By PAUL WAFULA
Bungoma, Kenya: From the streets of Bungoma town to sugar plantations of Mumias, motorbike riders are whispering his name.
It also comes up among residents of Busia and Kakamega counties, but no one wants to be heard saying it. A number of residents spoke of the numerous times they have reported the ‘ringleader’ to police from as far back as during the times of former Kakamega provincial police officer Benson Kibue’s tenure. They, however, wonder why the man was never arrested.
“I called the PPO and he assured me of action. But days later, I was the one who was running for my life as the youthful leader walked free,” a resident of Mumias town, familiar with the politician’s illegal activities told The Standard.
Politicians also shiver when his name comes up for discussion.
The moneyed youthful politician, whom we shall not name for legal reasons, is dreaded among residents of the region in the same degree he is revered.
The politician was born in Mumias District in a family largely professing Islam, on or about 1982.
Though his family is fairly wealthy, residents in his hometown remain puzzled at how fast he has risen into being a millionaire living among paupers. But what is mysterious is what he does for a living besides mobilising the youth.
“When I asked about his sudden accumulation of wealth in one of our campaign meetings, I was told that he has Government contracts but no one for sure can tell the nature of the contracts and what he supplies,” an elected MP close to the leader told The Standard.
The controversial politician prefers to be called a businessman when cornered to explain his mysterious source of wealth. He is understood to have a palatial home in Kisumu’s Milimani estate.
He has hosted top politicians from popular coalition in the area at his home, as well as some from Kenya African Democratic Development Union. But he is understood to have fallen out with some of his superiors in Nairobi after a series of complaints were raised against him.
The mystery and suspicion surrounding the shadowy youth leader was corroborated by at least nine politicians from Busia County, among them governors, senators and MPs.
“He has his own army and with it a lot of influence. When he drives to Busia, he comes at times with a convoy of about ten cars. During campaigns in the run up to the March 4 elections, his convoy would be bigger than most presidential candidates. In short, he is a man of wealth,” a top politician from Busia County told this investigation.
The Standard has learned police find it difficult to link him to any robberies in the county because most of them are low profile, where for instance, thugs steal goods valued at less than Sh50,000.
An MP, who worked closely with the man during the recent campaigns, said the youth leader is too connected to be arrested by local police officers. “A man of such wealth, how can you arrest him in relation to a small robbery of say Sh50,000 or less? What would be his motive?” a source familiar with the investigations said. The leader was last year elected to a top seat in one of the two leading parties in the region.
The politician, who is in his early 30s, is understood to have been at the centre of recruitment of over 2,600 youths, who were tasked with providing security to politicians during rallies.
“These youth inform the police where they go in advance and that’s why you see no action,” a source in Bungoma said.
Sermon for Sunday
The army of youth was split in branches across the counties in western Kenya and mainly provided logistical support and groundwork before, during and after major rallies in the run up to last election.
Residents fear the man mostly for his unprofessed connections with the police, a position that has silenced potential witnesses.
The youthful politician was linked to the death of an Anglican Church of Kenya Reverend Benson Makokha. Mr Makokha, 45, was murdered in cold blood at his house at 8pm while preparing a sermon for Sunday. He was the priest of ACK’s Shibale Church.
“I hired a private investigator and he went very close to nailing him. But senior police officers at Mumias, who were handling the investigations, were transferred and that was the last time I heard of the probe,” a cleric familiar with the murder of Rev Makokha said.