THE ERUPTION OF THE DEADLY COMMENTS TO PURITY WAITHERA MWANGI EMANATING FROM THE OBVIOUSLY JOBLESS MALE TEENAGER IN BRAOD DAY LIGHT WERE SO CASUAL AS TO PROVOKE ROCOUS LAUGHTER AND CASUAL DISMISSAL – THE MESSAGE WAS CHILLING DEADLY SERIOUS.
At first Miss Mwangi thought the whole episode was a laughable joke on her private life and marital status in society. She casually dismissed it – she was deadly wrong. It was not a joking casual remark. It was a deadly serious message to her from the dreaded proscribed Mungiki gang hierarchy.
It was not long after that it became clear to Miss Mwangi that it was now a matter of life and death that the courier of the message from the gang had been ordered to deliver to Miss Mwangi to either accept or defy at her own peril. She is one of the leading women correspondents working for a local media outlet based in one of Central Province’s towns infested by members of the proscribed dreaded terror gang.
The previous night the gang’s operatives and leaders had reached their decision during a secret meeting at one of their secret locations. Miss Mwangi among other professional and business eligible but un-married women living in the town had been part of their deadly agenda.
The Correspondent’s identity, exact town or district where she is based, and the media organization she writes for cannot be revealed for her own security and protection against deadly reprisals from members of the gang for revealing the story. Her own colleagues based in the town could not dare write the ordeal for their own security reasons.
The message from the gang to her and the other targeted women through the couriers individually assigned to deliver to them was simple: “We have met and discussed you. We recognize the fact that you are beautiful, energetic, employed (doing business) and hard working woman – yet you are not married. That is a matter of grave concern to us. We have decided that we are going to assign to you a husband of our choice and we want your response.”
Indeed Miss Mwangi says that her immediate reaction was to erupt into laughter with an offhand dismissal to the Mungiki emissary. It was a misplaced and miscalculated reaction that could easily have cost her life as nearly twelve single women living in the same town have been brutally murdered after making the same mistake – to ignore and dismiss Mungiki’s declarations to them that since they were ‘ripe’ and not married, they were going to be assigned husbands of Mungiki’s choice without questions asked.
The journalist says that over the last three months alone the single women who defied the secret orders and became murder victims were first secretly trailed for several days, even weeks. Their residences, places of work and habits identified before they were killed by suspected members of the gang during the night in the safety of their houses, mostly without their houses even being broken into and the killers never traced or identified thoroughly positively.
The situation is so terribly chilling to the extent that in virtually all the cases, the victim’s neighbours never heard any commotions, cries for help or presence of strangers – only to wake up the following morning to find that their neighbors were not up at their usual hours doing their daily morning routines in preparation to go to work.
With this raising concerns attempts to wake them up is usually never successful and when police are summoned, they all realize that there had been no forced entry into the victims’ houses who are mostly found either strangled or repeatedly knifed to death in their bedrooms.
“The end result has been an exodus of un-married women professionals assigned to work in various government ministries and departments, the private sector and Non-governmental Organizations (NGOs) quitting to reside in other safer towns including as far off as Nairobi and commuting to their places of work every day,” says Miss Mwangi.
She goes on pensively: “Mungiki operatives and their un-spoken and un-reported terror, especially on targeted un-married women in their towns of operation are real, chilling and deadly. They are dangerous and ruthless not only to the public transport operators, landlords, business operators and even farmers – but also thousands of eligible un-married women in the central province towns where they operate despite the continued police crackdowns on them.”
The young lady says that although she had written many editorial stories about a wide variety of activities and incidences involving the members of the gang, “I never ever imagined any single time that they would ever target me. Worse of all based on my private affairs – my marital status in society – never, I just learnt it the hard way and I still live in constant fear.”
She says that though she’s mature and eligible for marriage, it was horrifying to find that in today’s modern Kenya, a male teenager who is equally not married and jobless can be sent by the gang to casually deliver chilling deadly messages to single young women professionals and business entrepreneurs that they would be assigned husbands whose refusal literally meant – outright execution with no hope of being saved or justice prevailed.
“I am supposed to marry the man of my choice - whom I want, when I want, where I want and in our own way. It is indeed also my constitutional and natural right. It applies to all women and men of this country, but this….,” Miss Mwangi shuddered as she continued with the narrative.
She says that when she relayed the information to her friends and colleagues, especially her mother who did not know how deadly the situation was, the mother laughed and seemed to support the idea that Purity should get a husband, settle down and start producing for her grandchildren.
“A few days after my casual dismissal of the matter with the courier, I was shocked to get confirmation from a colleague that he had reliably established that the gang operatives were deadly serious and I should not take their message lightly. This proved out almost immediately when I discovered that they had already assigned some of their operatives who were monitoring my movements and trailing me down secretly all the time,” says Miss Mwangi.
She says it was a chilling creepy experience to know that every second of her living time she was being constantly monitored and trailed secretly by the deadly gang operatives - whose ultimate mission was clear elimination as had already happened to other women not only in the same town but also others elsewhere within the same geographical region for simply defying their (mungiki) orders.
It was clear that their intention was to establish her exact residential location, movements, habits and regular contacts before making their move to eliminate the journalist. Matters came to a head on collision when after the persistent tailings by strange young men who were identified to her as Mungiki members and sworn never to disclose their identity publicly or to any body for that matter – one day in the dead end of the night an un-identified man came knocking at her door persistently.
Miss Mwangi narrates: “By that time I was extremely tense and terror stricken. Though I had already informed the police as well as the district security boss, it was no consolation. When the stranger came knocking at my door at that late hour - I did not open the door nor show myself. I barricaded myself inside and prayed as I quietly telephoned the area police boss who dispatched some officers to come to my residence to rescue me. The man must have sensed danger and vanished into the night.”
By this time she had already accumulated a lot of information on the deadly secret executions the gang members had been meting out to single women who defied their orders by refusing to be paired off to ‘husbands’ chosen by the gang including the many single women who had secretly succumbed to the gang’s orders without a whisper in fear for their lives and even their own families and relatives.
She says that it was at this juncture that she was forced to go underground and immediately secretly move out of the house where she had been living for years to a new one that is fairly secure in a neighbourhood that is highly policed virtually throughout the night including a fairly good police protection for her as an individual. The police also started secretly trailing her to identify the gang members with a view of arresting suspicious characters on her trail before the Mungiki operatives apparently called off their own – it is not known for how long, considering the gang members’ notorious reputations.
Police operations targeting the Mungiki operatives in the town so far has seen the arrest of more than twenty suspects- suspected either to be directly or indirectly involved in the killings and threats against eligible un-married women among other criminal activities, but nobody has been indicted for the murders.
A senior police officer involved in the investigations who declined to be named says: “Those we have so far arrested and interrogated had to be released on a Kshs. 100, 000 bond and to keep the peace for lack of evidence but investigations are still going on.”
The officer says that their main challenges concerning the matter was getting tangible, hard and concrete evidence as well as witnesses who can positively identify and testify against the suspects involved in the chilling terror against eligible un-married women.
He also confirmed that many people in the region who had concrete information and evidence against some of the gang’s operatives were not willing to come out openly to give information, give evidence or testify against the gang members for fear of reprisals against them, their families and relatives by the gang members.