Saturday, January 16, 2010

Deadly Police killers Part 2

Deadly Police killers Part 2

The Kenya police has a long history of being brutal and when one examines the very beginnings of the force it all begins to make more sense.

Press reports in Kenya have always maintained that Ali was the very first military man to be appointed police commissioner. This is NOT true. The very first commissioner of police was a soldier (Brig.Gen.F.S. Edward who served from 1908 to 1922). In fact as early as 1909 Edward himself noted that the military element had been promoted at the expense of police training, as a result of which a training depot was established in Nairobi in 1911 together with a small fingerprint section.

But perhaps the peak of brutality for the “Kinya” police (as the colonialists pronounced it) was during the emergency. The first thing that the colonial government did to deal with the Mau mau menace was to greatly expand the numbers in the force. Now you know where one Mwai Kibaki may have gotten his idea of how to easily deal with escalating crime when he took over power in 2003. The other thing they did was to stop playing things by the book. In other words this meant untold brutality torture and killing of many innocent people. This tactic was quite effective in snuffing out the Mau mau rebellion. And again now you know where the Kibaki administration may have gotten the idea of not playing things by the book of which Maj Gen Ali’s appointment as police commissioner was key.

There was a honeymoon period for the police when Kenya gained her independence in 1963. The injustices in the police that happened over this period were mainly to do with appointments. A handful of very able men including an excellent Luo officer were overlooked for the post of police commissioner in favour of a Kikuyu man who was hurriedly transferred from the Special branch called Bernard Hinga. You have to realize that until independence very few and carefully selected Kikuyus were recruited into the police or any armed force in the country. This is because they were mainly considered to be disloyal and unpredictable. Kambas were greatly favoured followed by other tribes like the Luo. So considering the numbers alone the chances of a kikuyu being the first commissioner of police were very slim indeed.

But even more instructive was the man appointed to take Bernard Hinga’s place at the Special Branch. His name was James Kanyotu.

Evidence that I have gathered seems to suggest that as 1964 came to a close the Kenyatta government had come to the realization that the celebratory honeymoon was over and they needed to put their house in order. Alarming developments in other African countries like frequent coups, including neighbouring Zanzibar (where there was a bloody revolution engineered by a Ugandan policeman) quickly caused paranoia in the Kenyatta administration and pushed security of the state to the top of the government’s priority list. What security of the state meant was really security of the president and indeed the very survival of his government.

The result was that all enemies, real and imagined, had to be identified and dealt with long before they made their moves. Bernard Hinga headed the special branch until the end of 1964 and at the time this police department mainly gathered and analyzed information and there were no “executions” as such carried out.

Advisors to the Kenyatta administration pointed out that even developed countries like Great Britain and the United States had state security organs that dealt with threats viciously and the young Kenyan administration could not pretend that such an arrangement was not necessary in these shores.

It is very telling that barely within two months of the appointment of James Kanyotu in February 1965, the first “police execution” took place. Pio Gama Pinto was reversing from his house when a lone gun man appeared from nowhere and shot him dead.

How was Pinto a threat to national security?

Many local writers have speculated that his leanings towards communism were the reason. Actually the real reason was that courageous Pinto had actually confronted the President at parliament buildings a few weeks earlier over his personal land grabbing and the corrupt ways of his government. Eyewitnesses say that Kenyatta retorted by calling Pinto a bastard and without thinking Pinto told the head of state that he too was a bastard. Everybody who was there was stunned. It is likely that Kanyotu felt that if Pinto was allowed a little room he would develop a formidable opposition to the Kenyatta government. In fact Pinto had been Kenyatta’s fund raiser at the most difficult time of the latter’s political career and there were few political fundraisers at the time that were as effective as Pinto. This is closer to the truth as to why Kanyotu gave the order for Pinto’s life to be terminated.

As I have said before in this blog, Pinto’s assassination and Tom Mboya’s killing 4 years later had a lot of uncanny similarities that point directly to the police, or rather the secret arm of the police being responsible. However there was one big difference. Kanyotu was an impeccable man who carefully covered his tracks and only started making serious mistakes many years later, late into the Moi administration and even then his mistakes were very few. Kanyotu must have noted that in the Pinto assassination a man who was not a police officer was used and it became clear that there were many problems with this approach including possible leakages later. And that is why I tend to believe information made available to me that the man who actually pulled the trigger to end Mboya’s life was in fact a police officer. The late Ben Gethi. The man later arrested for the murder Nahashon Njenga, a Kanu activist and youth winger who was personally known to Mboya, had an uncanny resemblance to Gethi.

All the assassinations done during the Kenyatta era were carried out by the Special branch and with the knowledge and nod from the director of intelligence James Kanyotu himself. Now when the Moi era commenced, there was again a honeymoon period where all political detainees were released and police executions stopped. It seems that while Moi still received regular briefings from his intelligence chief James Kanyotu, he shied away from authorizing killings. To Moi’s credit, even after the 1982 coup he favored detention without trial to killings. He was probably still too disgusted at what he had seen during the Kenyatta era. Even the Ouko murder was not really ordered but was rather a spontaneous thing that happened in the heat of the moment although the Special branch was used to track the foreign minister’s every move and to later to help cover up the murder.

You must also remember that it was during the Moi era that the Special branch was abolished and replaced by the National Security Intelligence Services (NSIS) which unlike the special branch has no legal arresting powers. Actually its’ predecessor, the special branch thrived on the arrest and brutal torture of its’ subjects to verify and get information. It is for this reason that many old hands wondered how the new NSIS would work.

This is very important to keep in mind because the Kibaki administration met this kind of arrangement when he took over office in 2003.

To be continued

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

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Previous weekend special


Mwarang'ethe said...

Live at your leisure without any papers or visa worries. Buy property anywhere you want and even right in the middle of Nairobi CBD. Yes, you don’t believe it? I challenge you to come to Kenya and see for yourself.


Where is it written that only a citizen can own property in Kenya chris?

At the NSE, are the majority of shares, and thus, most of the wealth/property in Kenya not owned by foreigners? Who owns Safaricom, KBL, KR, Barclays etc?

Why don't you complain about these other foreigners? Or, only Somalis are foreigners?

It seems you are bent on raising unenecessary tension in Kenya about Somalis.

Anonymous said...


Are u concerned by security issues posed by Islamic militia to Kenya notably al-Shabab or you are concerned by the presence of Somali immigrants owning properties in Kenya? You seems to be more concerned by Somalis entering Kenya and prospering albeit by dubious means than how to deal with extremists.

If you are bothered by the latter, sorry to bust your bubbles, Kenya is a merit-based capitalist system. That means anyone who works hard should be able to reap what he has sown. If Indians are successful, it is because they have put in the effort. Do you know more than half of doctors in US are Asians. Do you hear the Americans complaining? Do you know the Indian company TATA bought Land Rover in UK? Do u know 8/10 Britain's richest people are foreign born? One of them being an Ugandan Asian expelled by Idi Amin. Do u hear British complaing?

Chris, I am appalled a man of your calibre would stir up xenophobia in our country against our fellow Africans. I do not want to see what happened in South Africa last year happening to Kenya - Africans turning against each other.

You can do better than this.

Phil's Mistress

Anonymous said...

FYI, Ben Gethi ("Benge") never tracked down Nahashon Njenga ("NahNje") nor was he responsible for his arrest in any way, shape or fashion.

Gethi met "NahNje" when he was already in police custody. Guess where? In the newly constructed ... police station.

"NahNje" was nabbed by a CID crew operating from ... police station, under the supervising command of the S.S.P. (OCPD) at the time.

The SSP(OCPD) was the one who was responsible for arresting those ... who were still adminstering oaths to their fellow tribesmen.

"NahNje" as he was known at the time, was captured while taking a walk in the Indian Bazaar in ... at 2:45 PM.

Gethi ("Benge") drove down to ... police station on the special orders from Bennard Hinga ("BenHin") after the urgent phonecall have been made from the SSP (OCPD)* in question.

*(Name with held FOR)

Anonymous said...

you could always buy a kenyan passport. in the '70s for shs 5000 to 10000; have you not heard of Mr passport; word is that the minister of home affairs also sold such passports

Anonymous said...

BTW Kenyans could travel to UK and most EU (then) without visa upto 1997. Only until these INDUSTRIOUS brothers and sisters jetted in in droves, bought PPs and flooded London. The rest is history.

Not xenophobic but anything built on deceipt and fraud (Taabu's mantra) is unsustainable. Eastleigh may be a buzz with merchandise but do they pay tax? Wait till they strike.

We don't envy fraudulent wealth. Why not use it to REBIULD Mogadishu?

Anonymous said...

does not appear kenyatta was part of kiambu mafia; if he was moi would not have been vp

Mwarang'ethe said...

Not xenophobic but anything built on deceipt and fraud (Taabu's mantra) is unsustainable. Eastleigh may be a buzz with merchandise but do they pay tax?

1/16/10 3:58 PM


Selling your merchandise without paying tax is the way it should be.

Tax for running government affairs should come from land, which includes air waves, landing slots at the airports etc and not from wages, consumption and capital. The wages should only be taxed after all land values have been taken and used appropriately.

Just draw a straight line from State House to Siakago in Mbeere district. U would find that as an illustration, 1 empty acre of land in Nairobi may cost around KES 10m. The same empty 1 acre in Siakago may be KES 1m.

What has the owner of Nairobi 1 acre done to pocket the difference of KES 9m?

Absolutely nothing. So, we let this idle god pocket this rent without any work or expenditure, but, we chase those who labour. What an absurdity in the 21st Century?

Anonymous said...

chris ur a let down,Mwarang'ethe well said my brother

Anonymous said...

Very true. Jomo Kenyatta was a bastard!

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