|Between police and the outlawed Mungiki sect only one winner can emerge in the battle for supremacy. And that battle will be determined more by brains than by firepower.
This past week, the Mungiki has demonstrated its ability to outwit police, out-plan them and outclass them in the use of violence to create fear.
Last year, numerous bodies turned up after what were believed to be extra-judicial executions in what police sold to the public as the war on the Mungiki.
Clearly, that war never ended. Looking at the events of this week – where Mungiki members created fear and mayhem in several major towns – it is clear the police declaration of victory was premature in the extreme.
Yet, the battle with the Mungiki need not be frontal, confrontational or even violent. I have argued previously that the police must demonstrate that they are better human beings than the Mungiki.
If they are just as brutal as the Mungiki, and just as eager to employ third-degree tactics to eliminate the gang, they might as well join the sect instead of pretending to keep law and order. Prime Minister Raila Odinga has suggested negotiations. There are numerous other ways.
This far, police response to the Mungiki has concentrated on dehumanising the sect and portraying its members as savage and heartless in an attempt to justify the brutality with which officers have dealt with those they suspect of belonging to the group.
An object lesson in dealing with underground movements, mob bosses and secretive criminals exists in the story of Alphonse Gabriel Capone. Al Capone, as he was known to all and sundry in Chicago where he was a mob boss, was guilty of racketeering, murder, smuggling and numerous other illegal activities.
The Federal Bureau of Investigations did not get him on any of those charges.
Ultimately, what got Al Capone was tax evasion.
Although he did his businesses through front men and kept no accounting records in his own name, the gap was what convinced the FBI to start investigating his tax issues. It was their best chance, and the authorities followed it.
The result was Al Capone’s arraignment and conviction on 22 counts of tax evasion and failure to file tax returns spanning a five-year period. He received 11 years in jail but served six and a half because of good behaviour. He died shortly after his release.
Chasing Mungiki around with guns and batons is useless. In the end, the only thing you might be able to charge them with is belonging to an outlawed sect. The proof? Failure to wear underwear. The sentence on conviction? Eighteen months. It is not worth it.
In our case, police claim that Mungiki leader Maina Njenga’s wife withdrew Sh5 million from her bank account.
The last time I attempted to transfer – not withdraw – a million shillings, the bank made me jump through a hundred hoops to make sure it was me, ran background checks and took all sorts of precautions. And someone known to be linked to a convicted felon can go to the bank, withdraw Sh5 million and get killed without police knowing about it?
The day the police demonstrate a desire to investigate the Mungiki by looking at their sources of money and following the trail, the closer they will be to dealing with it.
You cannot argue with the logic of a gun and a bullet, but it never outwits what fits in the cranium.