PHOTO/STEPHEN MUDIARI Some of the fifty suspects who were arraigned in court at the Garissa Law courts on April 25th, 2013. NATION MEDIA GROUP
By ANGIRA ZADOCK and FRED MUKINDA
Monday, April 29, 2013
Garissa County police chief Ali Losku has been replaced as the operation to contain rising insecurity in the region continues.
At least 10 police officers, chiefs and customs officials have been interdicted since the last attack in which 10 people were shot dead in a restaurant.
Among those interdicted are local CID boss John Mateche and six chiefs.
Officer Commanding Police Division (OCPD) Ali Losku now joins the list of police officers who have been transferred. His place was taken by Mr Benjamin Ong’ombe from GSU Headquarters. Mr Losku was sent to police headquarters.
Mr David Kimaiyo, the Inspector General of Police, has also warned that stern action will be taken against police and other state officers found to be involved in crime as intelligence reports indicated that the import of contraband goods, such as sugar from Somalia and Ethiopia, was fuelling business rivalries.
Chiefs and their assistants working in the border locations of Liboi, Kulan, Dertu and Hagadera are allegedly aiding the movement of the contraband goods. Two other chiefs and scores of security officers are also being investigated over the illegal trade.
Mr Kimaiyo has asked Garissa residents to support the operation by volunteering information to the police.
“The people who are known or suspected of any wrong doing no matter how minor should be exposed. It will be upon the court of law to determine their level of culpability or guilt and take the appropriate action,” he said.
Since the operation began, 572 people had been arrested on various grounds. Out of this, 111 have been arraigned in courts.
Police reports indicate that illegal trade was fuelling the deadly attacks.
According to a security briefing, the most recent attacks, including the one at Kwa Chege restaurant, were masterminded by local businessmen with the aim of pushing their competitors out of business.
The network of the illegal trade is controlled by influential businessmen in Kenya and Somalia with government officials including the police, chiefs, immigration and custom officers facilitating it.
The big bulk of commodities smuggled into Kenya include sugar, powder milk and rice as well as electronic goods.
While the traders are involved in the actual business of smuggling, the government officials receive bribes and thus turn a blind eye on the operations, ensuring the criminals are not brought to book.
Operate with impunity
In corrupting custom officials, goods brought into Kenya from Somalia are never inspected and no duty is paid for them.
Police and chiefs involved in the trade have been accused of failing to report the activities, allowing criminals to operate with impunity.
With some parts of Somalia still under Al-Shabaab control, the militants are involved in transporting the contraband and levy charges. They then use their earnings to sustain their fighters and buy weapons, including guns and explosives, some of which are used in attacks in Kenya.
After several chiefs were interdicted for complicity in the illegal trade, Internal Security Permanent Secretary Mutea Iringo said: “The officials have been doing this for a long time and its no wonder the previous interventions to stop the attacks were not successful.”
Mr Kimaiyo said all officers involved would be dismissed once investigations are completed.
“I’ve sent senior investigators and they are already in Garissa. Once they are through they will make recommendations on who should go home but of course with evidence,” he said.
A senior security official who spoke to the Nation on condition of anonymity revealed that the operations ran so deep such that almost the entire government machinery in the area was compromised. According to him, Garissa would be left without an administration in place if radical action was to be taken.
“Almost the entire government team is rotten but it would not be wise to dismiss all of them at the same time because it would leave a void in the area.”
It was agreed that the action be stretched over a period of time keeping in mind that all those involved must be held accountable,” according to the official.
The rot was unearthed by a high level fact finding mission in Garissa following at attack at Kwa Chege food parlour in which 10 patrons were shot dead on April 18.
The mission was led by Internal Security permanent secretary Mutea Iringo.
In a signed statement, he gave an 11-point action plan directed at the police chiefs in the area which included carrying out a massive security operation.
The Nation visited the area in the course of the operation and found out that the frequent attacks had taken different facets since they started in late 2011.
Initially, the attacks were terrorism-related in reaction to Kenya Defence Forces war in Somalia against the Al-shabaab.
The business rivalry pits businessmen from local communities that live in North Eastern against those from other parts of Kenya.
The smuggling cartels thrive because their commodities are affordable to consumers because they are sold at a relatively low price.
The commodities are usually sourced from Somalia port of Kismayu that until last year was under the Al-shabaab militia before being ousted by the KDF.
Without a stable administration in Somalia, the bulk of the imports from the middle East is never taxed. They are transported in lorries into Kenya where the cartels are ready to pay hefty bribes to avoid taxation.
Of the many attacks that are police investigation include the killing of two Kenya Revenue Authority custom officials who were shot dead in broad daylight a few weeks ago.
A trader in Garissa town who knew the two officials told the Nation that prior to the killing, they had been threatened by one of the influential businessmen involved in the illegal cross border trade.
According to the informant, the two had impounded a lorry loaded with sugar but had refused to accept a Sh 200,000 bribe because they were demanding more.
Workers who were transporting the contraband called their boss on telephone who arrived and manhandled the officials before escorting the lorry to a warehouse where it was unloaded.
Apparently police officers who are supposed to accompany KRA officials had refused to take action having accepted a bribe.
The officials had gone ahead to open complaints against the businessman and its believed it is what caused their death.
On the day they were killed, the two had received a call on one of their cell phones from a man who said was an emissary of the businessman and wanted the issues ironed out.
They were killed near the Post office, in the middle of Garissa town, where they had gone to meet the emissary.
When the Nation visited the KRA office, only a few employees were at work.
One of them who requested anonymity because he is not authorized to speak to the media said the incident had shocked his colleagues in the customs section, who had also been threatened and were thus transferred.
Custom services in Garissa have thus been grounded and relocated to the North Eastern/Eastern regional headquarters in Embu.
Therefore, any cargo that required to be valued before being taxed has to be escorted by police to Embu. The transport section, which levies duty on new motor vehicles had also been relocated to Embu.
A businessman in the area said many traders involved in illegal trade had welcomed the move because they were keen on evading tax.
A commissioner with KRA Kennedy Onyonyi told the Nation that the move was a temporary measure.
“A few functions have been transferred to the regional headquarters but Garissa office is still functional. The officers who were killed were in charge of the docket (customs) and we are looking for replacement. It’s not possible to get a replacement immediately especially because of the security issue,” he said.
Source: Daily Nation