Violences urbaines à Nairobi, Kenya/ Urban violence in Nairobi, Kenya

Rasna Warah est une journaliste kenyanne d’origine indienne qui nous décrit dans les colonnes du journal,Daily Nation (en anglais, voir plus bas), la situation de violence que vit la capitale, Nairobi, depuis quelques semaines. Les violence se concentrent surtout dans les bidonvilles de Mathare qui comptent environ 500000 habitants et où sévit une secte appelée Mungiki. La BBC fait une bonne description de cette secte dont parle aussi Warah:

Dans le passé, les adeptes des Mungiki, secte interdite au Kenya, étaient surtout connus comme étant des personnes qui aimaient priser du tabac en public.
On les reconnaissait aussi à leurs coiffures rasta et leurs prières qu’ils accomplissaient en se dirigeant vers le Mont Kenya.
Créée en 1980 et interdite par la suite par les autorités, la secte a connu, au fil des ans, de profondes mutations.
A Nairobi, des informations souvent contradictoires circulent au sujet des circonstances qui ont conduit à sa création.
Certains observateurs estiment qu’elle a vu le jour durant la rébellion Mau-Mau contre les autorités coloniales britanniques.
A l’époque, des milliers de jeunes Kenyans, membres de l’ethnie Kikuyu, la plus importante du pays, décidèrent d’intégrer en masse les Mungiki dont la doctrine principale reposait sur des valeurs traditionnelles.
Selon une autre théorie, la secte a été créée en 1988 dans le but de renverser le régime de l’ancien président, Daniel Arap Moi.
A l’époque, elle était associée à un autre mouvement clandestin, créé en 1979.
Aujourd’hui, les adeptes des Mungiki sont soupçonnées d’être responsables de crimes horribles dans le pays.
En mai dernier, les partisans des Mungiki ont déclaré avoir assassiné six personnes dans le centre du pays en représailles contre les populations qui informaient la police sur leurs activités.
Pendant des semaines aussi, ils ont pris pour cibles des transporteurs qui refusaient de leur verser une partie de leurs revenus journaliers.
Depuis ces incidents, le ministre de la sécurité, John Michuki, a ordonné la traque de ses membres.
Selon la police, les dernières victimes de la secte ont été torturées et découpées en morceaux après leur enlèvement.

Un gang redoutable

De nos jours, les adeptes des Mungiki ne prisent plus le tabac en public comme ils aimaient le faire avant.
En outre, ils ont abandonné leur «look rasta» et préfèrent maintenant porter des tenues plus modernes.
On les accuse d’arnaques, de vols, de meurtres et de prendre parfois en otage leurs victimes.
Selon la presse locale, la secte est devenue une sorte de gang clandestin qui a son siège principal dans la capitale mais avec des antennes dans les provinces du pays.
Ils contrôlent certains axes routiers et réclament des taxes jugées illégales.
Ils règnent aussi en maitre dans des bidonvilles comme Mathare, à l’est de la capitale.
Ils assurent à des centaines de familles démunies des branchements clandestins d’électricité et d’eau courante.
Les habitants de ces cités leur versent une taxe pour accéder aux toilettes publiques mais aussi pour le service de sécurité durant la nuit.

Des ramifications dans les milieux politiques

Après les meurtres horribles attribués aux Mungiki, le gouvernement s’est dit déterminé à réduire la secte à néant mais beaucoup de Kenyans estiment que la méthode utilisée est peu convaincante. La secte a la réputation d’être violente et elle revendique des millions de membres qui auraient investi les sphères de l’administration, les usines, les écoles et les services de sécurité.
«Mungiki est un groupe de jeunes motivés tout simplement par la politique», déclare Ken Oukou, professeur de sociologie à l’université de Nairobi.
Il estime aussi que l’armée doit, à son tour, infiltrer la secte et limiter son influence grandissante dans le pays.
Il s’agit d’une œuvre de longue haleine car les Mungiki opèrent maintenant dans la clandestinité.
Néanmoins, la traque contre ses membres se poursuit.

Rasna Warah is a journalist of Indian origin born and raised in Kenya. In the columns of the Daily Nation, she describes the situation of the violence that occurred in Nairobi, the capital city, in the past few weeks. More precisely, the area affected is the Mathare slums where 500000 people live. According to Wikipedia:

Mathare has recently been damaged by violence between rival gangs the Taliban (not to be confused with the Islamist group of the same name), a Luo group, and the Mungiki, a Kikuyu group. Brewers of an illegal alcoholic drink, chang’aa, asked the Taliban for help after the Mungiki tried to raise their taxes on the drink; since then, fighting between the two has led to the burning of hundreds of homes and at least 10 deaths. Police entered the slum on November 7, 2006, and the military arrived a day later, but many residents who fled are still afraid to return. On June 5, 2007, the Mungiki murdered two police officers in Mathare; the same night, police retaliated by killing 22 people and detaining around 100.

  • Note: The Mungiki is a quasi-political religious cult in Kenya. The name means “A united people” or “multitude” in the Kikuyu language. The religion, which apparently originated in the late 1980s, is secretive and bears some similarity to mystery religions. Specifics of their origin and doctrines are unclear. What is clear is that they favor a return to indigenous African traditions and reject Westernization and all trappings of colonialism. This includes rejection of Christianity, and practicing forced female circumcision. They have been newsworthy for associations with ethnic violence and anti-government resistance. More than 50 people died in 2002 in clashes involving the sect and owners of matatus (private minibuses) in Nairobi alone. In February 2003, the sect was in the news following two days of clashes with Nairobi police which left at least two officers dead and 74 sect members in police custody (Wikipedia).

    Mungiki operates most extensively in Mathare, Nairobi’s second largest slum, where poverty and crime are pronounced.

Rasna Warah:

THE CREATOR ABANDONED Nairobi last week. A brutal police raid to smoke out murderous Mungiki sect members resulted in more than 30 deaths and caused untold suffering among residents of Mathare, one of the oldest and most deprived slums in the city.

Nairobians had barely recovered from the shock of witnessing barbaric acts of violence by both the Mungiki and the police forces when heavy rains crushed a wall bordering the Mukuru kwa Reuben slum in Nairobi, killing 13 people and making several others homeless.

When the rains subsided and residents thought the worst was over, an explosion wreaked havoc in the city centre, killing a street sweeper and maiming dozens of pedestrians.

The tragic events in Nairobi last week show that cities are, and will increasingly become, the sites of disaster and conflict in the 21st century, and that the urban poor will be the main victims.

In an increasingly polarised world where resources are scarce and where political and religious differences threaten to tear communities apart, cities are becoming the preferred battlefields for both terrorists and criminals.

Experts claim that the urbanisation of warfare is the result of neoliberal globalisation, which has caused increasing inequalities in cities, not just between the rich and the poor but between different ethnic groups, religions and races.

This has resulted in what anthropologist Arjun Appadurai calls “an implosion of global and national politics into the urban world”.

These new “urban wars”, he says, have created “a new phase in the life of cities…where a general desolation of the national and global landscape has transposed many bizarre racial, religious, and linguistic enmities into scenarios of unrelieved urban terror”.

In Maximum City, a brilliant reportage on Mumbai’s underworld, author Suketu Mehta shows how young unemployed slum-dwellers get recruited into murderous gangs that hold allegiance to the fundamentalist Hindu political organisation known as Shiv Sena, which controls much of Mumbai.

These gangs played a crucial role in perpetuating the so-called “communal riots” that engulfed Mumbai’s slums in 1992 after a Muslim mosque was destroyed by rampaging Hindu militants in the small town of Ayodhya.

Gangs in Mumbai operate much like the Mungiki do in Nairobi. They regularly extract “protection money” from the urban poor and provide a range of services to slum-dwellers in exchange for a fee, including determining which of the city’s streets beggars and hawkers can occupy. Many operate in cahoots with corrupt police officers and politicians, who also demand hafta (Hindi slang for weekly bribe) from poor urban dwellers.

THE PROBLEM IS THAT THE youthful new recruits of today don’t care much for religion or politics, which makes them much more dangerous. If a political party or a religious cult doesn’t tap their anger, some other much more nebulous force will, says Mehta, resulting in “an explosion of formless free-floating urban anger.”

So how do we extricate ourselves from this gloom and doom scenario? Here are some things the Government might wish to consider:

One, tackle unemployment among youth so that the temptation to join a criminal gang, a terrorist organisation or a religious cult does not arise in the first place. This would involve intensifying programmes geared towards unemployed youth and creating jobs that can absorb them.

Two, ensure that the urban poor have no reason to pay criminal gangs for services that should be ideally provided by national and local governments. When the Government is absent or corrupt, criminal gangs take over the provision of services.

If the residents of Mathare had been provided with water and security, for instance, they might not have resorted to seeking these services from Mungiki. Regulation of the transport sector and provision of alternatives (such as commuter rails and better-managed buses) would also put a brake on the free market madness and criminalisation of the matatu business.

Three, show by example that crime and corruption are wrong and unacceptable. Arrest and prosecute all corrupt Government officials and politicians and hand out stiff sentences to those found failing in their duties.

Four, do not resort to Bush-like macho tactics to deal with the perpetrators of terrorism. This only serves to radicalise them and make them more subversive. Iraq is a perfect example of how violence begets more violence, and becomes harder to contain. Beefing up intelligence and security apparatus would be a more appropriate response.

Five, take people’s grievances seriously. If the needs of people displaced by the ethnic clashes of the early 1990s had been taken care of, and if they had been treated more humanely, a Kikuyu farmer with visions of becoming a latter-day Jim Jones might never have offered them refuge in his commune in Central Province or recruited them into his “back-to-the-roots” Mungiki movement.

Six, realise that the extermination of Mungiki will not end violence in our cities. If no remedial action is taken, another Mungiki-like gang will emerge – this time more sophisticated and vicious.

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