Security matters in the coast are perennially in the news.
A decade ago, the Coast region experienced attacks and threats of secession from the Mombasa Republican Council (MRC) under the slogan of ‘Pwani Sio Kenya’.
That was quickly followed by Al Shabaab recruitment and deployment of local youth in terrorist and criminal activities. No sooner had the violent extremist threat been weakened than Mombasa witnessed the emergence of criminal gangs of youths in Nyali, Likoni and Kisauni. Finally, lurking in the background is the constant menace of drug turf wars.
If you are seeking a common denominator between the various forms of violence and criminality, then look no further than politics and drugs. It doesn’t take a genius to discover that the MRC sprang into prominence just prior to two general elections and quickly disappeared soon after.
Its leadership may have appeared as a bunch of ageing, illiterate villagers but in the background were the drivers using violence and fear as weapons to disenfranchise their opponents’ supporters.
Today, there may be dozens of criminal gangs terrorising Mombasa residents but don’t look far to discover that they all have their origins as militia recruited by political aspirants in the run up to the last and previous elections.
Cash payments to unemployed, vulnerable youth may have dried up after the political campaigns concluded, but the gangs then turned their energies and organisation initially to petty crime and later to violent assaults on the general public. Of course the same criminal gangs are still available to the political class whenever their services are needed and payment is made.
This contextual analysis may help you understand what happened in the recent gang attack in Bamburi that left 13 hospitalised. The causal link between politics, criminality and drugs is obvious to just about everyone bar the police. The lawlessness that is found in Mombasa and its environs is a direct result of the security machinery’s inability and sheer reluctance to hit at the heart of the matter. It confirms for those who still doubt that police reform has been an abysmal failure and despite the appointment of a new Inspector General, there are few signs to indicate that the rot is being addressed.
Half a century after independence, Kenyan Police are still deployed for the most part to protect the interests, property, loot and families of the political elite at every level. So it should not come as a surprise to read in this newspaper that 19 officers had been deployed to secure a man whom the same police leadership now claims is a drug baron. More shameful still is that Kenyan Police were only embarrassed and pressurised into investigating the activities of Ali Punjani because of revelations in a court in USA 10,000 kilometres away.
Earlier, the Americans had single-handedly arranged for the deportation of the Akasha brothers when they discovered that there was no will to prosecute them in the local courts. It should probably come as no surprise either to hear that the recent raids in Nyali were known in advance to the suspects who subsequently made arrangements to travel abroad. Indeed some have suggested that the gang attacks in Bamburi were meant to preoccupy the police and give the mega criminals time to disappear and conceal the evidence.
It is extremely doubtful that these investigations will produce any results that will make Mombasa more secure. Police will most likely continue to assassinate young suspects rather than arrest them as in the case of Amani Munga who was eliminated in Mtopanga and whose case was highlighted by Muhuri. This may satisfy the ill informed public who erroneously think that knee jerk reactions and extra-judicial killings will solve the crime problems.
Regretfully, few take the time to realise that the rot goes deeper and that these chaotic and dangerous youth are mere pawns in the larger drug and political wars in the Coast. While Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i sounds determined, he may be shocked to discover from the American courts that judges, magistrates, governors and politicians were all beneficiaries of drug billions.
As he unravels the networks, he must prove his commitment and independence by not leaving any sacred cows untouched. In the process, the whole political establishment could collapse round his knees.
The alternative of course would be to eliminate the youth and arrest a few middle ranking criminals while leaving the mafia to resurface and control the politics and the drugs trade for another decade. The ball is in his court now.