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MUNGIKI OUT TO LAST

Why the war against Mungiki will be a difficult one to win

Story by DONALD B KIPKORIR
Publication Date: 4/19/2008

For several days this past week, the Mungiki made the security apparatus look powerless. In one cleverly executed plan, the illegal sect wreaked havoc in parts of the country, including Nairobi, Eldoret, Murang’a and Othaya. 

Internal Security minister George Saitoti and Maj-Gen Hussein Ali, the police commissioner, were left holding the wash-basin without the baby and the water. 

It fell upon police spokesman Eric Kiraithe to issue press releases that his force was in control and that the Mungiki would soon wonder what hit them. 

Of course, like government spokesman Alfred Mutua, Mr Kiraithe’s words carry the weight of the paper they are written on.

The Mungiki has been with us for nearly a decade now and in different guises and shapes. I state without fear of being contradicted by history that if the war against the gang remains as it is now, it will last as long as it has followers. 

The Mungiki menace will end at a time of its choice and not because the State wants. I am supported in this belief by the conspiracy of time, the security apparatus’ incompetence as well as the gang’s tactics and luck.

The Mungiki, being a non-State actor, uses terrorist organisations’ classic methods — asymmetric warfare in which the non-State group does not engage directly the State’s instruments and personnel of war, but strikes and disappears. 

So many times, we have seen the Mungiki demonstrate in downtown Nairobi or engage in violent acts in Naivasha and Gatundu. But when police arrived, they simply vanished. 

Asymmetric war practitioners know that the State military force and training are superior, and thus adopt methods to counter it. 

The biggest asset of non-State actors is that they work among their kin and wear no uniform. 

The Mungiki is a Kikuyu outfit and usually works and operates among the Kikuyu. Once in a while, they may venture outside their people, but they always retreat to them for help and shelter. How can one confront such a nimble enemy?

The armed forces are established pursuant to The Armed Forces Act, Cap. 199, by which the army, the air force and the navy are obligated to defend the borders from external enemies. 

Their other duty is to maintain order, although only as is assigned them by the Defence minister in concert with the Defence Council. The basic training of our armed forces is underpinned in conventional warfare. 

They are trained to fight an enemy they can see, and the key strategy of this training is to defeat the enemy by dominance on land, sea and air. 

Classical war writers such as Carl Von Clausewitz, who lived in the 18th Century Germany, and Sun Tzu of 5th Century BC China are a must study. They emphasised military superiority over the enemy by whatever means. 

The US, for over a century, has been the world’s pre-eminent military power, yet it could not defeat third-rate Vietnamese guerrillas. 

Kenya’s armed forces, by their training, are unlikely to defeat the Mungiki and the Sabaot Land Defence Force (SLDF). 

Before they went to Mount Elgon district to fight the SLDF, army officers trained for over a month in the Mt Kenya area. Their bosses were convinced that fighting the militia was going to be cake-work and last only three days. 

It is now over a month and the army is nowhere near wiping out an illiterate, non-trained and non-equipped bandit unit of not more than 800 men. 

The Mungiki has shown that it is more organised and has more following than the SLDF. This is a group that has a clearly defined structure and source of income, albeit through extortion — benefits the Sabaot group does not have. 

If the army, despite superior numbers and weaponry, is shooting in the dark against the SLDF, who are confined to one small district, how can they begin a war against the non-territorial Mungiki? 

Police are Kenya’s first line of offensive confrontation against the Mungiki, but are they up to the task? The force was created by The Police Act, Cap. 84, by which it has the duty of maintaining law and order and protecting life and property. 

Above all, police are obligated to prevent and detect crime as well as arrest offenders before or after crime commission. The Kenya police force has more than 40,000 fairly well trained and equipped men and women.

Police the world over owe their roots and inspiration to the London Metropolitan Police, which was established in 1829. But due to Kenya’s imperial presidency since independence, coupled with near-dictatorship, our police force has lost its way and thinks it is meant to be the ruling elite’s watchman. 

Our police are at their best breaking up opposition rallies and harassing people deemed to be anti-establishment. Many politicians now serving in the grand coalition government bear scars of police brutality. 

A nimble force like the Mungiki is not in the police training manuals. Often we see the group rallying their forces across the country and leaving the police sleeping. The Mungiki’s edge over police will continue. We will get used to police claims that they are on top of the situation, but we know the truth.

The other statutory body mandated to take care of our security is the National Security Intelligence Service (NSIS), which was established by the National Security Intelligence Service Act, 1998. 

Previously the Special Branch, the NSIS’ key functions are to detect and identify potential threats to national security, advise the President on such threats and then take steps to avoid or neutralise them. 

Each year, the agency is allocated about Sh6 billion to use as it deems fit to meet its objectives.

Kenyans need to demand that the NSIS account for the funds and why it has not succeeded in carrying out its statutory mandate. If, as is alleged, the post-election violence was planned, if the SLDF has been terrorising the Mt Elgon people for many years and if the Mungiki has been successful in its activities without detection, what has the NSIS been doing? 

The NSIS has always thought that its mandate is to eavesdrop on the establishment’s political enemies and to seek to know which politician speaks or sleeps with whom. 

Amid these misplaced goals, the Mungiki and similar outfits have thrived. Is it any wonder therefore that all the past NSIS chiefs became fabulously wealthy? Show me one since independence who is not wealthy. How can the service fulfill its mandate if its top officers think that they are employed to get rich? Isn’t it time its mandate was redefined? And incidentally, do we need it at all? 

As sure as the sun will rise tomorrow, the military, police and the NSIS will never beat the Mungiki. This is because they lack the strategy to counter it. The police threat to annihilate the sect is a big joke. 

The Mungiki is not a standing army or uniformed. How does one destroy such a force? Where does one find them? As long as the security agencies have the old twin mindset of fighting a conventional war and protecting the political top brass, we can as well get used to the Mungiki’s taunting.

The gang’s greatest strength lies in its incestuous relationship with big people in the public service, politics and the private sector. Whenever it gets pinned down, the Mungiki threatens to expose these relationships to exact a gate-away. 

Once one goes to bed with an illegal person, one loses one’s soul, and the Mungiki knows it. How then do we expect it to be defeated if many people holding senior positions across the board owe it a good turn?

In criminal law, being a Mungiki follower attracts a host of charges under the Penal Code, Cap. 63. They include murder, arson, destruction of property and engaging in seditious activities. And people who harbour, aid, counsel or fund the group in its activities are considered principal offenders and face the same charges. It is therefore in the interest of people who have helped the Mungiki in one way or another never to have any members arrested and taken to court. 

This is why top Mungiki leaders will never be arrested. And if arrested, they will always face charges that carry light sentences and not the real offences they are suspected of having committed.

To defeat the Mungiki needs strategy review. When it realised that the Iraq war was going nowhere, the US tapped Gen David Petraeus to take charge. He is a Princeton scholar and his PhD thesis turned the conventional war strategies upside down. Gen Petraeus advocates non-military strategies in addition to a military force. 

The war against the Mungiki demands such a leader — one who thinks outside the box. But as long as we think military force will always triumph over the sect, we can as well accept its cynical offer to provide security.

 
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About SG

Secretary general of Chama Cha Mwananchi. This blog www.chamachamwananchi.wordpress.com, is based in Sweden.

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