David Gikaria: Lawmaker or a bully who hides behind privilege?

For the two decades that he has been a politician, Nakuru Town East MP David Gikaria has been arrested and arraigned in court 20 times on charges ranging from theft, forgery, malicious damage to property to incitement to violence.

Gikaria, popularly known as TM for Team Manager by his supporters, is a colourful politician who never runs away from controversy.

His recent arrest, which led to a photograph of him lying on the floor all bloodied, adds to his long history of run-ins with the police.

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His came in to the limelight through St Joseph Football Team, which he founded. His love for football and the game’s management earned him the nickname TM (Team Manager).

He was later elected the Football Kenya Federation (FKF) national executive committee member representing the Rift Valley.

But it is on the political scene that Gikaria has made a name for himself.

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Split personality

In 2001, he plunged into the political scene as a councilor representing Lake View ward, and presented himself as the champion for the residents of low-income estates of Flamingo, Kimathi and Pangani.

The father of seven served two terms as a councilor before the implementation of the devolved system of governance in 2013.

He shot into the national limelight when he declined to relinquish the Nakuru Mayoral seat after he lost elections in 2009 to his deputy John Kitilit.

His loss turned the council chambers into a battleground that saw council askaris drag him out with kicks and blows, in a fight that damaged the image of the defunct local authority.

Gikaria’s split personality amazes both friend and foe. On the one hand, he is a soft spoken-person and a staunch Catholic. On the other, he is a combative politician who doesn’t hesitate to throw punches.

His critics say he controls the local public transportation, markets and more than half of car wash businesses within his constituency. They say he has a say in allocation of business stalls and open spaces in the central business district.

There are also claims that he has a stake in the management of public toilets within Nakuru’s Central Business District (CBD ) and is said to be the patron of a criminal gang that has perfected the act of swindling people through mobile phone money applications.

The gang is said to be his “private army”, always at his beck and call.

 “I do not condone violence,” he told Sunday Standardrecently.

He said he does not regret getting arrested and taken to court for “fighting for the rights of his people”.

“I will not sit back and watch my constituents being oppressed because they are poor,” he says of his recent run-ins with authorities over a boda boda shed project at Pipeline estate in his constituency.

He has been ordered to appear in court on Monday to answer to five charges ranging from assaulting a police officer to causing disturbance at a police station.

Last weekend, Gikaria is said to have head-butted deputy police commander Daniel Kitavi during an incident where he tried to force the construction of a boda boda shed on a parcel of land belonging to the owners of Total Pipeline Petrol station.

The property belongs to businessman Mohammad Surrraw, a one time mayor of Nakuru and who is a sworn enemy of the legislator.

The two served together at the municipality as councillors -- Gikaria an elected representative and Mohammad a nominated one.

About four of the cases that have seen Gikaria in court are closely linked to Mohammad.

“I am an MP elected to serve the people and will not tolerate anyone oppressing my constituents simply because they have no power or money to fight for their rights,” Gikaria said.

Yet he faces simillar accusations. From charges of grabbing public spaces to establishing a chain of car wash businesses and forging land documents to defraud people their parcels of land, Gikaria has been at the eye of almost every storm in Nakuru.

But he has something to say about all those accusations. “Yes, I have been arrested and charged with more than 20 different cases in court but I have never been convicted. Most of the cases have been terminated and only four cases  linked to the campaign against illegal liquor still stand in court,” he says.

Gikaria defends the car wash businesses and the public toilets operated by his supporters, saying they are all meant to empower youth and women.

“Those car wash businesses are helping young jobless men and women feed their families. I have no interest whatsoever in them,” he says.

But it is the MP’s support for the criminal gang, named Confirm, that is raising eyebrows. The gang has been on the rampage in Bondeni and Kivumbini residential areas.

Criminal group

On two occasions, the MP has paid bail for arrested members of this gang. And he has no apologies to make over this, saying the young men “are innocent jobless people trying to make a living from the ignorance of some Kenyans.”

“In fact, the activities of the confirm goup have helped reduce muggings and violent crime by a bigger percentage because they do not waylay people on the streets or in the dark to rob them. They simply use their brains to make a living,” he says.

Born 56 years ago in Landi Panya, along Langa Langa road (now called Kanu Street), Gikaria has literally fought for his space all his life.

He says it is hard work and determination to fight for the rights of the down-trodden that has seen him rise from the tough and unforgiving slum life to the position of chairman of the Parliamentary Committee on energy.

“I was brought up in Landi Panya where mice were bigger than cats. I was a never a child of privileges and when I see the police oppressing the poor and protecting the rich, I get angry,” he says.

Gikaria has three wives and seven children. He  describes himself as a proud African man who treats all his wives and children equally.

“All my wives have their homes and drive their own cars. I treat them equally, even the children. Yes, legally I’m married to one but the other two are traditionally married to me,” he says.

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