POLI 324 Chapter Notes -Positive Force, Mungiki, Kariobangi

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13 Apr 2012
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David Anderson: Vigilantes, Violence and the politics of public order in Kenya
-The article looks at the proliferation of vigilante groups in Nairobi as a product of rising urban crime
but also as tactic of the ruling party KANU to protect its interests.
-The Kariobangi massacre of 2002 where a group of armed ‘mungiki’ sect members retailiated against an
earlier clash with the ‘taliban’ vigilante group, killing several innocent people. Questions arose as the the
possible political motivation of such an attack, as the Mungiki were rumoured to be protected by
political actors, and even backed by police.
--The Mungiki are originally from the Gikuyu ethnic group and were part of a breakaway protestant
church faction that made reference to traditional pre-colonial Gikuyu egalitarianism ect. Found broad
support in slums as a critique of the Kenyan state. Members make constant reference to the oppression
of the Kenyan state and cultural imperialism. Mungiki calls for Gikuyu people to throw off the chains of
colonialism and cultural imperialism and encourages unity amongst Gikuyu. Excludes all other enicities,
is not a Kenyan nationalist movement. Calls for the restoration of traditional practices.
-The Mungiki is interesting in its hybrid nature as rural movement and urban militia and also in terms of
its apparent ideological incohesivenss, several members made statements which contradicted its core
beliefs. Recently, in an aexmaple of opportunism, several high ranking members announced publically
that they planned toc ovnert to islam and that any attacks against the organization would be attacks on
muslims worldwide. This came in the face of a planned crackdown by government forces.
-Recently the organization disrupted mini-bus services throughout the city, demanding that they be
allowed to manage them in light of fare increases and alleged corruption. They claimed to have political
and police backing.
-also during rent riots in slums the organization took the side of the primarily muslim landlords. This
highlighted the ethnic, economic and political implication of the organizations activites.
-Although no concrete link has been established, widespread speculation in Kenyan newspapers that
the organization is supported by KANU has caused concern. The failure of the police to arrest
members after signifgant incidents provides further evidence. Also there has been rumors that high
ranking MPs are members.
-The so called ‘taliban’ vigilante group was formed in 2001 by a local of Kariobangi slums to keep order
in the neighbourhood after widespread criminality. About 250 strong some have implicated them in
racketeering and making people pay for their protection, others see them as a positive force. Their clash
with the Mungiki is perhaps telling.
-The Mungiki are more than just and ethnic force nor just a political phenomenon, but increasingly a
force searching for materialist gain, and loyal to whoever will pay.
-the main reason for the anxiety which spawned the vigilante groups is the rise of crime. Sharp increase
of crime since the 1980s, a time of rapid urban expansion. Acute housing shortages, declining economic
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