Their style may be aggressive, abrasive and most times violent – in fact some have been linked to hundreds of deaths of criminals – but they have gone beyond their call of duty in fighting Nairobi’s petty as well as hardcore criminals including carjackers, muggers, drug dealers, traffic offenders and even rogue police officers.
Although their actions have sometimes bordered on insubordination – they are often said to defy their seniors – or abuse of human rights, they have been known to be diligent, passionate and loyal to the law to a fault.
In their careers as law enforcement agents – in a city where crime soars daily – they have earned themselves the licence to kill Nairobi’s most dangerous criminals through their vigilance, sixth sense and ruthlessness. And the evidence of their crime-busting successes is there for all – criminals included – to see.
It is easy to even conclude that they were cut from the same cloth as the legendary Nairobi policeman Patrick Shaw, judging from their actions widely reported in the media and spoken about in the streets and estates.
Perhaps the only difference between them and Shaw is their colour, rank and size. Patrick David Shaw was a white police reservist and huge – he was 6ft tall and 136kg.
The Nairobian sought out the best of city’s police – some hundreds of kilometers away from town – whose zealousness to eliminate crime in the streets and estates as well as lawlessness on roads has astounded many. Ekeno (Simon Nakomolo Ekeno)
Ekeno is perhaps the only Kenyan policeman whose ripples have been felt abroad.
Now retired and employed as a watchman, Ekeno was head of operations at the GSU headquarters in Nairobi. He was famed for making a decision in a split of the second, without necessarily having to consult his superiors.
Ekeno’s ears were always glued to his walkie-talkie – listening to accounts of crime across the nation. He not only dealt ruthlessly with Nairobi criminals but went beyond his call of duty to police Kenya’s every territory. Most officers we spoke to said he gave orders from Nairobi that no officer, despite the rank, dared to defy.
Ekeno even captured the attention of former President Moi after the Senior Assistant Commissioner of (SACP) made a decision that almost landed Kenya in trouble in the 1990s, but on the same breath, saved the lives of many GSU officers battling with an Ethiopia militia.
Because of his bravery and ability to make instant decisions, Kenya almost went to war with Ethiopia after he issued orders for 12 GSU men under siege to fire rocket-propelled grenades across the border.
Although they fired bombs instead, the GSU officers were lucky to survive.
“He ordered us to fire smoke grenades towards the direction of the enemy so as to facilitate escape, but I think out of panic, some of us launched bombs that landed in Ethiopia,” recounted a former officer who was a member of the troop that was under attack.
The incident left Addis Ababa reeling in anger, issuing retaliatory threats, but Moi moved fast and apologised. The officers were later to be commended for a job well done.
To many officers, Ekeno was the fulcrum of GSU operations. Despite his low level of education, he was regarded as a commando with charisma and wisdom.
“Whenever he was talking on the radio, many officers, including his seniors, keenly listened to him. He had solutions even in difficult situations that required wide consultations,” said a former colleague.
But despite his bravery and gifted instincts, Ekeno, left the force a poor man. We were unable to locate him as he was said to be sick, neither does he have a mobile phone.
Kamunde (Timothy Kamunde)
“Timothy, Chief Inspector, Kamunde” is how he always introduced himself.
Sometimes, Nairobians discuss Kamunde with vivid accounts as if they took place just the other day. Yet the Chief Inspector died on January 26, 2002. He was in charge of ruthless police hit squads that left a trail of blood and tears in various parts of the country. He was the force behind the dreaded Makuyu-based Flying Squad and the Alfa Romeo hit squad based at CID headquarters in Nairobi.
To the diminutive and unconventional sleuth, who was reputed to have the ear and confidence of former President Moi, his name was more important than rank. To many, he was a brash operative who gave little thought to the police chain of command.
He was known to order around top cops, many ranks his senior, during his periodic terror swoops.
The good thing with Kamunde though was that he would first offer a suspect an opportunity to co-operate, which would mean squealing on accomplices, source of guns and where the underworld armouries were, before unleashing his eager boys on a ‘hostile witness’.
At first, when The Nairobian sought out Ogero, he wondered why his long time journalist friend (the writer) was looking for him. On phone, he was initially hesitant to disclose his current station, only insisting: “I am just around.” A few minutes later, perhaps after confirming the call was harmless, he exploded into a lengthy laughter.
He was in Mombasa but declined to give further details promising to talk when he visits Nairobi, a place where he made the lives of criminals, especially in sprawling Dandora, difficult.
The officer had a unique way of dealing with criminals. He would either approach them or their parents, pleading with them to quit delinquency and deviance habits. Ogero would even offer bus fare to criminals asking them to go back to their rural villages.
Those who defied would soon be dispatched with a bullet. On many occasions, Ogero would disguise himself in Maasai shukas and kanzus matched with turbans.
On one occasion, some criminals attempted to kill him by laying a trap. The criminals raised a false alarm and laid in wait for Ogero to arrive at the scene. They sprayed bullets on an approaching saloon car they thought the Chief Inspector was driving. But the criminals hit the wrong target. It was a male resident driving back home at night.