In the streets of Narok, businessman Munir Ishmael goes on with his business as usual. At his petrol station located in the heart of the town, he interacts freely with customers, including having the usual arguments with boda-boda operators.
But people generally talk in low tones about the man known to love driving ex-military vehicles, especially after a high-profile police raid on his home 10 years ago.
Recently, Mr Ishmael was back in the news after an Albanian tourist was arrested and charged with allegedly assaulting the businessman. However, during the arrest, Narok senator Ledama ole Kina accused the police of taking sides.
“The police seem to fear Munir Ishmael. Why haven’t they arrested him yet he also injured the tourist?” the Senator said.
But it is the recovery of an arms cache in December 2009 and February 2010 that thrust the little-known Narok man into the national limelight. In 2009, in an operation akin to a Hollywood movie, dozens of elite police raided his business premises.
Then Special Crimes Prevention Unit boss Richard Katola, who later died in June 2015, and dreaded crime buster John Njoroge — now head of investigations at the Flying Squad — led the raid that lasted days.
Detectives said they recovered an arms cache that was enough to run a military barracks, an arsenal that security officials say is the largest to have ever been discovered from a civilian in Kenya’s history.
The recovery included more than 100,000 bullets, several guns, mini flares, thunderflashes, gun protection oil, combat gear, military machetes, military backpacks, shooting range earplugs, military sleeping bags, foldable camping beds, solar batteries, heavy-duty vehicle batteries, 70 water containers, tyres, solar camp showers, Land Rover spare parts, target practising points, military boots, knives, lubricants, and Nato-approved military food rations.
In a press conference, Police Commissioner Matthew Iteere said some of the arms came from the Czech Republic while others were from the Eldoret bullet factory.
Some of the bullets were indicated as manufactured by the Kenya Ordnance Factories Corporation in Eldoret with others linked to the British Army.
Despite the matter being labelled as a national security issue, the case has never been finalised 10 years on, with yet another court appearance scheduled for Monday.
On December 10, 2009, Mr Ishmael, who was the main suspect, was taken to court and charged alongside his wife Nahid Tabasum, former AP chief armourer Joseph Maritim and civilians John Wandeto and Dominic Mufumu.
They were accused being in possession of “government stores” contrary to Section 324(3) of the Penal Code and ammunitions contrary to Section 4(2) of the Firearms Act Cap 114 of Laws of Kenya. As the case continues, many questions remain unanswered.
Who owned the ammunition? Did the arms cache belong to the Kenyan government, British military, a gang, private military or was it for illegal business? Why have investigators to date not made further discoveries on what the ammunitions were for? Was the military involved?
These questions are not answered in the hundreds of pages of documents including court filings that the Sunday Nation scrutinised, further adding to the mystery of a case that has dragged on.
In the courts, the case has been frustrated through the disappearance of files, numerous applications and magistrates failing to come to court.
When the matter comes for hearing tomorrow, Nairobi Chief Magistrate Francis Andayi will become the fifth to handle the matter. It will be the umpteenth time to have the case progress after many false starts.
By July 2013, the case had gone through five magistrates before it was referred to the High Court in July 2013 for judicial review.
By that time, the magistrates who had started the case, Esther Maina, Kiarie Waweru and Grace Macharia, had been promoted to High Court judges. Another judge, Gilbert Mutembei, had been promoted to be the High Court registrar before he got into trouble over his past rulings in various cases.
As the case drags on, one of the key witnesses, Mr Katola, has died while Mr Njoroge, the man who they led the raid together, was stood down as a witness.
In 2011, Mr Katola was rushed to hospital by his family who claimed that he had been poisoned. He suffered a stroke and remained in hospital until his death in 2015. Court documents indicate that there are 43 witnesses in the case.
Some of the witnesses include the Narok OCPD Charles Okweya, head of Railways Directorate of Criminal Investigations Francis Njiru and military officers Major Samwel Mayenga, Major David Sawe and Lt Colonel James Kabiru. DT Gregson and G. Hicks are listed as the witnesses from the British army.