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From monopoly to oligopoly of violence

Saturday, February 16, 2013 - 00:00 -- BY DAISY MARITIM

Besides Mungiki, there are 237 militia groups in Kenya as we face this election. In fact, every four square kilometers in any direction you go countrywide, you will encounter a militia. In other words, in every four square kilometers, there is a group that can potentially mobilise for violence.

In a study we just concluded at The Consulting House, we found that these militia groups range from the dreaded Mungiki to the soft-core Kamjesh. The most fascinating one, however, was the ‘12 disciples.’ This militia is located at the Chief’s Camp in Kibera, offering security to the administration police each time they need to venture into the slum.

Out of the more than 200 groups, the Militia can be classified into the ‘Big Six’. These are the Mungiki, Taliban, MRC, Sungu Sungu, and Bagdad Boys. These gangs are ‘national’ in their spread. They have auxiliary soft-core gangs like the 12 Disciples, Kamukunji Pressure and Kamjesh. While these groups are dominant in urban and peri-urban areas, groups like The Kalenjin Warriors, Chinkororo and slipper cells of Al Shabaab, including the defunct SLDF are active in remote areas.

In Nairobi, almost every household has at least one domestic worker. Some live within the household; while others are on the daily commute. Where do these workers reside? Where do they go on weekends? The curious fact is that there is a slum next to every affluent suburb in Nairobi.

Kawangware is attached to Lavington, as Mathare is to Muthaiga, Getathuru to Runda, and so forth. They are in essence refugee labour camps; a continuous supply of men and women looking to engage in all manner of menial work. And this is where militia groups fester.

Because of the concentrated numbers, every resident of a slum is connected one way or the other to a gang member. The link could be a brother, son, neighbour or partner. This suggests that households all over Nairobi make daily indirect contact with the militia network. They are in the presence of passive violence whose percolation time, like five years ago, is during the election period.

In the tin cities, the militia group is king. There are multiple reasons for this. One explanation is that the militia members outnumber the police. Majority of the militia groups have more than 100 members.

But for every 100 militia members, there are only 20 policemen. This means that the ratio of police to militia members is 1:5 in favour of militia nationally. The ratio for Kisumu is 1:4 in favour of police; while that of Kakamega is 1 militia member to 16 policemen.

The reverse is, however, true for Nairobi, Nakuru and Trans Nzoia. In Nairobi, for instance, six militia members are policed by one policeman while the ratio for Nakuru is 4:1 and that of Trans Nzoia is 5:1 in favour of militia groups.

The second reason is gun permeation within the militia. Out of every 20 armed policemen, there are 30 armed militia members. This calculates to a gun ratio of 2:3 in favour of militia members. However, firepower ratio of 2:3 is not necessarily actual. It could tilt in favour of either side – largely because the militia groups are not necessarily organised.

This election period, Kimaiyo has his work cut out for him. There exists a symbiotic relationship between the police and the militia. According to our statistical evidence, one out of every four policemen in militia infested areas, work in cahoots with the militia.

This relationship is as a result of police absence or abstinence. Abstinence happens when the police are partakers of the militia enterprise or are overwhelmed by militia.

A key question, especially towards election time, is what the relationship between the militia groups and the politicians is. The general belief is that militia groups are held hostage by politicians.

Our statistical evidence reveals the existence of reverse capture instead. That actually, the bigger the militia, the higher the likelihood that politicians will be held hostage by it. An aspiring politician would most probably seek the support of these gang groups and later be at their whim.

An area we examined in the study is the relationship between the possibility of violence and proximity to police operations and Chief’s Camps. One would imagine that it would be an exceptionally audacious, risk-taking assaulter that would carry out his operations under the administration’s nose.

On the contrary, we identify that the closer a community is to the Chief’s Camp, the higher the likelihood that it will be affected by violence during the elections and that it will be attacked by militia groups.

This is because of the historical “tethering’ of Militia in the Chief’s Camp after the collapse of the Kanu Youth Wing. The Tana River crisis is a case in point. Four Chiefs were arrested in connection with the attacks.

Another instance, in the latter part of 2012, were reports of rampant incidences of car jackings in a Kileleshwa neighborhood, a short distance from the Police Station.

Because of the ‘war-of-tuff’ between Chief Camps and Police Stations/posts, the closer the violence is to a Chief’s Camp, the higher the likelihood that police response in electoral violence will be sub-optimal.

This rivalry between the forces is not about security, but extraction. If the Chief is the invisible patron of the traditional militia, the police patronise the ‘contra-band’ militia.

While the staying power of the traditional militia is short; that of the contra-band police militia is long lived. In the event of a violent confrontation during this election period, this group will wait for the traditional militia to start the violence, and then come in to sustain it for economic gains.

This is what happened in 2008. If, on the other hand the office of the chief is disbanded, organized militia groups will simply replace it. These groups are already the preferred alternative dispute resolution providers. And this is because of the speed with which they dispense justice!

So far in this election season, campaigns have been largely peaceful. Hopefully this is extended to the election itself. Should there be eruptions of violent incidences however, they will not be spontaneous but opportunistic. They will be as a result of organised militia looking to make a quick buck.