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Last Updated: Wednesday, 30 July, 2003, 01:08 GMT 02:08 UK
Kenyan MP seeks forgiveness
By Alice Muthengi
BBC Africa Live, Nairobi

Kenyan MP, David Mwenje
Mr Mwenje says that he has denounced 'Satan' to follow Jesus

When Kenyan MP David Mwenje confessed that he had been bankrolling an outlawed violent youth group, he stunned many during his dinner meeting with other MPs and church leaders.

It is not often that a politician owns up to his dark past.

Mr Mwenje said he had used the Jeshi la Embakasi, a form of private army based in his home area of Nairobi, to intimidate his real and perceived political enemies.

It's wrong to let people get away with crimes they committed consciously
Mary Anne
Nairobi University student

Such vigilante groups allied to senior politicians were common before the change of government in late 2002 and have been attributed to the collapse of the rule of law under former President Daniel arap Moi particularly during the 1990s.

Mr Mwenje is now asking Kenyans for forgiveness.

"All that is now past," said the repentant member of parliament.

New found salvation is the reason behind his change of heart.

He says that he has denounced his bad ways and decided "to follow Jesus".

Violent reputation

The MP for Embakasi constituency in Nairobi is small in stature.

There is no act beyond forgiveness.
Philemon Fawoh, Cameroon

Over the years he has acquired a violent reputation and is known to use strong language and force to sort out his political differences.

In one public incident in January 2001 he clashed in parliament with fellow MP Otieno Kajwang and was bitten in the back by his opponent, the event which amazed the public.

News of Mr Mwenje's conversion has been received with mixed feelings in Kenya.

Mary Anne, a Nairobi university student, feels that forgiving criminal offences sets a bad precedent.

"It's wrong to let people get away with crimes they committed consciously. They should be prosecuted first and forgiven later. Sorry is not enough."

Nairobi resident Maina Mbugua disagrees.

"We should not dwell so much on mistakes committed in the past. If one owns up and seeks forgiveness, why not!" he says.

The Jeshi la Embakasi group was outlawed by former President Moi's government in March 2002, after more than 30 people were killed in clashes between two rival youth groups.

Interestingly, Mwenje's confession comes at a time when Kenyans are debating whether sins committed during the previous regime should be pardoned.

There are ongoing discussions to determine whether or not the country needs a Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

A time to forgive?
25 Jul 03  |  Africa
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21 Jul 03  |  Africa


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