When ruling class turns into trigger happy political Mafia, no one is safe, even them

Monday January 27 2020

Picture this scene at a nightspot in Nairobi. A boss brandishes a gun at someone standing in the periphery of his circle of associates, and fires. The victim falls. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP


Picture this scene at a nightspot in Nairobi. A boss and his associates stand around a table. Music pumps against a background of colourful lights. It is the make-believe world of a club where, for a few hours, people forget the world outside and its problems. Then the boss brandishes a gun at someone standing in the periphery of his circle of associates. He fires. The victim falls.

The firing is executed almost disdainfully, with a flick of the wrist, without aiming, the gun held the unorthodox way, its flat side parallel to the ground, a style mythologised in Hollywood B-class gangster movies. The action and attitude are similar to those of someone swatting at a pesky fly with a flywhisk.

This scene is not from a gangster movie. It was captured by CCTV cameras at a high-end club in Nairobi. The alleged shooter is a youthful member of parliament. The victim survives because the bullet missed vital arteries in the neck. But he should thank his ancestors that he is alive.

Considering the extreme casualness with which the shooting was executed, the bullet could have lodged in his face or chest, or it could have severed the carotid arteries.

An MP is assumed to be an honourable member of society. His or her role is to make laws that will bring qualitative changes to society and be a model citizen. Whether in office or outside of it, their behaviour should be in strict accordance to the high calling of his office.

The youthful MP at the centre of the shooting saga should exemplify and embody the character of the generation whose responsibility to take this country to the next level.


He should be questioning the political culture that has condemned Kenya to forever wallow in murky Third World waters. He should be defining a new way of thinking and doing things.

With other youthful parliamentary colleagues, he should be at the vanguard of efforts to precipitate a national reinvention.

The MP should be spending sleepless nights thinking of how discussions around the Building Bridges Initiative report can be converted into an earnest and urgent national conversation on the constitution in a similar fashion to the Ufungamano Initiative that re-appropriated national agenda-setting from the Kanu autocratic regime.

The MP is not the first high official to be associated with violent criminal behaviour. In recent times, we have been inundated with reports of persons in high office engaging in violent criminality.

To date, there is a governor charged with murder of his girlfriend and unborn child. Another has been mentioned adversely with attempted assassination of a critic. There are MCAs linked to murder cases.

There are many reported cases of male politicians assaulting their women counterparts.

In one infamous case, TV cameras captured a former governor slapping a woman MP in public. One woman MP has even claimed that she was physically assaulted within the precincts of Parliament.

A few years ago, TV footage captured an MP, now a governor, assaulting a member of the public. The country is increasingly under siege from politicians harassing people, threatening perceived critics, assaulting women, wielding their state-licensed guns, and their state-hired bodyguards riding roughshod over wananchi going about their business.

Kenya, the political class seems to be reminding us, ina wenyewe (has owners). The incident at the club is a gruesome reminder that we refuse to acknowledge that reality and behave subserviently at our own peril.

One could argue that the culture of political thuggery is part of our long history of political violence.

No sooner had we got our independence, than assassination of critics began. Pio Gama Pinto, Tom Mboya, JM Kariuki, Robert Ouko and others fell to the assassins’ bullet. Others were tortured in specially-built torture chambers.

And, as the Akiwumi and the Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission reports show, the state fuelled ethnic clashes which left thousands dead or maimed. The state, formed in 1963 on the promise of justice and equity, had started to cannibalise its own citizens.

What is worrying, however, about the recent upsurge of political thuggery is that it is being perpetrated by individual politicians. This means any one going about their business is at risk of being confronted by a gun-wielding politician.

The political class might think that they are immune to this kind of thuggery. But once a Mafia culture takes hold, no one — not even the politicians — will be safe. If you doubt this, then visit the narco states of Guatemala and Honduras.

Tee Ngugi is a Nairobi-based political commentator