“Ni ciakwa [They are mine].”
Those are the two important Kikuyu words that saved Michael Omondi’s house from being razed by the dreaded Mungiki, an outlawed religious Kikuyu sect, at the height of Kenya’s post-election violence in 2007.
Omondi had learned the two words from his Kikuyu friend, Maureen Nyarwai, who had often said them to matatu (minibus taxi) operators when asked about the vegetables she had in her sack after tilling her farm.
A terrified Omondi watched as the gang, armed with machetes, broke down the doors of his neighbours, forced people out, demanded their identity cards and forcefully circumcised all who were not Kikuyus.
“Anyone who resisted had his head chopped off while his family watched in horror.