Two governors and at least 100 lawmakers are among those who led the pack in a mad rush to surrender their guns to the police as the government moves to arrest defiant ones after the amnesty period lapsed.
Taita Taveta Governor Granton Samboja and his Garissa counterpart Ali Korane returned their rifles as it emerged that police are planning a widespread crackdown on those who continue hold on to firearms without necessary clearance.
This seven-day notice issued by the Interior ministry on those who were yet to be vetted ended on July 5.
It has been a busy week at both Firearms Licensing Board and police stations across the country after Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i declared as "armed and dangerous" those who were yet to comply with the directive to undergo regularisation.
Kangema MP Muturi Kigano is among the MPs who have returned their guns. A number of legislators have publicly challenged Dr Matiang’i’s order but have applied afresh for gun permits after undergoing vetting and other requisite tests.
Last week, Majority whip in the National Assembly Ben Washiali criticised the move saying it would expose them to criminals.
“Such declarations by the Licensing Board are unfair to us. You recall that all our licences were invalidated and we are in the process of complying. What is the hurry for? We have a history of MPs being killed by thugs, how much risk will they be faced with when everyone knows that they are not armed? Having a gun is itself a deterrent measure,” the Mumias East MP said.
The MPs have also complained about the requirement to test their mental fitness at Mathari Hospital as a condition to be issued with the gun. The say this is not only belittling but also humiliating.
Parliamentarians in Kenya have a long-winded history with guns. There was a time some used to sneak their pistols to the chambers. It was later outlawed in the new standing orders.
Among the unlicensed gun holders and those with fake permits are MPs, senators, governors, woman representatives and MCAs.
The Interior ministry said there were many automatic rifles in the wrong hands, a potential source of insecurity with some of them being rented out to criminals.
“Everyone who has yet to comply is returning the firearms to the nearest police stations,” Gigiri police boss Richard Muguai said.
The two governors are said to have taken their guns there with Mr Samboja handing over another gun at Wundanyi police station.
“Contact Wundanyi and Gigiri police stations for further details. The boss is a law-abiding citizen and has complied with all conditions set by the ministry,” Mr Denis Onsarigo, the Director of Governor’s Communication unit in Taita Taveta told Sunday Nation.
Earlier, there had been reports that three prominent politicians had been arrested yesterday and released on a cash bail of Sh10,000 only for the Interior department to later clarify that they had instead surrendered their guns.
“There will be arrests for those who continue to defy the directive. We realised that some of the politicians did not know that they, just like their bodyguards, needed to undergo the fresh round of vetting. They have since been explained to and I can say the response is good,” Interior spokesperson Wangui Muchiri said Saturday.
Further, out of about 13,000 gun holders, some 4,000 have yet to comply with the stringent measures introduced by the government. Among other things, the new regime seeks to rein in rogue licensed holders who have previously been caught brandishing their guns in public places or using them to harass others.
Despite a requirement to conceal the firearms, a number of the licensed holders have in the past been displaying them and Dr Matiang’i now says that those who will violate the law will have their licences revoked and they will be blacklisted for good.
The licence fee for a firearm is Sh2,000. The process of getting the permit involves seven stages, including vetting. But those seeking shortcuts have been paying a facilitation fee of at least Sh200,000 to speed up the process.
Some of the licensed firearm holders who have been involved in gun-related incidents in recent years include musician CMB Prezzo, politician Steve Mbogo, former Nakuru Senator Paul Njoroge, businessman Paul Kobia, lawyer Assa Nyakundi, suspected gold fraudster Kevin Obia and businessman Jimmy Wanjigi.
Mr Wanjigi was charged on March 1, 2018 with being in possession of prohibited firearms, including one shotgun and a military-grade M4 assault rifle that police said were not allowed to be in civilian hands.
In an attempt to clean up the licensing and use of private firearms, the State declared that it will no longer issue any dealership licenses, claiming that the ones in operation are enough. Consequently, only 20 dealers will be allowed to sell guns.
Among the dealerships whose licenses have been cancelled are Force Kick Ltd, Professional Tools Ltd, Anshan Ltd, Deftech Logistics Ltd, Lexmark Ltd and Broad Walk Arms Ltd.
At the same time, the Inspector General of Police Hillary Mutyambai has also ordered the vetting of all National Police Reservists, an exercise that will also see their biometrics taken.
They are expected at the Directorate of Criminal Investigations for the verification and subsequent registration.
Their shooting skills will be tested and their weapons labelled for ease of tracing and accountability in case of misuse.
“The National Police Service would like to categorically state that the mandatory digitisation of all firearms in the hands of civilians is on course, and has now extended to the registration of firearms in the hands of all National Police reservists without exception.” Mr Mutyambai said.