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Tuesday, 20 August, 2002, 13:46 GMT 14:46 UK
Banned sect marches for Moi
Sect members
The Mungiki sect has been involved in tribal violence
Several thousand members of the banned Mungiki sect have held a demonstration in support of Kenya's President Daniel arap Moi.

The sect, drawn mainly from the Kikuyu ethnic group, marched through Nairobi waving placards expressing solidarity with the president and his choice of Uhuru Kenyatta as his successor to fight for the presidency in elections due by the end of the year.

The president has been criticised within the within the ruling Kanu party over his endorsement of Mr Kenyatta.

President Moi
President Moi's choice of heir has caused rifts in Kanu
Four other party leaders have put their names forward, including Vice President George Saitoti and cabinet minister Raila Odinga. They want a more open contest for the party leadership.

Tuesday's demonstration, which started from the Racecourse roundabout, was led by the sect's national chairman, Maina Njenga, and coordinator, Ibrahim Ndura Waruinge, according to Kenyan television.

The Mungiki sect has been banned since the government accused it of being a criminal organisation intent on causing tribal divisions and violence.

In the past, President Moi has made clear his dislike for the sect, calling it un-Christian.

The sect members say they are a religious organisation and are just trying to promote traditional lifestyles and values based on Kikuyu culture.

Transport wars

The Mungiki sect first appeared in 1980 and its leaders now claim to have four million members, mostly among jobless young people in Nairobi's slum areas.

One leader, Ibrahim Ndura Wariunge, said in November 2001 that the movement had been recruiting ex-policemen and soldiers.

The placard-waving sect members intended to march from the Racecourse roundabout to the mausoleum at the parliament building, where Uhuru Kenyatta's father and Kenya's founding President, Jomo Kenyatta, is buried.

The Kenyan riot police intercepted the marchers and directed them to Uhuru Park.

Mungiki gathering
The sect claims four million members

There were no reports of violence according to BBC reporters in Nairobi.

In the last 12 months the Mungiki sect has been involved in violent struggles with ethnic Luo residents in poor areas of the Kenyan capital and with people running private transport businesses.

In March this year, the sect's followers fought with Luo vigilante groups in Nairobi, leaving 20 people dead over a three week period.

In November 2001, the sect tried to seize control of public transport terminals in a number of the slums around the capital. At least 12 people were killed in the violence that accompanied the take-over attempt.

The sect has also clashed with the Kenyan authorities in the past over its attempts to harass and beat up women who wear trousers and because of its support for the Kikuyu traditional practice of female circumcision.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
Kariuki wa Mureithi reporting for Focus on Africa
"The situation almost turned nasty"
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07 Aug 02 | Africa
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