, the innocent, and especially the children who are the real victims.

We hope and pray that this episode will be resolved quickly and peacefully.

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