Mungiki Sect in 2009: A Metamophosis, Genuine Change or Camouflage

Maina Njenga is the topmost leader of the Mungiki sect. He is known as the Archbishop of the sect and is its chairman. Mungiki is outlawed by the Kenya Government as a criminal gang and has a trail of criminal acts over the years in Kenya.

Maina Njenga was released from prison on Friday 23rd October 2009 after charges against him were dropped by the government. On his release, Maina Njenga announced that he has "seen the light" and was now saved. Bishop Margaret Wanjiru - also the MP for Starehe - was at hand to oversee the conversion of the Mungiki archbishop to Christianity from traditional religion worship.

Maina Njenga started the Mungiki sect together with his brother and father in the late 1980s and early 1990s. He is said to have had spiritual apparitions and visions while attending a secondary school in Nakuru which inspired him to start the sect.

Maina Njenga has consequently called on Mungiki members to get saved and stop their wayward ways. In his first church service at the Jesus is Alive Ministries Church where Bishop Margaret Wanjiru preaches, hundreds of Mungiki members thronged the service and got saved.

Many questions arise out of this conversion. Political analysts also see several angles to this conversion.

Scenario One: Genuine Change

Genuine change implies that Maina Njenga has truly seen the light and has totally abandoned his Mungiki ways. With this comes the horrendous task of destroying what he started. In one of his many media interviews since he was released he says that one who knows how to build something, also knows how to destroy it. That he is determined to convert his followers into Chritianity. Maina Njenga enjoys a cultic following and appears confident and sure that all his followers will follow suit without a rebellion brewing within.

What if not all followers convert into Christianity? What if a rebellion builds with a splinter group wishing to maintain the mungiki identity? What will he do? Will he revert to some form of coercion to ensure his call is followed to the letter? Is there a chance that the remnants without central spiritual authority will be more vicious and terrible than before?

Already there are reports that on Monday night the vigilantes in Mathira has killed two young men who were accused of being involved in the Mathira massacre. There are still deep wounds among the community who have suffered under the hands of the Mungiki who feel that not only was justice not done, it did not seem to be done. They are on a revenge mission and a church inclined impotent Mungiki will be a walk over for anyone who needs vengeance since the Kenyan justice system has failed to offer retribution. This will be the acid test for the genuine change as Mungiki is known for the philosophy of an eye for both eye sand a tooth for all teeth. If the vigilantes continue with their revenge mission, the ugly head of Mungiki is bound to re-appear.

Many of his followers earn a living from exploitation of legitimate business owners like in the matatu industry or levying of taxes on homes and businesses and illegal means like illegal connection of electricity and water. They have no fallback income streams and conversion to Christianity calls that they abandon such sinful means of making money. Are they willing to sacrifice and subject themselves to poverty for the sake of a clean break from their evil past?

Maina Njenga has been videotaped gardening his 20 acre farmland in Isinya where a palatial home was built by his followers after the police invaded his other palatial home in Kitengela which is built on a large parcel of land. He also has huge tracts of land in Laikipia among other unknown property.

In other words, Maina Njenga is now in the class of the rich 'neo-colonialists' at the expense of the poor masses something akin to what the Kenyatta, Moi and Kibaki families are accused of. He is extremely wealthy and although he has reverted to farming his huge tracts of land as a source of income, questions abound about his initial source of wealth that bought all he has now vis a vis the peasantry following that he enjoys.

Now that he is saved, is he ready to take the Zachaeus of the Bible test, the tax man who when he met Jesus re-distributed his ill-gotten wealth and repayed those he exploited several times what he took?

In one of his testimonies in JIAM church, he said that even if somebody used to give him his whole salary, that someone should stop forthwith. This alludes to the level of tithing his followers were accustomed to. Is there compensation for such?

Scenario Two: Camouflage

Facing persecutions from the government and police as well as too much negative coverage by the media, Maina Njenga may be sending a coded message to his members to change the face of Mungiki, probably go underground, within the church as they await further instructions or as they prepare for the next phase of Mungiki. It could be a way of hiding the ugly face of the sect while leaving several tentacles out there roaming and doing the bidding of the original Mungiki mandate.

The church is bound to accept converts with open arms and offer some kind of protection from the condemning public. The church is a safe haven for those who are in need and desperate. It could offer a best chance to execute a change of strategy and sanitize the sect. It is a perfect place to get a temporal refuge for the sect as it re-energizes and oils its creaky joints awaiting a re-emergence at an opportune moment.

In such a scenario, Mungiki is expected to continue with its revenue generating enterprises in a clandestine manner while blaming any criminal tendencies which would normally have been the burden of the sect to opportunitic criminals which the government should deal with.

Only that the government will do nothing to stop such named opportunitic gangs manning the matatu stages and insituting governance in the slums because as alluded in many quarters, the sect has representatives and sympathisers everywhere in the social strata, from parliament to the police force to administrative officials, private sector players, the transport industry and now the mainstream religion.

It is also expected that the sect will infiltrate the church leadership and get a voice in the spiritual and religious opinions in the country. It will not be so hard to establish its line of faith and legitimacy from the government as a religious institution. Maina Njenga understands the power of religion as the opium of the poor and he will not hesitate to unleash his potential in this arena.

Nothing offers a better chance to cleanse the past, whip forgiveness and earn unconditional acceptance than the church platform.

Just like other senior government officials who are sunday christians, the mungiki has a cue to follow. These officials manufacture corruption scandals and scam sthat fleece billions of Kenya shillings meant for the hungry, landless and dying masses over the week and grace the church front benches on Sunday.

Scenario Three: Mungiki Metamophosis

Facing critical public scrutiny, police harassment and government blackmail the then general secretary of the Mungiki, Ndura Waruinge, got saved at the Apostle James Ngang'a church in Ngara. Later he was baptised and appointed a pastor. Ndura Waruinge now heads his own church which he started within months of his conversion.

Mungiki members undergo a rigorous oathing ceremony and baptismal rights to the extent that Mungiki deserters are usually beheaded. Nothing happened to Ndura Waruinge. Could it be that the church is supposed to be the next plane of operation for the Mungiki? Could it be that the "seeing the light conversion" is part of the training the Mungiki undergo such that they are trained that at an appropriate time they will infiltrate the church and take their operations to the next level from that platform?

Maina Njenga's call for salvation could be a coded message to the sect members to mutate across the cells, change tact, execute a certain mandate or prepare for a "divine" date with destiny that they have all been waiting and preparing for.

The jubilation and standing ovation that the followers gave their leader as he made his way to the pulpit was not one of bewilderment or confusion like a people whose leader has lost vision, lost his mind or become reckless and careless. Looking keenly at the faces of the sect followers, they donned faces of excitement and an almost hysterical reaction to the call of salvation.

The Mungiki having a tradition and deep cultural-religious culture has had beliefs that are very parallel to the modern christian faith. Their oathing ceremonies includes water baptism that is very symbolic to a deep spiritual conviction of their mode of worship. It has been reported that members in some areas members were not supposed to enter churches.

Having such a background you would expect a call to join modern Christian churches to be met with puzzled looks, confusion and a lot of questioning as to the motive. This has not been so. It is like the following has been waiting for this moment and are overjoyed that its fulfilment has come in their days. If that is the case, Kenya should be very afraid.

For now, we wait and see. For such an underground, amorphous and mysterious movement it is not so easy to tell what is in the offing.

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