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Why DCI should probe Sonko prison escape claim urgently

By The Standard | December 12th 2019 at 12:00:00 GMT +0300

If allegations linked to Prisons Department are truthful, Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko might land in jail even before the hearing of his corruption case is concluded.

There are claims that Sonko escaped from Shimo La Tewa Prison 20 years ago and that the facility wants him back so that he can complete his jail term. The Director of Public Prosecutions has said as much.

Jail break is a serious crime. So serious that prison officers are even known to shoot those who escape. Major manhunts are usually launched to nab inmates who flee from jail. Once arrested, the prisoners are taken back to court and handed more months for the crime of escaping from lawful custody.

We are not aware of the circumstances under which Sonko escaped from custody—if he indeed did. We also do not know whether efforts were made to trace him and lock him up again.

But we do know that he has been a free man since the alleged great escape two decades or so ago. That’s a long time.

Interestingly, Sonko has not been living in a cave inside Mau Forest. He has been in Nairobi and Mombasa all along; mostly dressed in attires of screaming colours.

In addition, the governor is not good at keeping his mouth shut. He is a most vocal politician; loved and loathed in equal measure for speaking out his mind. And he never shies away from ruffling feathers.

In a nutshell, Sonko is a conspicuous person, a household name, if you like.

So just how did our security agencies; police, prison authorities and even National Intelligence Service, miss this larger than life figure for 20 good years?

It’s mind-boggling that a person can manage to hide in plain sight while even mingling and shaking hands with the same people who are supposed to arrest him. That’s out of this world.

If police have been unable to ‘see’ Sonko, who has been in the public limelight for more than a decade, how can we trust them to arrest faceless suspects who hide in the nooks and crannies of this country? It speaks volumes about the (in) efficiency of the men and women that we pay dearly to keep us safe. They have failed terribly in their duty.

How would they miss a man who served as MP for Makadara for two years, Nairobi Senator for five years and now as governor? If he is the one who escaped jail, why has it taken this long to unmask him? It is simply inconceivable.

It is not enough to claim that Sonko eluded the law by hiding through aliases. Police take finger prints and even pictures of their long-term guests. Is it possible that these have never been applied on Sonko?

In addition, background checks are compulsory for anyone seeking to vie for a political seat. Among others, police take finger prints of aspirants - obviously to establish whether they have had run-ins with the law - before issuing them with Certificates of Good Conduct.

But thrice, the pre-election scrutiny has not helped them to reveal Sonko’s identity— assuming he is the Shimo La Tewa escapee. That should worry us all.

This is because it means there is a possibility of the clearing agencies foisting a person of questionable character on voters. If such people end up being elected, the agencies that give them the go-ahead to vie would have done Kenyans, who look upon them to help them choose clean leaders, a big crime. The vetting would not be worth it. It would be vetting for the sake of it.

That said, the DCI needs to launch fresh investigations to establish the veracity of the Sonko escape claims. He needs to find out whether any prison officers aided in the said jail-break and if so ensure they themselves get jailed at Shimo La Tewa Prison.

It would also be important for DCI boss George Kinoti to establish why Sonko has not been arrested despite being in the public limelight for the two decades he is alleged to have been at large. Again, anyone who might have helped to keep him free should be locked up.

There is obviously more than meets the eye in this case. And if indeed Sonko will go back to Shimo La Tewa, he shouldn’t do so alone. The DCI should ensure he gets company.

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