The ‘ninjas’ who protect Homa Bay politicians

A ninja in action. Some of the clothing they wear resembles that used by security agents, and this can cause confusion.

Photo credit: Tonny Omondi | Nation Media Group

Campaign rallies in Homa Bay County are characterised by young heavily built men donning uniforms meant to distinguish them from other residents.

They put on jungle coats, military-style caps, combat boots and dark glasses to intimidate ordinary citizens.

Some also carry walkie-talkies for communication or weapons, mainly knives, which they draw out when they think there is a threat to them or to the person they are protecting.

Their main role at rallies is to protect the people who have hired them.

At such events, the youths hang on politician’s vehicles when they arrive or exit venues to shield the occupants from possible attack.

But security officers think that the activities of these men are a threat to security.

Some of the clothing they wear resembles that used by security agents, and this can cause confusion.

Homa Bay County Commissioner Moses Lilan said wearing uniforms to offer security is illegal and politicians should stop using youths during campaigns or criminal charges may be pressed against them.

"It is not an offence to put on uniforms when engaging in other activities. But doing [so] to act as a security officer is wrong," he said.

Normally hired as bodyguards

Mr Lilan, who chairs the county security team, said security agencies are concerned about an increasing trend where youths with no training on safety take over security operations at rallies.

The young men dressed in uniforms are normally hired as bodyguards.

But the administrator said the government has enough police officers to safeguard politicians from any harm and they don’t need to hire private guards.

Politicians are only required to tell the police when they are holding rallies and explain why they need security.

Police will then evaluate the request before assigning officers to a rally.

"We will not let the officers be bodyguards but they will be able to neutralise any threat that politicians face. Paying youths who are not trained to be bodyguards is wrong," Mr Lilan said.

Homa Bay County has witnessed cases of youths allied to different politicians clashing at rallies.

Mr Lilan asked candidates to stick to the electoral code of conduct and avoid campaigning beyond 6pm.

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