Sunday, January 17, 2010
Deadly Police killers Part 3
Deadly Police killers Part 3
The very first thing that Mwai Kibaki did on taking over power was to ask for a detailed report from the major security agencies in the country. It was clear to the then delighted Kenyans that the new president considered fighting crime as one of his top priorities.
It was also apparent that the president had some very clear ideas on how exactly to go about combating crime and insecurity in the country. Increasing the number of police officers was one of them. However this hardly had the desired effect and the frustration of the new administration was clear as Mwai Kibaki’s first year in power dragged on. At one point the president even started threatening criminals in his public speeches.
From the various reports the government received it had emerged that the police (even with the injection of new ideas) was losing the fight against criminals. More drastic action was urgently required.
Now, during the Kenyatta administration whenever the spate of bank robberies increased in the country police would be ordered to hunt known bank robbers and to shoot them on site. One or two shootings later, criminals would start surrendering guns to the police and promising to behave themselves. It was clear that Mwai Kibaki’s mind was still firmly fixed in this long past era. And this is where the idea of using brutal methods to deal with crime in Kenya were first mooted. To implement this, a soldier was appointed to the post of police commissioner. And this is how the then Brigadier Hussein Ali ended up at Vigilance House. The minister in charge at the time was Chris Murungaru a close confidante of president Kibaki for many years. Soldiers are trained to kill whilst policemen are trained in law enforcements methods. The two are as different as night is from day. And this is the reason why Ali’s appointment at first puzzled many close security observers.
It is quite possible that Ali’s methods of fighting crime would never have been detected had it not been for the Mungiki menace. Still what remains puzzling to this writer is how Ali despite being a very intelligent man convinced himself that he could oversee the killing of so many people and still get away with it. More so in this age of satellite “spying” where it is virtually impossible to do anything major in the world and completely get away with it. Was it ignorance of the law? After all soldiers hardly get any training in legal matters.
The Kumekucha figures as to the number of people who were killed by Ali’s killing machine in clamping down on the Mungiki menace alone is close to 5,000. That is a figure many have sneered at here in this blog and has been ridiculed but I am still convinced that it is the figure closest to the truth. Unknown to many Kenyans Ali’s killing machine had also perfected methods of disposal of bodies. There were various tactics employed. One was to transport bodies to morgues very far away from where those people lived. A person could be killed in Nairobi and the body dumped at a Garissa morgue. Sometimes a Nairobi body would be dumped in nearby Machakos. But think about it for a moment, would you ever think of looking for a missing relative who lived in Nairobi even in nearby Machakos? Very unlikely although one lucky family was tipped off and found their loved one in Machakos.
The other method was to dump the body at the Nairobi national park. This one was ingenious. In 1975 the police dumped the body of the then Nyadarua North legislator, JM Kariuki in Ngong Forest where there are wild animals. All would have gone well but so determined were the police that he should never be recognized that they poured acid on his face and parts of the body to make positive identification impossible. In pouring the acid, this actually prevented most wild animals from feeding on the burning flesh (burning from acid), at least until a Masai herdsman discovered it. Incidentally JM Kariuki’s widow ended up identifying the body from a scar in his inner thigh, where the acid did not reach.
Now when you dump a dead body in the National park without pouring any acid on it, chances are that within a few days there will be no trace left. First the Hyenas will get to it. Hyenas even chew the hard bones of bigger animals and so imagine what they would do to supple human bones. And then when they are done there are the scavengers hovering all over the place. Not to mention the ants and worms in the bushes who usually clean up any remnants. In this way thousands of bodies disappeared without trace and without any evidence.
So experienced and efficient did the Ali killing machine become that by the time the post election troubles came in early 2008, the ingenious method of throwing some of the Kisumu bodies into Lake Victoria was quickly mooted.
Admittedly most of the stories told about the killings that Maj gen Hussein Ali supervised in his tenure as police commissioner sound like fiction straight out of a spy thriller. Indeed this is Ali’s best defense, to say that the stories are too incredible to be true. Sadly the truth is that most are true.
Still during the aftermath of the botched presidential elections a close informant of mine who lives in Nyayo High rise estate had an interesting encounter. They called me at about 8 am to say that they couldn’t sleep because there was constant gunfire in neighbouring Kibera. They reported that the gunfire went on the whole night without ceasing and only petered off in the early morning at around 5 am. Now there are no Somalis living in Kibera and therefore you can safely rule out the idea of anybody exchanging fire with the police. Can we assume that all those bullets were missing their mark? Or perhaps the police were shooting at rats (there are plenty of those in the slums)?
Also remember that the poor folks at Kibera have no idea where the newspaper offices are. Majority of them would be terrified after a relative is killed by the police. Who would protect them if they reported a police killing? It is this mostly innocent blood crying out from the ground that will definitely not leave Maj gen Ali and his superiors in peace until justice is done, however long that takes.
To be continued
Previous Weekend special
Posted by Chris at 1:00 AM