On Sunday August 20, a ruthless gangster was shot dead at Witeithie area, Kiambu County.
The death of Michael George Mwaniki alias Mwanii or Sparta marked the end of one of the biggest police killers in Kenya, a man so trigger happy he would openly brag about killing security officers.
Mwanii’s story is one that could reverberate well in the crime capitals of the world -- from Brazil’s Rio de Janeiro to Chicago in the US and Kingstone, Jamaica, neighbourhood of Portmore, from where Mwanii’s Gaza gang draws its inspiration.
Mwanii not only killed police officers, he also knew, well in advance, of crackdowns planned to flush him out. Within the police, there was fear his murderous Gaza gang had infiltrated the force.
In fact, it was this fear, and the fact that the gang was linked to election related violence, that led to the formation of a special unit to track its members down in the run-up to the August 8 polls.
The special unit was made up of 16 officers who had three unmarked vehicles to conduct joint operations with police divisions adjacent to Kayole, Embakasi, Kasarani, Starehe and Buru Buru.
But first, the leaks had to be dealt with. In April, an Officer Commanding Police Station (OCS), senior sergeant, a sergent and a constable and three police officers had to be transferred from Soweto police station on suspicion of leaking operation plans to Gaza members.
The four officers are said to have been allocated plots in Portmore area of Kayole’s Matopeni area controlled by the Gaza gang as inducement to snitch on their colleagues.
During the day, Mwanii, his eight man-gang and a handful of women spent their time partying in clubs along Moi Avenue. At night, they orchestrated their murderous plots.
The shooting to death of an AP corporal as he walked out of a bar with a female companion in Kayole is what introduced Mwanii’s entry as a big player in the crime world.
Until then, he had only been involved in M-Pesa and kiosk robberies and had not attracted the police radar. Witnesses of the AP killing led investigating detectives his way.
His mouth proved to be his undoing. The 22-year-old openly bragged about the killing. A terrible mistake. His braggadocio of the killing of the AP officer to one of his many female accomplices would cost him his anonymity and eventually his life.
The woman shared the secret with a police informer who in turn passed it over to police officers in Kayole.
A manhunt for him and his cronies was launched. Police identified his hideout in Soweto area and organised a raid. Mwanii escaped.
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On his way, he bumped into police constable Boniface Oketch attached to Kayole’s Soweto police station and pumped bullets into him, killing him on the spot. His accomplice was cornered and shot dead.
He relocated to Ruai with his gang of about eight lieutenants, where they continued to unleash terror.
Mwanii’s penchant for pretty women would also lead to his fall. The unwritten rule in gang land is that all beautiful girls belong to the gang leader. Any gang member who defied that would meet his wrath. Mwanii is said to have shot dead two of his gang members suspiciously friendly to his ‘wife’ Claire Njoki.
Mwanii was always accompanied by Claire aka Clea Adi Vybz, his gangster girlfriend who was shot dead in May 2017 in the gang’s den in Lower Chokaa area of Kangundo Road. Social media dubbed her Kenya’s prettiest gangster.
Days after the killing of Claire, Mwanii took to social media to taunt some police officers of turning their wrath on his wife after falling to trace him. “Vini, Ngare and Blackie you killed Claire because she refused to rat me out, then made it look like she was a criminal too. How do you take pride in knowing that you killed an innocent person and lied to Kenyans that you recovered weapons?” he wrote.
Shortly thereafter, Mwanii’s other girlfriend Mrsha Minaj was shot dead by the police. A mysterious person calling himself Hessy, suspected to be a police officer, had posted a warning on his Facebook account warning Marsha to denounce her criminal ways.
Marsha and Claire led a group of Gaza female members in what was known as ‘Warembo sacco’. To keep a tight leash on his gang, Mwanii would organise mandatory drinking parties in one of their many dens where bonding activities included hair shaving away from the public eye.
Born and bred in in Kayole’s corner B3 area, Mwanii lived with his parents who hail from Kirinyaga’s Kibingoti area.
He studied at Imara Primary School before joining Joy Valley Secondary School but dropped out and began a life of crime.
His penchant for killing police officers, ostensibly to raise his profile in the crime world, would later turn out to be his undoing. The list of the police officers he killed is endless. He was linked to the shooting to death of sergeant Asbel Kipkorir Limo, a bodyguard to Natural Resources PS Margaret Mwakima along Kangundo Road on January 14, 2017.
Limo, had just dropped the PS and was offloading shopping for his family from the vehicle at the AP lines along Kangundo Road when he was accosted and shot dead by gunmen who robbed him of his gun. AP constable Kennedy Nkune, who was attached to a State House administrative secretary, was also killed by the gang.
The killing of AP Assistant Superintendent Eston Ndwiga in Mihango area on November 30, 2016 was also blamed on Mwanii, who was by then leading a gang that was responsible for robberies in Kamakis on the Eastern Bypass, Thika Super highway and Green Span in Nairobi’s Donholm area.
Police say it is Mwanii who shot and killed AP officer Mwiti near Naivas supermarket in Donholm and robbed him of his pistol. They also say Mwanii and his accomplices shot dead former Moyale MP Philip Galma Godana on February 14, 2016 at his Syokimau residence.
The robbers only took television sets and mobile phones before escaping.
At the height of the renewed crackdown on Gaza, the gang escaped to Thika’s Weitethie area where they killed two police officers on patrol in Kibichoi. They made away with the officers’ AK 47 rifles.
It is here that he and an accomplice, identified as Willy, were gunned down by Special Crime Prevention Unit detectives when he left his hideout for a cigarrete.
Hessy wa Dandora says Mwanii and his gang were involved rape, robbery, defilement, murder and illegal possession of firearms. In one incident, the gang abducted, raped and killed a form three student. In another, it robbed an M-Pesa agent in Kayole and shot the owner in the presence of his wife and children.
The gang also shot dead a pastor within Civil Servants estate (Sivo) but stole nothing from him.
But it was the killing of a police officer at Ruai shopping centre in April that marked the beginning of a major crackdown for Mwanii’s head.
After four officers suspected of leaking police plans to the gang were moved, Mwanii and his accomplices went into hiding in Weitethie to let the heat cool off. But the killing of two police officers within Miti Kenda area in Kibichoi, Kiambu, led the special unit their way.
With the help of an informer, the police traced them to Weitethie where Mwanii and Willy were gunned down. Other members of the gang escaped.
Police spokesman Charles Owino Wahong’o said the seven suspected criminals killed last week in Makutano on the Nyeri-Nairobi highway were members of Gaza.
“They should know that they are on police radar. If you are armed, the police will not just sit and watch you kill and maim innocent Kenyans. It is our duty to protect lives and property,” said Owino.
Mwanii’s confidants Kagwanja, Odinga and Teddy are poised to take over the leadership mantle of the close knit gang.