It was a classic crime scene: The car had plunged into River Thiririka, and there was blood around the area.
The mental picture any person who visited the scene drew was that someone had died in that area. Then the news came in: the little-known candidate, Moses Mwihia, who was vying against Uhuru Kenyatta for the Gatundu South parliamentary seat, was missing. Kidnapped, some said. Abducted, others screamed.
In an era when there were no mobile phones or social media, the village grapevine and a bit of radio did the job of spreading the rumour with all the scary innuendos that the government of Daniel arap Moi or his feared agents, had struck against Mwihia. It was a narrative that many bought, and that election day, 20 years ago, Moses Mwihia, defeated Uhuru Kenyatta.
There were protests as angry voters took to the streets. Then that afternoon, Mwihia resurfaced. He said he was well and unhurt, and reportedly wondered what the fuss was all about. Speaking about the incident when Uhuru was elected as president, Mwihia said the whole thing was choreographed, and that he was put under so much pressure to go with the flow.
“There was no actual kidnapping, but as I have told you, there was too much pressure. The kidnapping did not happen,” he told our sister paper, The Sunday Standard in a past interview. “You see, everything was being arranged, there was too much pressure and I had to agree to do certain things,” he revealed.
News reports about the incident say two young men, one who was Mwihia’s nephew and the other Uhuru’s neighbour, then university students, were the masterminds of the plot. The nephew is now an MP and a rabid defender of Uhuru.
But Mwihia was not the first one to pull such a trick. He borrowed that script from veteran Embu politician, the late Jeremiah Nyagah, who in 1992 was engaged in a public spat with the then President, Daniel arap Moi, over a “missing son”, Norman.
Norman, who was campaigning to succeed his father in Gachoka Constituency, went missing just before the elections, and the voters blamed President Moi’s regime. Moi reportedly told the senior Nyagah that if he wanted to leave Kanu, there was no need for drama. But Nyagah reminded Moi that it was his son’s life on the line. He resurfaced later as the controversy raged, and when the counting was done, Norman who vied on a DP ticket had won.
These old tales of using near-death experiences to woo voters were rekindled when a bullet-riddled car belonging to Charles Chege Gitau, a parliamentary aspirant for the Kabete seat, was found abandoned near Rungiri Dam in Kabete at dawn, on the eve of his much-hyped manifesto launch. Two bullet holes were visible on the left rear door of the vehicle, indicating the person who shot at him could have been aiming at the back-left seat, where many VIPs sit.
A drowsy Chege, popularly known as ‘Chege Fresh,’ was found in Narok by the roadside. Are there elections around the corner? Yes, the nominations for the Jubilee Party are set for today (Friday, April 21, 2017) and if it is established that it was all stage-managed before the polls, it would all have been for nothing. He has however denied the rumours that he stage-managed the incident.
Then nominated MP Isaac Mwaura, who is now vying for the Ruiru Constituency seat in the next elections, shocked the country when he claimed that “a bullet had pierced his ear”. He called it was an “assassination attempt” and blamed his opponent for his ordeal.
“It was an assassination attempt, and I think the aim was to make sure that I was incapacitated so that I don’t vie,” claimed Mwaura, who also complained that the opponent has been bullying and harassing him.
“There’s a political opponent who seems to have sensed defeat. First and foremost, this individual was pulling down my posters. Yesterday, we had a clean-up and this guy sent people to come and cause violence,” he said.
When he erected a shed for boda boda operators and branded for good measure, he was told that the opponent had gone there to demolish it. He went to stop it and that is when stones and ‘bullets’ began flying.
Aside from these new cases, there’s that case of Bungoma Senator Moses Wetang’ula. After facing a by-election in the county against Jubilee’s Musikari Kombo in December 2013, there were reports that he had been shot at in Nairobi on January 10, 2014. The incident allegedly occurred on Mbagathi Road near City Mortuary where the assailants reportedly attacked the Cord principal as he was being driven to his Karen home. The attackers are said to have been driving a saloon car in the opposite direction on the dual carriageway when they shot at Wetang’ula’s Toyota Prado.
“This is an attempt on my life. It appears the assailants wanted the car to roll before they could descend on me,” Wetangula said.
He joked that the attackers wanted him to die near the City Mortuary so that police could easily transfer his body there, adding that the attackers must have tracked his movements.
The Senator, who was from Mombasa and was on his way home to Karen, said: “I was on phone when I heard two loud bangs, which prompted the driver to slow down but the bodyguard shouted at him that those were gunshots and warned him not to stop.”
Wetang’ula said the bodyguard saw the saloon car with the assailants driving on the opposite direction as they approached the City Mortuary roundabout. They then drove on to a nearby roadblock on Ngong Road, and sought the help of police. The officers directed them to Kilimani Police Station, where they reported the matter. But the then Inspector General of Police, David Kimaiyo, said preliminary investigations showed senator Wetangula car was not shot at, instead it had hit an ad banner on the roadside.
“There was a framework for hanging banners. There was a piece of half an inch metal hanging on the pole towards City Mortuary with aluminium wires. A piece of the wire was also on the ground on the opposite pole. The vehicle probably hit the piping of the banner. The vehicle was scratched by the wires connecting the lower part of the structure. The dent on the body on top of the windscreen could have been caused by the edge of the metal pipe, which also had a dent. The huge bang was probably the result of the collision with the banner structure,” read a police report.
However, opposition politicians dug in.
“It is an assassination attempt or they are preparing us for more, Wetang’ula has spoken loudly about insecurity in Bungoma and the corruption claims in the railway tender project and he perhaps could be the target of some elements who want to perpetuate corruption,” Siaya Senator James Orengo claimed.