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September 25, 2018

We Must Say No To Repression

Former Mungiki leader Maina Njenga recuperate at at Avenue Park Hospital after he was shot by unknown assailants in Nyahururu. Photo/Philip Kamakya.
Former Mungiki leader Maina Njenga recuperate at at Avenue Park Hospital after he was shot by unknown assailants in Nyahururu. Photo/Philip Kamakya.

Former Mungiki leader Maina Njenga is nursing bullet wounds at the Nairobi Hospital after a near fatal encounter with heavily armed - and trained - assassins.

Five of his colleagues weren’t so lucky, including one young woman reported to be his wife. This is the second time in less than seven years that Njenga has lost a wife to criminals he claims are members of the Kwekwe Squad — a specially-trained assassination unit in the Kenya Police Service. Predictably, the police have denied knowledge of its involvement in the open thuggery even before it had investigated the serious allegations.

The assassination attempt on Njenga is a clear reminder that Kenya isn’t simply a target practice for foreign terrorists; it has always been a safe haven for organised criminal gangs and assassins. The list of unresolved political assassinations in Kenya is as long as the equator and as old as the country itself. From the brutal gunning down of Pio Gama Pinto on February 25, 1965 to that of Sheikh Abubakar Sheriff alias “Makaburi” on April 1, 2014, Kenya has never successfully investigated, charged and prosecuted any assassin(s), partly because, by their very nature, the assassins were or have been acting on instructions from very powerful forces in our society. Consequently, unearthing their plots would logically unmask the power barons behind the assassins.

The umbilical cord that connects Kenya’s assassins with the power barons was first revealed during the trial of Pinto’s supposed assassin, Kisilu Mutua. To many observers, Kisilu not only lacked motive (Pinto was shot outside his gate as he drove his daughter to school, and there was no attempt to steal anything from him, thereby raising questions as to the motive(s) of the shooter), he also claimed not to have been at the scene of the murder. The police didn’t – for obvious reasons - investigate Kisilu’s alibi.

The link between political power barons and political assassins was best dramatised during the arrest of Tom Mboya’s supposed killer, Nahashon Njenga Njoroge. Apparently a ‘friend’ of Mboya and a Kanu youth winger in Nairobi, Njenga was the first to expose the conspiracy when confronted with the serious allegations.

“Why don’t you go after the big man?” Njenga loudly protested as the police took him away. However, before that question could be answered, the government announced that “Njenga had been hanged secretly in accordance with the law”.

In other words, just like Argwings K’Odhek, Dr Robert Ouko, Dr. Crispin Odhiambo Mbai, John Paul Oulu, Oscar Kamau King’ara, Njuguna Gitau, and many others before and after them, I can bet all my meagre earthly possessions that those who attempted to kill Maina Njenga last week are well trained, connected and protected. It lends credence to Maina Njenga’s allegations that the assassins who shot at him were police officers.

If they were not, reasonable people expect the Kenya security forces to publicly disclose the kind of ammunition and weapons used during the attack. It is that kind of forensic evidence that would clearly exculpate the police — not mere verbal denials by the Interior cabinet secretary Joseph Ole Lenku. For Kenyans who have experienced numerous unresolved political assassinations, there is reasonable presumption of involvement by security forces in such sophisticated gangster attacks.

That is why Kenyans should be alarmed by David Kimaiyo’s unilateral decision to ban all political meetings and processions in the country, presumably “in order to prevent and pre-empt any criminal incidents including terror.”

The timing, context, constitutional and legal basis of Kimaiyo’s announcement are suspect. Firstly, the insecurity in the country has been increasingly worsening for some time now. Yet, the government has failed to arrest the situation. The Westgate judicial inquiry that President Uhuru Kenyatta promised during the crisis has not been unveiled. The government is yet to disclose how many the attackers were, who they were, where they came from and how they were able to operate without detection by our security system. In addition, the military who openly looted the mall haven’t been brought to book. The casual manner with which the government continues to treat the Westgate fiasco coddles the culture of impunity, which ultimately returns to haunt us through unexplained terrorist attacks.

Shortly after Mr Kenyatta and Mr William Ruto returned from their first appearances at The Hague a few years ago, they did not only hold large rallies in Nairobi, they held many rallies around the country. Despite heightened political tensions and sporadic violence at the time, the police didn’t ban political meetings and processions. Mr Kenyatta, Mr Ruto and their supporters were provided with security during their meetings. In fact, they have held some of the largest processions from the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport to Uhuru Park.

It was understood that under articles 35, 36 and 37 of the constitution, Kenyans have a fundamental right to access information, to associate freely with whomsoever they choose, and to assemble, demonstrate, picket and petition public authorities as long as they exercise their rights peaceably and while unarmed.

Article 38 entrenches every citizen’s right to make political choices including but not limited to forming a political party and participating in all its activities. Similarly, article 39 guarantees each citizen the right to free movement and residence.

In other words, even though Mr Kimaiyo as the Inspector General of the Kenya Police has a duty to protect Kenyans from criminal activities, attacks or injury, he has no power and authority to dictate to Kenyans what political activities they may engage in, when and how. As long as the Cord coalition has not broken any law — and conducts all its activities peacefully and unarmed — Kimaiyo has no justification for banning their protests, processions, meetings or demonstrations, even if they contain incendiary or offensive rhetoric like the one they held at the Kamukunji grounds in Nairobi two weeks ago.

It would be impossible for Mr Kimaiyo to justify his arbitrary order against the Cord rallies when he didn’t issue one prior to the choreographed protests held in Nairobi recently in support of Cabinet Secretary Anne Waiguru. After all, the pro-Waiguru protests weren’t just as noisy; they took place barely a week following the terrorist attack at the Gikomba Market.

For more than one year before the pro-Waiguru rallies, there were terrorist attacks in Kenya nearly once every month. Yet, no draconian orders were issued curtailing the exercise of fundamental political rights and freedoms by Kenyans.

Refreshingly, during the recent Cord Kamukunji rally, it was the Kenyatta-family owned K24 TV station that broadcasted it live. Politically-speaking, President Uhuru Kenyatta’s symbolic stoic endurance under Cord’s withering abuse that lasted more than three hours won his government more dividends than Kimaiyo’s current unconstitutional fiat could ever have earned him.

Instead of containing and/or scattering Cord’s gathering storm, Kimaiyo’s order energises and makes it more lethal. It exposes Jubilee as intolerant and repressive. Make no mistake: Cord leader, Raila Odinga, thrives on controversy. Kimaiyo’s draconian ban, the escalating political intolerance and incendiary language adopted by some of Jubilee’s strategists and talking heads will resuscitate and strengthen Mr Odinga.

More significantly, repression will not help Jubilee regain lost ground. It will never help it recover or divert attention from the treasonable Anglo-Leasing payments. It will not wish away the intolerable tribalism that permeates throughout the new administration. A country where a Maina Njenga is attacked in broad daylight by heavily armed thugs whom he claims were police officers yet no senior government official seems bothered isn’t the type of country envisioned by our constitution.

Under our new constitutional order, even suspected criminals deserve due process of law. When all is said and done, there is very little difference between extrajudicial killings and the heinous crimes perpetrated by terrorists.

Kenyans are becoming increasingly restless at the escalating insecurity, the runaway corruption, and the increasing tribalism and intolerance.

If Jubilee persists on its downward spiral, it will only be a matter of time before it crumbles like a house of cards. Mark my word.

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Mr Miguna Miguna is a lawyer and author of Peeling Back the Mask: A Quest for Justice in Kenya and Kidneys for the King: Deforming the Status Quo in Kenya.

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