Page last updated at 11:09 GMT, Monday, 14 April 2008 12:09 UK

Kenyans killed in sect protests

A police man walks past burning barricades set up by protesters in the Nairobi slum district Dandora
Transport has been disrupted by burning barricades

Reports from Kenya say police have shot dead at least 12 people amid protests across the country.

Members of the illegal Mungiki sect were protesting after the discovery of the beheaded body of the wife of the sect's leader at the weekend.

Youths blocked roads with burning tyres and vehicles and attacked motorists in the capital Nairobi, and several towns in the Rift Valley region.

A Nairobi commuter train was derailed after protesters tore up the tracks.

Youths also torched a police building in the capital, while the police fired bullets and teargas in attempts to end the protests.

Clashes were also reported in the western towns of Naivasha, Nakuru and Eldoret.

In all, at least 12 people were killed, according to reports from the news agency AFP and the local private radio station Kiss FM.


Public transport into Nairobi from the suburbs, and in the Central and Rift Valley provinces, is suffering severe disruption following the clashes, which broke out over the weekend.

Derailed train in Nairobi district on Monday
A train derailed in Nairobi after protesters tore up the tracks

The Mungiki sect is accused of running protection rackets that squeeze millions of Kenyan shillings a day from the minibus network that is the backbone of public transport in Kenya.

The beheaded body of Virginia Nyaiko, wife of jailed sect leader Maina Njenga, was recovered by relatives and members of the sect, who accuse a section of the police force of being behind the killings of its members.

National police spokesman Eric Kiraithe denied any police involvement in the killings as "totally false accusations."

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, extorting money
Blamed for revenge murders in the central region

"Why [would] the police want to kill this woman? If we are interested in the wife of the criminal we would have taken her to court," he told AP news agency.

The Mungiki sect, which first emerged in the 1980s, is said to have been initially inspired by the Mau Mau rebellion of the 1950s against British colonial rule.

But since then it is said to have undergone a metamorphosis, with members turning to horrific crimes and now likened to Kenya's version of the Mafia.

A surge in murders and attacks associated with the sect last year prompted a police crackdown. But humans rights groups have condemned what they say are extrajudicial killings by police in its campaign against the Mungiki.

Country profile: Kenya
01 Mar 08 |  Country profiles

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