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October 23, 2017

Uhuru: Politicians are forming militia groups for elections

President Uhuru Kenyatta and Deputy President William Ruto address residents of Kisii Town./DPPS
President Uhuru Kenyatta and Deputy President William Ruto address residents of Kisii Town./DPPS

Politicians are forming militias to protect themselves, ensure victory and cause trouble for opponents, reports the National Security Council headed by President Uhuru Kenyatta.

The NSC also warns of the reemergence of outlawed criminal gangs in the campaign period.

Uhuru, who attends all NSC meetings and presides, on Wednesday last week tabled in Parliament the 43-page report saying candidates are mobilising gangs ahead of the August 8 polls.

“The heightening political temperature in view of the 2017 general elections has seen the resurgence of criminal gangs, political goons and militias,” the 4th Annual State of National Security Report says.

It was tabled during Uhuru's State of the Nation address.

A brief section of the report is devoted to organised criminal groups. It says they are believed take advantage of the campaign to offer services, such as protection, to aspirants.

"Some politicians form militias to advance their own interests. These criminal groups have continued to hamper security efforts in some parts of the country, thereby slowing economic development," the report says.

It then outlines steps the state is taking to combat political violence.

Expert comment: Cut off supply of bullets and then disarm communities

Elsewhere, the report says political incitement is one factor driving land invasions and deadly violence in central and northern Kenya.

It also cites a proliferation of illegal small arms and light weapons contributing to banditry and crime in general.

Interior CS Joseph Nkaissery has warned that police and security agents will arrest members of 90 outlawed gangs gazetted in December last year. He promised prosecution.

The organised gangs have been linked to disruption of political events, robberies, beatings, assassinations and shootings.

Kenyan political campaigns have always been marred by chaos.

The gazetted gangs include Gaza, Superpower, 42 Brothers, American Marines, Acrobatic, Young Turks, Young Killers, Wakali Wao, Chapa Ilale and Akili Za Usiku.

Others include Taliban Boys, Seven Lions, Spanish Boys, Boston Boys, Sixty Four, Smarter, Tiacha Group, Rounder Seniors and Quick Response Group. The Eminants gang is believed to be renamed incarnation of the Mungiki.

Senators and MPs have expressed concern over the resurgence of vicious groups in counties. Some are alleged to be working as county askaris and taking orders from governors.

Nominated Senator and Senate Chief Whip Beatrice Elachi last year asked Nkaissery to bar governors from training county askaris, raising fears the young men could be turned into campaign goons.

“Each governor will have an army of people who can be used as militia. Such training should be restricted to the national government or else governors will be untouchable,” Elachi said.

The National Assembly Administration and National Security Committee was to probe Kiambu Governor William Kabogo over claims he was sponsoring a private militia to harass county MPs.

He denied the allegations.

The committee chaired by Tiaty MP Asman Kamama was hearing a petition by Kimani Ichung’wa (Kikuyu).

Ichung’wa accompanied by other Kiambu lawmakers, including Alice Ng’ang’a (Thika Town), told the committee their governor was using Mungiki intimidate them.

During the inquiry, the committee said the regrouping of gangs was an emerging problem not only in Kiambu but also in Murang’a, Mombasa, Malindi, Turkana, Meru, Kakamega and elsewhere.

Despite the problems posed by these gangs, the NSC report says many measures and intelligence sharing among agencies have have been put in place to combat them.

Police and other law enforcement agencies have stepped up detection, disruption of activities and arrest of criminals.

“The government continues to proscribe organised criminal gangs, groups and militias that emerge in order to suppress their activities from threatening national security,” it says.

Former Electoral Commission of Kenya commissioner Jack Tumwa has urged the state to tackle lawlessness, including violence caused by goons attacking rivals' supporters.

“It appears we have not learnt any lessons from the 2007-08 post-election chaos," he said.

Tumwa cited the attack in Ruaraka where two people died when rival groups clashed. One supported sitting MP Tom Kajwang, the other nominated Senator Elizabeth Ongoro.

"Such incidents are not good when we are heading to an election,” Tumwa said.

“The system seems not to be working because we don’t see any prosecutions of key suspects. Top leaders are also engaging in hate speech contrary to citizens' expectations,” he says.

The NSC report says the state has increased logical support to security officers to deal with politicians and gangs plotting chaos during campaigns.

The National Cohesion and Integration Commission chaired by Francis Kaparo has trained more than 1,200 police officers deal with hate mongers and anyone causing violence.

Last Thursday, NCIC announced that it has procured audio and video recording devices for the officers in all counties. They will be monitoring political events.

The government has also recommended the arrest of any politician who calls for mass action after rejecting results of the August polls.

It wants to criminalise zoning of political areas as strongholds of particular candidates or parties; being part of an organised criminal gang to intimidate opponents, bribing voters and disrupting opponent’s campaigns.

There are also plans to recruit and deploy as many as 100,000 armed officers and conduct digital surveillance of key towns and cities before, during and after the polls.

ANC Leader Musalia Mudavadi and other opposition leaders have criticised the recommendations on grounds they undermine democracy.

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