Kenyan women beaten for 'unAfrican' behaviour

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The Independent Online

Hundreds of members of a shadowy Muslim sect that claims to have roots in the struggle against British colonialism have been arrested in Kenya after its followers were caught randomly assaulting women for wearing trousers.

Hundreds of members of a shadowy Muslim sect that claims to have roots in the struggle against British colonialism have been arrested in Kenya after its followers were caught randomly assaulting women for wearing trousers.

Followers of the Mungiki sect were shown on national television stripping naked and whipping six women in a Nairobi slum for "unAfrican" behaviour. Viewers were shocked to see the extremists, some women, triumphantly waving the offending clothing in the air.

Later, police detained almost 800 people in a swoop on slum areas in Nairobi. A police uniform and 1,000 litres of illegal beer were confiscated and a man was killed by a mob as he attempted to flee the police. The incident was the latestclash between the Mungiki, who model themselves on the colonial-era Mau Mau rebels, and the Kenyan authorities.

In April a 700-strong mob attacked a police station with sticks, stones and farm tools to try to free comrades and eight raiders were shot. Last month Mungiki followers tried to burn down Nairobi's Freemasons Hall, which they claimed was being used for devil worship.

The growing popularity of the sect among impoverished Kenyans has alarmed the authorities. Joseph Kamotho, the Local Government Minister, recently described Mungiki as an "underground subversive movement" and ordered a police crackdown.

But little is known about Mungiki. The movement's national co-ordinator, Ibrahim Ndura Waruingi, recently told The Daily Nation newspaper that it had four million followers and its principal aim was to "spearhead African socialism".

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