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State takes top-down strategy in MRC crackdown

By - | October 10th 2012

By Standard Team

Government security agencies sustained crackdown on members of secessionist Mombasa Republican Council and capped the day with the arrest of its Secretary General Hamza Randu.

Randu’s arrest follows that of MRC Spokesman Mohamed Rashid Mraja and four other members on Monday. Top among the members of MRC police are keen to arrest is its founder Omar Mwamnwadzi.

On Tuesday, confidential reports revealed a special security unit was closing in on him inside his Kwale stronghold.

As the crackdown intensified, with a major operation said to be under way, Internal Security minister Katoo ole Metito met Members of Parliament from the Coast in Nairobi for a closed-door session during which it is believed the politicians agreed to convene peace meetings in their constituencies.

The urgency of the political intervention is anchored on the fact that MRC activities have cast doubts whether there would be peaceful elections and even sitting of national examinations in the region. Thirdly, its clandestine activities such as last week’s brazen attack on Fisheries minister Amason Kingi, has been seen as a threat to normal business operations in a region deemed the heartbeat of Kenya’s vibrant tourism.

Prison authorities revealed MRC Mraja, who is charged on two counts of incitement to violence, and was slapped with a Sh2 million bond, was still being held and had not received visitors by on Tuesday afternoon.

Militants plan

“They are still in police custody because they have not raised bond,” explained Coast Provincial Police chief Aggrey Adoli.

Last evening Randu was arrested within Mombasa city centre as reports emerged a special squad was closing in on Mwamnwadzi in Kwale.

Three other suspected MRC members — Bakari Mohamed Jillo, Mohamed Omar Yusa, and Simba Omar — were detained at an undisclosed place in Tana River District, but are now at Malindi Police Station awaiting trial today.

Sources told The Standard last evening a special squad of security intelligence officials involved in the crushing defunct Islamic Party of Kenya in the early 1990s had been deployed to Kwale, Kilifi, and Kisauni where MRC has strong support among radical Islamists and impoverished and jobless youth.

“We have captured Hamza Randu,” Coast PCIO Ambrose Munyasia said last evening without elaborating.

It was also reported that a hardcore group of radicalised youth, some recently trained in Somalia or in forests in Kwale and Kilifi were plotting to make a last stand in Mwamnwadzi’s defence. Randu and Mraja’s arrests came ahead of planned visit to the region by Metito and Police Commissioner Mathew Iteere today to assess the security situation and meet ground teams. Sources in the force said police were now targeting the financiers of the separatist movement.

Metito met Coast MPs at his Harambee House office to plan the visit today, with officials saying the agenda was logistics ahead of conducting the crackdown.

Apart from Iteere, Administration Police Commandant Samuel Arachi and the MPs would also accompany Metito. They are expected to hold rallies in the region. Organisers said the officials are expected to visit parts of Kilifi, Kwale, Malindi, and Mombasa.

Prior to arrests police had told The Standard they were closing in on them.  “We are searching for Omar Mwamnwadzi to be charged with incitement and treason,” a senior police officer told The Standard.

Adoli warned police had sealed all legal loopholes that could jeopardise the operation, adding the arrests followed infiltration of the separatist group to gather what he described as “insider information”. He said the change of tack also exposed financiers and ideologies of the movement.

“We have information on all of them. We are going to capture them one by one,” he said of those who have gone underground.

Several people and lobbyists hailed the Monday arrest and arraignment in court of Mraja, who is now detained at Shimo la Tewa Prison outside Mombasa.

Acting Internal Security Permanent secretary, Mutea Iringo, said they are investigating politicians and businessmen in Mombasa who are financing the criminal gang.

“If any of them would be found to be financing the gang we would deal with them without fear or favour. We will not allow anyone to continue destabilising the country and in particular the Coast,” warned Iringo.

He added the operation on MRC began on Sunday and police have so far arrested and recorded statements from at least five suspects.

“What you have seen will continue until the area is safe. We are now pacifying the region ahead of national examinations, and electoral process, which include registration, voter education, and voting,” added the PS. Iringo explained the Government was ready to negotiate with those who would have “reformed”.

The PS assured Coast people the Government is determined in ensuring their safety and peace.

The operation came days after Metito said they have Intelligence reports of MRC plans to disrupt Kenya Certificate of Primary Education and Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education “as part of their efforts to remain relevant”.

Metito said the group has been warning parents against participating in elections, including registering as voters.

 “We are aware of their plans and wish to warn them that the Government will not condone the criminal activities of MRC and will ensure all perpetrators of such activities face the full force of the law,” warned Metito.

He said Attorney General Githu Muigai would appeal the court ruling that legalised the gang based on its recent violent activities.

Genuine Issues

The minister ordered security agencies to use other laws in dealing with MRC and other militia groups undermining the security and safety of the country and the life and property of Kenyans.

“Some of their demands like on land alienation are genuine, but they must wait for National Land Commission to deal with them at county levels,” he said.

Bishop Ronald Nzai of Methodist Church in Kilifi said though MRC had a right to agitate for the rights of the Coast people, its approach was wrong. But the co-ordinator of Council of Imams and Preachers of Kenya for North Coast Ali Hussein warned the arrests could cause more trouble.

“The intelligence personnel should go down and get thorough facts on the people involved in criminal activities and deal with them instead of arresting MRC officials,” advised Hussein.

— Reporting by Willis Oketch, Cyrus Ombati, Kevin Odit and Joseph Masha

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