Swaleh, Suleiman Manyange, Mike Mbanya and Bonny: Those are the street names of four of the five men captured on camera assaulting a Nairobi business official last week. The guns for hire, who ply their trade from City Hall, wallow in the muck of dirty errands and hit jobs, are always on the beck and call of city politicians, and seem to have police protection.
Nairobi police chiefs yesterday told the Nation they do not know their identities yet. And Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko, for the umpteenth time, said he does not know them and that they were not acting for him when they attacked former Nairobi Central Business Association chairman Timothy Muriuki.
Our investigations, however, reveal that the men are part of a gang of idle, hard-nosed and foul-mouthed youths who hang around City Hall seeking favours from politicians, the governor, members of the county assembly, and other influence peddlers.
Behaving like bloodthirsty hounds on a hunt, they profess no political allegiance and offer all manner of services, including hit jobs, to whoever can pay. And, with the regularity of clockwork, they always get away with it.
On Friday, the National Police Service offered a Sh2.5 million bounty for the capture of the five men. A few hours after the announcement, another video emerged on social media showing an injured man who claimed he was a victim of the gang. Mr Anthony Kungu, speaking from Nairobi West Hospital yesterday, said he was assaulted by the gang outside the entrance to the governor’s office on Saturday evening.
Interviews with political actors within and around City Hall paint a portrait of gangland fear-mongering. The men frequent the offices of the country’s richest county and the seat of its capital, but no one seems to know what they do there, who they report to, or even their names. Everyone we talked to refers to them by their aliases, indicating either an unwillingness to reveal their identities, or a morbid fear of reprisals.
“They are common faces at City Hall,” an MCA, who requested anonymity, told the Nation. “We see them every day but we have never bothered knowing their names. Or, if I were to put that differently, there has never been a need to know their names. However, I can assure you that these fellows are known to all the Nairobi politicians. Do not be cheated, they are well-known. They have deep roots within the political circles because they rent out their dirty services to the politicians for a fee. That is how they survive.”
On Sunday, Mr Sonko admitted that the men are well known around City Hall, but said they were not part of his “boys” and they were not acting on his orders when they attacked Mr Muriuki.
“I have no time to respond to petty issues,” said Mr Sonko. “This is a story created to show Nairobians that I have no capacity to be the governor. It is all stage-managed by a coalition of forces – cartels, political enemies, and haters. Anyone who has an issue against me has been mobilised to throw mud at me.”
Some City Hall insiders linked the men to former Kamkunji MP Simon Mbugua, recently nominated by Jubilee to the East African Legislative Assembly (Eala) in Arusha.
He, however, denied any involvement.
“As everybody has rightfully described them, they are goons,” he said of the five men. “Goons are goons, they can be hired by anybody. I used to hang around City Hall when I was jobless, but I left for Eala.”
Mr Sonko, Mr Mbugua added, is his friend. “There is no way I can send people to attack anyone supporting him.”
Yesterday, Mr Muriuki challenged Mr Sonko to have the suspects arrested and charged, declaring that no amount of intimidation would make him back off in his quest for justice.