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Photos show protests against government in Kisumu, Kenya, not in support of reformed gang leader in Nyahururu town

IN SHORT: A Twitter post purporting to show photos of recent protests in Nyahururu town over the arrest of opposition-allied Maina Njenga is misleading. The photos are of a different protest in Kisumu, hundreds of kilometres away.

A tweet posted on 25 May 2023 shows photos of what appears to be a protest, with a road barricaded with stones and tyres are burning on the side of the road. 

The tweet reads: “Transport and businesses paralysed as demonstrations rock Nyahururu in support of Maina Njenga.” The tweet has been viewed over 33,000 times and liked over 350 times.

The same claim has been made on Facebook here and here

Nyahururu is a town in Laikipia county, about 190 km from Kenya’s capital city Nairobi, and about 64 km away from the city of Nakuru.

Maina Njenga is a controversial figure best known as a former Mungiki leader. Mungiki began as a religious group in the 1980s, with a membership made up mainly of youths from central Kenya. 

It later became a secretive criminal gang involved in extortion, illegal taxation and other illegal activities. In 2002, the group was banned by the government and a crackdown on its members was declared. 

The group was reportedly involved in the country’s 2007 post-election clashes. In the past, the government has aggressively cracked down on suspected members of the gang, leading to concerns about human rights abuses.

Njenga renounced his gang membership. He has survived assassination attempts and has been imprisoned in the past. He has also run unsuccessfully for political office, including in 2022 when he was backed by opposition leader Raila Odinga to run for the senate under the Azimio coalition.

In early May 2023, Njenga's properties were allegedly raided by police following reports that he was planning to disrupt the funeral of the widow of the late freedom fighter Dedan Kimathi.

Njenga attended the funeral but was later declared wanted by the Directorate of Criminal Investigation (DCI) for two firearms and rolls of bhang allegedly found at one of his properties.

On 25 May, he presented himself at the DCI headquarters, accompanied by opposition leaders and a crowd of supporters, leading to a dramatic encounter with the police. 

He was detained for most of the day, but was eventually released. On 29 May, he was arraigned in a Nakuru court on more than five charges. Njenga's defence team, which includes prominent opposition figures such as opposition coalition co-leader Martha Karua, has claimed that he is being politically persecuted..

But were there any demonstrations in Nyahururu in support of Njenga? We checked.


What reverse image search shows

The tweet making the claim was posted on the same day that Njenga visited the DCI headquarters in Nairobi. 

Although he was accompanied by supporters who were dispersed by the police, there were no media reports of protests in Nyahururu during this period. 

A reverse image search of the photos in the tweet shows that they are actually from anti-government protests in Kisumu on 2 May. 

The photos have a watermark from Mpasho, a Kenyan online news website, and a search for related keywords such as “Mpasho Kisumu protests” leads to the same photos on the Mpasho website.

Therefore, the claim that the photos show protests in Nyahururu town in support of Njenga is false.

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