It was a matter of when, not if, the criminal, politically motivated raid on former Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta family’s property would happen — and security organs were aware of the plot but did nothing.
And when the invasion did happen on Monday amid anti-government protests led by opposition leader Raila Odinga, the target was the expansive Northlands farm on the Eastern Bypass in Kiambu County. It was looted and torched by a gang that Nation has established was mobilised by some politicians.
Another attack was also staged at gas cylinder maker East Africa Spectre Limited, a company that is linked to the family of Kenya's opposition leader Raila Odinga, by a gang that was ferried from Dandora and Kayole estates.
Plans to raid the Kenyatta property were mooted last Friday and firmed up by Sunday evening, the Nation established.
Two MPs, a former governor and a popular musician from Kiambu, the home county of Mr Kenyatta, are among those who reportedly played lead roles in mobilising the gang last Friday when the plot to counter Monday’s demonstrations was hatched. The youths were recruited from Kiambu and the Kenyan capital Nairobi.
Nation understands they were ferried from the areas of Ruiru, Githurai 45 and Gatundu South in Kiambu as well as Ruai, Kayole and Mathare in Nairobi. Sources said they were each paid Ksh3,000 ($22.70), and handed machetes and a power saw that was used to mow down trees at the vast farm.
“They are youths known to belong to a criminal formation going by several names but coalescing around doctrines of the proscribed Mungiki sect. They are always on standby to be recruited in real estate conflicts where several developers have an interest in one plot. Those are the characters our good friends in politics hired for the raid,” said a senior intelligence officer in Kiambu County.
No action on intelligence
He said the intelligence was shared within relevant security circles. But no action or directive was issued until Monday when the invasion began.
“I was told on Sunday evening that I should be alert because there was a job planned for us and we would be paid well,” one of the gang members told Nation.
Some of the gang members assembled early along the Githurai-Mwihoko road, which connects to the Eastern Bypass, in public service vehicles (PSVs) and were paid Sh3,000 and given machetes as they alighted.
They then headed to the vast land, which is known as Northlands City, where the Kenyatta family, is planning to build a Kh500 billion ($3.8 billion) metropolis.
“As each person alighted from the PSVs, they were on the ground and handed us Sh3,000 each. They said they had enough cash for everyone and asked us not to fight for the money,” said another gang member. Boda boda operators based in the area said that they witnessed the gang members take the money.
“The buses arrived, dropped them and left. As they were alighting, some people were giving them money as we watched. When I saw the situation was getting out of hand, I left,” said one of the motorcycle taximen.
Two policemen kept watch but never interfered with the attack.
The goons breached the fence and slaughtered sheep and goats, while others stole the animals — which they then sold for as little as Ksh2,000 ($15) — and cut down trees with the power saw in an orgy of looting that lasted over 10 hours.
Some erected temporary structures to signify ownership as they chanted in Kiswahili that they were “children of Mau Mau who were also entitled to land”.
Local security officials claimed they were instructed not to respond. Sub-county police bosses were instructed to keep reinforcements on standby to tackle rioters in Nairobi.
“We could not act on Monday until today (Tuesday) because our boss firmly told us to put our officers on standby for deployment in Nairobi and that we should not send our team to any other area,” a senior detective in one of the Kiambu sub-counties told Nation.
“You saw what happened yesterday and I can tell you if we dared to go against the directive from our seniors we would be jobless or transferred today,” another detective told Nation.
The senior police officer accused of relaying the instructions did not respond to our inquiries for comment.
Another security officer added: “The management of Northlands tried to call us but we could not act. The government has held us hostage and unfortunately, we couldn’t act. It is unfortunate we are being misused.”
Nation corroborated this account by interviewing private guards at the vast farm on Tuesady.
They said they first reported the attack at the nearby Gatong’ora Police Station but they were turned away. The police station is located just five kilometres away from the farm. Another police station, Mwihoko, is a similar distance from the scene of crime.
“The police officers said that the matter was serious and beyond them,” said one of the guards.
He added that, after the police refused to record their statements, the workers just stood on the other side of the property and watched helplessly as the orgy of destruction went on. Another guard told Nation that the gang walked deep inside the land where they destroyed property, including houses and a pen where the sheep are reared.
“They went to where the sheep are reared and demolished everything. They also destroyed houses where we sleep,” said the guard, adding that a tractor was also vandalised.
Our source indicated that the raiders had been advised to ensure that journalists did not cover the farm invasion “so that the effectiveness can be major and the damage maximum”.
Photojournalists were targeted for attack by the mob and forced to delete pictures.
“Hawa ndio wametumwa kutupiga picha (These are the people who have been sent to take our photos). We don’t want anyone taking our photos. You are the people against our government. Media haipendi serikali yetu (media don’t like our government),” one of the youths shouted as a mob attacked a Nation journalist on Monday.
In the evening, the gang left the area, some heading towards the Ruai direction. However, they had left behind a huge fire which spread very fast. The private guards helped put it out. Another security source told Nation the trees that were cut from the farm have been traced to a timber yard owned by a former leader in Nairobi's Embakasi estate.
“But no police officer has been sanctioned to recover them and the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) is yet to release well-captured photos of the raiders and classify them as wanted,” added the source.
On Tuesday, Inspector-General of Police Japhet Koome, when asked why officers did not intervene to stop the looting at the Kenyatta family farm in Kiambu, replied that there was no prior intelligence of chaos in Kiambu and security was only beefed up in Nairobi where authorities were anticipating demonstrations.
“Please note, according to the intelligence we had, the anticipated area for the demonstration was Nairobi County and not Kiambu County where we have not had such incidents in the recent past. Therefore, we deployed adequately within Nairobi where officers did a good job. We received the complaint regarding the parcel of land you mentioned above much later and the matter is under active investigation. Anybody found culpable will face the law. We are committed to protecting life and property,” Mr Koome told Nation.
On Tuesday, Ruiru Sub-County Police Commander Alexander Shikondi also denied reports of prior intelligence of the raid on the Kenyatta family farm, saying, “we are treating the issue as [one] of great interest”.
Mr Shikondi said the government remains committed to safeguarding life and property “and I urge all to cease baseless speculations and let the multi-agency team probing the incident do its part”.
Asked whether National Assembly Majority Leader Kimani Ichung’wah’s utterances could have triggered the raid, Mr Shikondi replied: “Sincerely I have never heard him incite anyone since I don’t attend political rallies that are outside my jurisdiction unless it is during special operations”.
On March 18 this year, Mr Ichung'wah alluded to the invasion of the Kenyatta property.
“Even those big lands, we will invade and those without land will be settled. Don’t think only ordinary Kenyans will lose their property. Even you will pay a price if you continue to instigate violence and bloodshed in this country.”
“That is my message to Mr Uhuru Kenyatta, the sponsor of Azimio [la Umoja One Kenya Coalition Party] and the mercenary that is Raila Odinga,” Mr Ichung’wah said when he accompanied Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua on a visit to his (the DP’s) former school.
Speaking in Parliament on Tuesday, Mr Ichung'wah said, “If anyone suspects that I had a role to play in the Northlands invasion, then I am open to investigation. The police can access my phone to establish whom I spoke to if I did any mobilisation or which place I visited on or before Monday 27, 2023.”
He added that, just like any other Kenyan, he was shocked when he learnt about the invasion through social media.
On Tuesday, Mr Shikondi said that the multi-agency team visited Mr Kenyatta’s land and surveyed the damage and asked questions.
“We are now brainstorming on what exactly happened and the cause of action will be defined as we progress with investigations. My call is for all to keep the peace and afford the country to move on as per the dictates of the constitution,” he added.
Iron sheet shanties
The iron sheet shanties were brought down Tuesday by the farm’s private security guards as police who were deployed to the Kenyatta farm kept watch.
The Nation established on Tuesday that the officers were deployed from Gatundu South Sub-County but arrived in a Toyota Land Cruiser belonging to Ruiru Police Station in Kiambu County.
From 4pm, the place became a bee-hive of activities as the leaders of the Azimio coalition, Mr Odinga and Narc-Kenya party boss Martha Karua made their way into the land where they condemned the attack.
Tuesday, the Independent Policing Oversight Authority (Ipoa) also said it had launched investigations into the alleged failure of the police to protect properties owned by former president Kenyatta and Mr Odinga.
In a statement, Ipoa boss Anne Makori said there was a possibility that police failed to execute their duties as stipulated by law.
“[IPOA], in the execution of its mandate under Section 6 (c) of its Act, today monitored how the police engaged in public order management in the protests called for by [Azimio] across the country,” Ms Makori said.