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State 'sanctioned' Kenyan clashes

A member of the Kikuyu Mungiki gang threatens a man with a machete in Nairobi's Kibera slum, 10 January 2008
Some 1,500 people died in unrest after disputed poll results

The BBC has learnt of allegations of state-sanctioned violence in Kenya during the turmoil that followed last December's disputed presidential poll.

Sources allege that meetings were hosted at the official residence of the president between the banned Mungiki militia and senior government figures.

The aim was to hire them as a defence force in the Rift Valley to protect the president's Kikuyu community.

The government denied the allegations, calling them "preposterous".

There's no way any government official would meet openly or even in darkness with the Mungiki
Alfred Mutua
Government spokesman

"No such meetings took place at State House or any government office," government spokesman Alfred Mutua told the BBC.

He said the government had been cracking down on the sect for the last year, arresting their leaders.

"There's no way the president or any government official would meet openly or even in darkness with the Mungiki," he said.

Gangs with machetes

The allegations come as parliament prepares to open on Thursday, laying the ground for a new coalition government.

Groups of Kikuyu groups roam the streets of a neighbourhood of Naivasha as fires burn
Non-Kikuyu homes in Naivasha were ransacked and set alight

Although parliament's focus will be on healing ethnic divisions and creating a coalition government - allegations of state involvement with a banned Kikuyu militia, known as Mungiki, will not go ignored, the BBC's Karen Allen in Nairobi says.

She says there is growing suspicion that some of the violence that led to 1,500 people being killed and hundreds of thousands displaced was orchestrated by both sides of the political divide.

The BBC source, who is a member of the Kikuyu tribe and who is now in hiding after receiving death threats, alleged: "Three members of the gang met at State House... and after the elections and the violence the militias were called again and they were given a duty to defend the Kikuyu in Rift Valley and we know they were there in numbers."

We were ordered not to stop the vehicles to allow them to go
Rift Valley policeman

On the weekend of 25 January, the Rift Valley towns of Nakuru and then Naivasha were the focus of the some of the worst post-election violence.

Eyewitnesses spoke of non-Kikuyu homes being marked, then gangs with machetes - who they claim were Mungiki - attacked people who were from other ethnic groups.

Sources inside the Mungiki have told the BBC that it was a renegade branch of the outfit that was responsible for violence, not them.

A policeman who was on duty at the time, who has spoken to the BBC on condition of anonymity, has also pointed to clear signs of state complicity.

He alleges that in the hours before the violence in Nakuru, police officers had orders not to stop a convoy of minibus taxis, called "matatus", packed with men when they arrived at police checkpoints.

"When we were there... I saw about 12 of them [matatus] packed with men," he said.

"There were no females... I could see they were armed.

MUNGIKI SECT
Banned in 2002
Thought to be ethnic Kikuyu militants
Mungiki means multitude in Kikuyu
Inspired by the Mau Mau rebellion of the 1950s
Claim to have more than 1m followers
Promote female circumcision and oath-taking
Believed to be linked to high-profile politicians
Control public transport routes, demanding levies
Blamed for revenge murders in the central region

"We were ordered not to stop the vehicles to allow them to go."

But Mr Mutua said that the government deployed the military to deal with the Kikuyu youth who had tried to take the law into their own hands.

"The Kenyan government... used helicopters to drive them away, arrested them and actually got to kill quite a few of them torching houses," he said.

"The government stamped on them immediately."

The allegations come at a time of growing concern that there was pre-planned violence on both sides of the political fence, in the aftermath of Kenya's disputed election result.

The International Crisis Group has already raised such concerns and Human Rights Watch is expected to publish its report making similar claims shortly.

There are plans to establish a Truth and Reconciliation Commission in the coming weeks to examine claims of election violence.

The allegations are likely to be among the themes investigated by a commission created to address the issue of post-election skirmishes.

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