Security agencies have embarked on a new phase to intensify the crackdown on those who played a role in the January 30 mock “swearing-in” of Raila Odinga as the “People’s President”, multiple confidential sources familiar with the high-level strategy have told the Nation.
Revelations of the plan that includes using special elite teams could involve getting search warrants to not only raid the homes of the opposition leaders but also cynically using as much force as possible to cause maximum damage.
A team of at least 20 police officers drawn from the Flying Squad and the Special Crimes Unit is behind the crackdown on Nasa leaders. Elements of the Anti-Terrorism Police Unit are also said to be involved.
The elite Flying Squad unit is currently being reconstituted but Mr Said Kiprotich is leading the operations. Politician Miguna Miguna named Mr Kiprotich and a Chief Inspector Njoroge as among those who were behind his arrest. The officers, who come in at least six Subaru vehicles, have the leeway to take those arrested to far-flung police stations. Mr Miguna, for example, was taken to Githunguri and Lari police stations in Kiambu County, among others, despite being arrested in Nairobi.
“We have mapped out the Nairobi homes of the key people we are targeting for arrest. We have also been studying their house plans to guide us when there is a raid. The idea is that these people should not live in comfort while causing trouble,” said the security official, who spoke in confidence.
Part of causing the “personal discomfort” or “punishment” was seen last week when plainclothes police officers stopped the Leader of Minority in the National Assembly John Mbadi and the Minority Whip Junet Mohammed in the middle of the road and impounded their vehicles. Opposition leaders are also challenging in court the withdrawal of their bodyguards and firearms licences.
The strategy also played out over one week ago during a dawn raid on the self-proclaimed “general” of the National Resistance Movement Miguna after pictures emerged of damage to his house in Runda. Mr Miguna, who was later controversially deported, claimed his house had been “bombed”, something police Spokesman Charles Owino denied.
According to a member of Mr Miguna’s legal team Edwin Sifuna, the officers who stormed the activist’s Runda residence and arrested him on Friday, February 2, were armed with a search warrant issued by a Nairobi magistrate.
“In the morning when they came to arrest him, they had a search warrant from a magistrate’s court in Nairobi but the magistrate’s name was missing so we suspect it was a forgery.”
Similar damage was inflicted on the house of Nasa financier Jimi Wanjigi when police raided his Muthaiga house. During the raid, plainclothes officers were captured by television crews smashing into Mr Wanjigi’s house with axes and machetes, destroying valuable property in the process.
After failing to get Mr Wanjigi or to recover the alleged weapons, the officers left. But they had made a point, said our source. “The penalty for sabotaging the State will come down swiftly and heavily. Make no mistake about that,” he said.
The listing of NRM – a wing within the National Super Alliance – as a banned organisation and using the charge of treason and organised crime has apparently provided the police with the latitude to crack down on those involved in the “oath”. The ban has since been temporarily lifted by the High Court and it will be interesting to see if the police will back down.
On Friday, Inspector-General of Police Joseph Boinnet said the crackdown on “rogue leaders” will continue.
“We are serving people in a constitutional manner. Break the law and face the consequences,” Mr Boinnet said at Kiganjo Police Training College in Nyeri.
On Saturday, ODM secretary for Political Affairs Opiyo Wandayi criticised the language used by the Inspector-General to refer to opposition leaders.
The experiences of those arrested by the elite police paint a picture of similar tactics.
After Mr Miguna was arrested on Friday February 2, he found himself dealing with police officers who, in his own words, “looked rough”. “Some of them were bearded, while others had dreadlocks.”
“I was abducted from my house by people who did not even identify themselves as police. They detonated a grenade at my house,” the lawyer said.
“My purported ‘deportation’ to Canada followed a violent invasion of my home by more than 34 hooded criminals who used detonators to gain access to my residence at about 5.30 am,” he said, adding that they did not identify themselves or the reasons for such violent entry.
The same squad is said to have arrested Ruaraka MP Tom Kajwang at the Milimani courts only days earlier and driving him to the Nairobi Area police station in six vehicles. He was later charged with treason and released on a Sh50,000 bond. Normally, an ad hoc team of experienced police officers is assembled any time there is a “special operation” that needs to be carried out with precision.
The operation, on many occasions, entails arresting a VIP, a high-profile suspect or taking on a dangerous, armed criminal gang. The team draws its officers from two main conventional police units: The Flying Squad and the Special Crime Prevention Unit, which are under the command of the Directorate of Criminal Investigations.
On a need basis, undercover officers from the DCI at regional and national headquarters are incorporated. Upon completion of a task, the officers retreat to their units. The length of the mission varies; it can be hour-long assignments or can be extended for months, even years.
For instance, the Kwekwe squad was formed in 2007 to fight the Mungiki menace and was disbanded in less than a year after the outlawed sect, which was notorious for macabre killings and imposing illegal taxes, was suppressed.
And at the height of daring bank robberies and carjackings the previous year, an ad hoc team christened November squad was created. It operated mainly in Nairobi and its environs and was disbanded after the crime levels went down.
Mr Miguna was right, because while police officers in regular duty are required to maintain a clean shave and wear uniform, it is a stark contrast with those in special units who are often seen in baggy trousers, trendy T-shirts and some are allowed to grow dreadlocks and long beards.
It is their way of camouflaging especially when they go under cover to gather intelligence.
And the team usually consists of a handful officers, ranging between 12 and 30 depending on the nature of their assignment.
The cars deployed to the units are painted with the usual blue police colours but look like civilian vehicles. The cars are not fitted with GK number plates and sometimes they bear foreign registration number plates.
COVERED NUMBER PLATES
When the unit raided the home of Mr Wanjigi, the vehicles used had their number plates covered with sheets of paper.
The fleet used by special units also consists of new and fast cars, which are the latest models. Models in the unit are changed from time to time and their current favourite is the Subaru Forester and Subaru Outback, which were used in the arrest of Mr Miguna and Mr Kajwang.
Compared with other units, they are a cut above, especially in authority. Apart from their direct commanders, they do not take orders from their seniors in the regular formations.
These officers are usually ruthless because they operate on stern instructions; take as little time as possible to execute a mission. They have also been involved in controversial missions.
When the Artur brothers – Margaryan and Sargsyan – raided the Standard media group, they were backed by a team of the special officers.