Politicians form gangs ahead of 2022 poll: Report

Monday, November 16th, 2020 00:00 |
Suspects in court for being members of outlawed Mungiki sect in this past photo. Photo/PD/File

Nyaboga Kiage

A new report has warned that politicians across the political divide are preparing gangs ahead of the 2022 General-Election. 

Global Initiative Against Transnational Organised Crime (GI-TOC) in a report to be released today dubbed ‘The Politics of Crime- Kenya’s Gang Phenomenon’, which investigated the toxic relationship between politics and organised crime in the country, suggests that the gangs being formed will be very active towards and just after the next election . 

“These relationships have sustained criminal gangs and undermined the State’s ability to respond to the problem.

Urban growth, political patronage of gangs and the criminalisation of urban municipal services are inextricably linked in many instances,” researchers who conducted the report found out. 

Political protection

The report shows how an unholy alliance between gangsters and politicians has been forged in the country for years, with the latter facilitating criminal activities, with the aim of remaining in power and this is expected to re-emerge. 

It notes that criminal gangs have been entrenched in Nairobi and Mombasa due to an existing corrupt relationship, between powerful political figures who also enjoy protection from the police officers working in these areas.  

It has emerged that urban growth, political patronage of gangs and the criminalisation of urban municipal services are inextricably linked in many instances.  

The political protection has led to the gangs creating a lucrative profit-making opportunity in areas that are characterised by very high unemployment rate.  

The report notes that the gangs that operate in Mombasa and Nairobi make lots of money, by providing informal services or taxing residents in many services which include transport, waste removal, electricity and water provision.  

A total of 96 people were interviewed in Mombasa and Nairobi where they shared their experience with gang issues, criminalisation of urban services and the political system.

They included journalists, politicians and witnesses in the criminal aspects of the matatu industry.  

For the last 15 years- every election has been marred with violence.  

“While police and political figures denounced the use of gangs in electoral campaigns, the role of politicians in establishing and sustaining them continued.

Multiple informants reported that almost all leading politicians at the coast and in Nairobi exploited their association with gangs or hired them in the run-up to the 2017 election,” the report stated.  

It is to this effect that Mombasa’s Deputy County Commissioner Mohamed Maalim publicly announced that politicians should not use young people during the election period.  

He said that they had gathered intelligence that a section of leaders in the Coast were planning to use youth in their favour ahead of the elections.  

Maalim even went ahead to reveal that  the gangs had profiled those youth and that they had their pictures plus contacts and where they were staying.  

A number of officers who were interviewed revealed to the researchers that they downed their tools as State officials and joined gangs ahead of the last General Election, with the aim of protecting certain politicians.  

In Nairobi, the officers posed as members of the Nairobi Business community and they actively disrupted pro-reform street protests, which were organised by the Opposition between March and July 2017. 

In one of the interviews, a police officer who joined the business community,  said that at the time they received orders from senior officers and they felt that they were protecting the State from the Opposition.  

“So, when about 20 of us police officers met and listened to our bosses, we agreed to remove our uniforms to defend our own. We joined the Mungiki and Gaza people,” an officer revealed.  

The violence was denounced but a number of State bodies acknowledged that the relationship between the police and criminal gangs indeed existed.  

Police complicity

“The politicians also facilitated economic activities such as land grabbing, controlling matatu parking, and giving them access to contracts and tenders through the Constituency Development Fund and ward funds,” the report stated.  

During the 2017 General Election, human rights bodies claim that police and armed gangs killed more than 100 people.  

The Kenya National Commission on Human Rights also claimed that gangs and law-enforcement agents used sexual violence as a weapon, with the United Nations reporting that at least 200 women and children were raped or sexually assaulted.  

The report acknowledges the fact that the 2010 Constitution brought an impressive array of institutional reforms, which were introduced to improve the performance and the integrity of the Kenya police.

It states that the Police Service has failed to uphold the Kenyan Constitution as it is actively involved in cases of extra-judicial killings. 

The report describes how in Kayole, Nairobi- a special police unit was created to eliminate the leaders of Gaza gang in 2017. 

It also focuses on December 2019- where it is believed that special plainclothes police squad called Wazee wa Bareta was tasked with eliminating gang members. 

In addition, it clearly brings out incidents where police officers work in cohorts with criminal gangs to make money from civilians. 

“This report documents systematic police complicity with organised crime: the collusion between municipal police and cartels to extort money from the profitable local transport or matatu industry, the illegal police ownership of matatus, the role of the police station in Kayole in Gaza’s land grabs, and the alleged police protection of drug lords in Mombasa,” it states. 

“Some interviewees believe that these horizontal linkages between (often senior) police officers and criminal gangs, have come to eclipse the top-down protection afforded to gangs by political figures,” it further states. 

The report states that over the past 15 years, the issue of criminal gangs, corruption, electoral and ethnic violence and their interconnections have become more mainstream, in discussions about Kenya’s obstacles to democratisation and its prospects for sustainable development.   

“During this period, criminal violence intensified for several reasons, including the influx of weapons into Kenya and eventually to its urban areas and a deepening criminalisation of the State, which saw political protection extended to violent entrepreneurs,” it stated.  

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