Despite a flood of condemnation, the events of Friday evening in Soy, Uasin Gishu County, where the security of ODM leader Raila Odinga came under threat have exposed serious security lapses in the country.
They also unmasked political intolerance simmering beneath the façade of Kenya’s maturing democracy.
And as police swing to action; summoning two MPs and a County Assembly Speaker, more questions than answers have emerged, including the quality of intelligence, police response and preparedness to deal with such ugly incidents.
There was little security presence at the Soy home of late businessman Jackson Kibor when Raila, a former Prime Minister and one of the leading presidential hopefuls, landed on Friday evening to condole with the family.
Amateur videos circulating on social media, depicted a helpless Raila’s convoy marooned by charging crowds, as they attempted to take off.
Was there intel on the attack? What is the level of security accorded to a former Prime Minister and other leading presidential candidates? Where was the local security team? Was the attack sporadic or organised and could it be organised without intel leaking out?
A brazen criminal enterprise, attempts -veiled and direct- were made to politicise the act, including by the victims, triggering a fallout over what was an otherwise straightforward matter.
The incident added swell to the growing list of attacks which produce more heat than light. They include the Kenol, Murang’a incident in October last year where two lives were lost, the November Kondele incident where Deputy President William Ruto’s motorcade was attacked and two attacks on former ODM presidential ticket hopeful Jimi Wanjigi in Migori and Kasarani.
“Today, we almost got killed in Soy constituency at the burial of Mzee Jackson Kibor. Our chopper was completely destroyed and we had to look for alternative means mid-air. Congratulations Hon Caleb Kositany. William Ruto is happy now,” Suna East MP Junet Mohamed wrote on Friday evening, triggering the politicisation of the attack.
Raila took cue, and in his statement blamed it all on Kositany and Uasin Gishu Governor Jackson Mandago.
“In the run-up to August, someone seems to be assembling a rag tag band of extremist youths, radicalised by lies and handouts to zone the country before pushing us into mayhem,” Raila claimed.
Yesterday, Ruto led his wing in condemning the incident and in apologising to Raila’s side for the attack. He promised his party’s full support to the local security team in arresting the attackers and disciplining any member who may have been involved.
“I have instructed the party to work with the police so that we can get to the root of what happened yesterday in Eldoret,” Ruto said, expressing displeasure on the incident.
He added: “Even as we work as a party to ensure we have an election free of violence, I also take this opportunity to apologise to Raila Odinga for what happened to him yesterday, it was really unfortunate, and I hope those who engaged in this exercise regret what they did.”
But before long, police unveiled the initial suspects, partly mirroring Junet’s earlier list. The directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) summoned Kositany, his Kapseret counterpart Oscar Sudi and County Speaker David Kiplagat describing them as “organisers and coordinators” of the chaos.
Earlier in the day, National Police Service spokesman Bruno Shioso said 17 people linked to the incident had been arrested.
Prof Makau Mutua, Spokesperson of the Raila Odinga Presidential Campaign Secretariat, condemned the incident calling it a threat to the country’s peace and stability.
“The despicable and savage attack in Soy on Raila, the Azimio la Umoja presidential candidate, is a threat to the peace and stability of Kenya. Let’s call a spade what it is- the brazen attack was akin to an attempt on his life,” Prof Mutua said.
“We ask the State to leave no stone unturned in investigating the Soy attack on Raila and his entourage in order to bring the weight and full force of the law on those responsible,” Prof Mutua said.
He added: “We reiterate that every Kenyan is free to travel, live, and campaign in each and every inch and corner of our republic. No political party, or candidate, can be allowed to zone off any part of the country against his or her opponent.”
Jubilee Party Secretary-General Jeremiah Kioni urged the United Democratic Alliance (UDA) leadership to ensure such incidents do not find root in future campaigns.
‘‘Among the issues we discussed in our management meeting today (yesterday) is the concern that we now have of the political intolerance that we now seem to be getting into,’’ said Kioni.
He added: ‘‘The Friday incident is a thing we must condemn. We know how damaging it is to the country. It is such incidents that led to loss of (lives of) more than 1,300 people in 2008 and we ask that the party rein in their followers and aspirants so that it does not happen again.’’
In Eldoret, Governor Mandago refuted links to the incident.
“I cannot as a governor and as a leader of this country be among those who think retrogressively. Junet Mohamed and Babu Owino should be grateful to Mandago. If I was a politician who just thinks about political divides and does politics of hatred and violence, I would not have given them my car,” said Mandago.
He said his car ferried Raila and his team to Kibor’s compound after alighting from the chopper they were boarding and back.
He also added that his car and security were stoned, and he could not have organised violence against himself.
“This thing Junet is saying is that I was walking in and out, I was seated inside the house and was called to lay the reef on the grave of mzee. When they were arriving, we were busy sorting out an incident of a vehicle stolen during that funeral,” he added.
Mandago asked the Inspector General of Police to ensure that he follows up on his instructions to see if the officers on the ground are executing them.
Uasin Gishu county commissioner Stephen Kihara termed the incident unfortunate, especially at a time when the country is preparing for elections.
“We regret what happened on Friday evening. We have arrested 14 out of the youths who participated in stone-throwing. We also got a statement from the captain who was flying the former prime minister, and he has given us his own experience,” he said.
According to Kihara, those arrested have been giving out information that will expose the person behind the political intolerance experienced on Friday.
Kihara has refuted claims that Raila had no security personnel when he arrived, saying seven police officers were assigned to provide security.
During the funeral ceremony, a few aspirants who were given a chance to address the congregation did not get a chance to express their points clearly due to heckling.
Police sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Nairobi, Central region, Nyanza, Rift Valley and parts of Western have been identified as likely to experience rising political temperatures.
Police say these areas have been cited due to the stiff competition between political parties and candidates seeking various elective seats.
The Sunday Standard has learnt that the National Police Service has constituted a team of senior officers to deal with emerging issues around the August 9 General Election.
The team, headed by an officer of the rank of Commissioner of Police, has been tasked to develop guidelines for election management, map out violence hotspots and come up with strategies of dealing with emerging issues.
A report by this team seen by The Sunday Standard, for instance, advises that police chiefs in Rift Valley be on the lookout for inter-ethnic conflicts that have in the past dogged the region.
In particular, they are on the lookout for politicians who may fan ethnic hatred and incitement.
Those in Nairobi and Central region should be keen on the emergence of organised criminal gangs that are likely to be used by politicians to cause mayhem.
They have also been asked to be on the lookout for politicians who are likely to use jobless youths to advance their political agenda.