Shift from Mungiki leadership to Amani Sasa Foundation and quest for Mt Kenya leadership: What is up Maina Njenga’s sleeve?

  • 17 Nov 2023
  • 4 Mins Read
  • 〜 by James Ngunjiri

“Mungiki” a Kikuyu word derived from the word “Muingi” which means masses, emerged in the 1980s as a religious movement, drawing inspiration from traditional Kikuyu culture and practices. 

The objective of the sect was to unite and mobilise the masses to fight against the yoke of mental slavery, which its members claimed was introduced by Christianity and colonisation. They said liberation of the masses from mental captivity must occur through a return to indigenous ways of life, in particular, culture and religion.

However, with time, the sect evolved into a criminal gang and was involved in extortion, racketeering, violence, intimidation, illegal political activities, and other unlawful activities. The sect was outlawed by the government. 

The sect’s history is concealed in myths and speculations, and defectors usually say the sect members relied on strict discipline and tolerated no dissent. There were claims that if a member disobeyed, his head would be cut off and displayed publicly to instil fear.

Its Origin

Mungiki is said to have begun around 1985 as a traditional African sect. It started in parts of Rift Valley (Laikipia and Baringo) before spreading to parts of Nyandarua. The sect leadership consisted of Maina Njenga and Ndura Waruinge. 

Ndura Waruinge parted ways with Mungiki a couple of years ago after what he said was “a voice from God” making him abandon Mungiki and follow Jesus. “I had no grudge with other members, it is God’s voice that motivated me,” he said. Mr Waruinge now turned preacher, is an apostle of Synagogue Arena of Liberty Church. Maina Njenga also denounced the sect and founded the Amani Sasa Foundation.  

In the 1990s, when Kikuyus who were living in the Rift Valley came under heavy attacks for opposing the late President Daniel Arap Moi, and families were killed, homes burnt, and farms and other properties looted, Mungiki mobilised groups of Kikuyu youths for self-defence.

This won the group much admiration, especially amongst the displaced Kikuyu community members. By the late 1990s, the sect had grown so much that former President Moi began warning people against it. Additionally, the country was experiencing a severe economic and social crisis, with crime getting out of control, and a lack of job opportunities. 

The sect took advantage of the situation and started solving domestic and other disputes. It also provided informal jobs for its members in the transport and retail sectors. In return, residents especially those who lived in slum areas where the sect was operating, were obliged to pay the sect a fixed amount of money for each household, business, and motor vehicle.

Politicisation of Mungiki 

It is alleged that, when President Moi was grooming Uhuru Kenyatta in the early 2000s to succeed him for the presidency, he convinced the Mungiki sect leadership to back his choice. This strengthened the sect. 

Mwai Kibaki regime 

The regime of former President Mwai Kibaki tried to restore order, but this was challenging since the sect was accustomed to operating in a lawless environment. In 2007, President Kibaki’s administration launched a manhunt for the sect members, and hundreds of Kikuyu youth, most of them sect members, were killed by security agencies and others disappeared without a trace.

What is Maina Njenga up to?

Five years ago, Maina Njenga denounced Mungiki and dismissed reports that his newly founded Amani Sasa Foundation had links with the outlawed sect.   

At the time, the foundation’s spokesperson, Martha Wanjiru, said the foundation was committed to promoting peace in the country with the support of religious and community leaders from the Eastern, Rift Valley, and Central Kenya regions. 

On November 15, 2023, while speaking on Citizen TV’s JKLive Show, Mr Njenga confirmed that he led the sect for about 20 years before his exit. He claimed that the sect no longer exists and that he now leads a peaceful initiative.

“Some 40 years ago, I used to lead an organisation called Mungiki, but after 20 years, I retired. Mungiki is not there anymore. I have never heard anyone coming up and saying he is responsible, but those days I used to be the chairman,” said Mr Njenga. 

He now goes by the title “chairman” since, he says, he leads a peaceful organisation called “The Amani Sasa Foundation” which allegedly is mandated to unite people where there is a rift. “I am the chairman and CEO of the Amani Sasa Foundation. The organisation is about peace and reconciliation. We try to reconcile those people who are not in agreement.”  

Mr Njenga has maintained that he is traversing the Gikuyu, Embu, Meru Association (GEMA) region reaching out to the community leaders for the sake of peace and unity. He has been highlighting the importance of different communities coming together and advocating for peaceful co-existence. 

“We are talking about the unity of the Mt Kenya people, the Kikuyu, Embu, and Meru and as their spokesperson I know we will unite and speak with one voice to champion our interest,” he said during one of his meetings in the Mt Kenya region.

He says his mission is to rally the leadership of the Mt Kenya region to come together and speak in one voice noting that the Kalenjin community is fully behind President William Ruto, the Luo community is behind Raila Odinga, and the Luhya are loyal to both Musalia Mudavadi and Moses Wetangula. 

In October, Mr Njenga said that he was a party leader and should be addressed as an Azimio co-principal. “As we move forward, I don’t want you to address me as an ex-Mungiki leader, I am a principal of Azimio,” he said. 

He added that he would soon launch a political formation, during which he would unveil his agenda to Kenyans. The ex-Mungiki leader’s latest political moves have raised eyebrows as to whether he is angling to be the Mt Kenya kingpin. He has already announced a major event to unveil the new Mt Kenya kingpin on December 31, 2023, adding that the event will be a mega one for the Mt Kenya region and would herald a new beginning.