Kenyan authorities on Friday ordered police to be ruthless with an outlawed cult blamed for murders and violent robberies and held by officials to be attempting to win legitimacy by transforming itself into a political party.
National Security Minister John Michuki said police have been told to be merciless on the Mungiki sect, a shadowy religious group with alleged historic ties to the Mau Mau uprising that was banned four years ago after it was linked to violent crime.
"Despite the sect having been banned, there are obvious indications that it is still alive," Michuki told reporters at a Nairobi news conference. "It is growing and spreadings its tentacles in rural and urban areas, with most of its members seemingly oblivious of its illegality.
"The police have been directed to use the full force of the law to [ensure the] sect and its illegal activities are totally stopped," he said. "We shall deal with the sect ruthlessly."
The Mungiki is believed to be concentrated in the capital and in Kenya's Central and Rift Valley provinces and Michuki said police had already arrested at least 192 members since the begining of the year for various crimes.
The minister accused the sect, comprised most obviously of snuff-taking dreadlocked youths, of blatantly breaking laws and violating human rights with alleged involvement in extortion and murder as well as harassment of women.
In October, officialKenya orders crackdown on outlawed sects accused the Mungiki of capping a 15-year reign of terror along Kenya's roads and inside Nairobi's slums with the formation of the Kenya National Youth Alliance (KNYA) political party that champions youth employment.
But authorities have dismissed the alliance as an attempt to disguise the existence of the Mungiki.
"I do not accept reasons advanced for the existence of the sect and unemployment cannot be used to justify these crimes," Michuki said.