Dr Francis K Sang -The secrets of former Kenyan top crime buster


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Soon after coming to power in 2002, the Narc regime embarked on a massive purge of top officials in the security and public sectors who worked under former President Moi.

Dr Francis K Sang who at the time held the critical post of the Director of Criminal Investigation Department was demoted a month into the coming to power of Narc.

He was moved to what was deemed to be a junior position in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The mandarins of the new regime hoped that he would decline the less prestigious post and resign from the civil service. But he stayed put.

In the first ever memoir by a retired senior policeofficer, Sang narrates how he survived the bewildering ethnically-motivated political machinations of the new regime to become the first ever executive director of the Regional Centre on Small Arms, a diplomatic post that he says he got by default. Here is the story as penned in Dr Sang’s memoir, A Noble But Onerous Duty:

“It was beyond my wildest imagination as a trained career police officer that at one time in my long professional tour of duty, I would become a diplomat, especially in my own country.

Interestingly, my diplomatic mission did not happen by design but almost certainly by default.

The journey towards my diplomatic mission actually began in 2003 only one month after the new leadership of President Kibaki effected wide ranging changes among holders of key security offices in the country.

Small arms office

In the course of these changes, I was transferred to establish a previously non-existent small arms office at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The new office was a British Government-funded project to support the control of the proliferation of small arms in the region.

Many people including my close friends regarded this transfer from being the Director of CID to a new office in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs as a major demotion, especially considering the status of my new post compared to the one I previously held.  As Director of CID, I had slightly over 2,500 officers under my command, with 22 different sections headed by senior officers of different cadres at the headquarters and similarly at provincial and district levels.

To my amazement, upon reporting to my new office at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, I learned that there was not a single member of staff assigned to work with me, not even a secretary.

To make matters worse, no administrative arrangements had been put in place to assist me in the co-ordination and implementation of what were known as the Nairobi Declaration and the Co-ordinated Agenda for Action. These were agreements pertaining to the control of small arms and light weapons that had been approved at two regional ministerial meetings held in 2000 and 2002 respectively. It was difficult for me to figure out how to establish this new and amorphous office.  I joked with my colleagues that I was just like a general going to war without a single soldier to command. I had to use my sixth sense, developed after many years of police service to achieve success and overcome the challenges in the new environment.

The so-called “powers-that-be” who had been the architects of my transfer from the mainstream policeservice, had been misled to believe that I would decline the new position.  I realised that some well-orchestrated scheme had been hatched to frustrate me to resign from public service by declining the new appointment.

It was indeed the humility and resilience acquired over many years of public service that enabled me to withstand the ordeals of my new job, as yet, undefined role as I walked about in my new surroundings.

One of the most negative effects of my removal from the police nominal roll was the loss of my payroll number. The mere striking off of my name from Kenya Police Force nominal roll soon after my transfer left my life hanging in the balance without a payroll number for almost three years.

Throughout this period, I earned a minimal salary on a voucher, just like a casual labourer, and no benefits. The change of duties further affected my pension emoluments since the government stopped remitting my entitlements to the Director of Pensions, as I was no longer on the payroll.

Retirement age

Having attained the mandatory retirement age in the later years of my career, I was forced to regularise my pension entitlements by 
paying a huge amount of money in order to receive my 30 years pension from the government.

The new challenges were not confined to me alone but also extended to members of my immediate family who suffered the effects and eventual consequences of the changed circumstances.

These ordeals aside, I thank God that my three children who were

attending different universities outside the country when my transfer was effected managed to complete their education though with a lot of constraints.

The humiliation and frustration in the new office went on for considerable period of time. Some of the indirect frustrations came only a week after reporting to the new office at Foreign Affairs.

One evening, after I arrived at my residence in Loresho, Nairobi, my security officer handed me an open letter that was delivered at the gate by officials of the Ministry of Works.

The letter addressed to me was written by the Permanent Secretary who gave me two weeks’ notice to vacate my residence in order to create room for the new Director of CID.

To the best of my knowledge at the time, the residence in which my family lived was a privately-owned house rented by the government for any senior civil servant and was not an institutional house to be “inherited” by the successor of the Director of the Criminal Investigation Department of the Kenya Police.

Official circles

Indeed, from the moment I read the letter, it occurred to me that in certain official circles, I was no longer regarded a senior enough civil servant to merit occupying a rented government house.

At the back of my mind was the realisation that all these frustrations and disappointments were schemes to force me to resign from the new position.

To pre-empt these reprehensible machinations, I approached the landlord, a Mr Samwel Mbova, and explained to him the dilemma I was in.

He was a retired senior civil servant under President Moi’s administration.

In the course of our discussions, I showed him the two weeks’ vacation notice and, based on our mutual understanding, requested him to let me rent the house.

Without hesitation, Mbova understood the ill-motive behind the vacation notice and agreed to my proposal. Within one week’s time, we had signed an agreement for renting the house through his lawyer.

Based on the signed agreement, the landlord wrote a letter to the Public Works authorities informing them that he was no longer going to lease the house to the government since he had got another tenant.

The new development caught the officials at the Ministry of Public Works by surprise.  Indeed, they had been convinced that I would be thrown out of the house into the cold street with my family and belongings when the evacuation notice elapsed. Seven years later I managed to buy the house from the landlord and it is now my own property!


Forceful eviction

Although I had managed to triumph over the attempted forceful eviction, some of trials and tribulations including having to work in a relatively hostile environment did not disappear immediately.

 Most of the senior officers who worked with me appeared uneasy whenever we had discussions over some issues.

This kind of hostility and mistrust was not only confined to the senior cadre but the junior staff as well. The suspicions and hostility got worse when the officers learned that prior to joining them I was not only a cop but Director of CID.

In some quarters, it was even rumored that I was an undercover agent assigned by the Government to investigate them. I felt rather besieged working as a lone ranger in the new setup. It would not have been easy for me to get an office at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs had it not been the intervention of the Director of Administration, Amb Frank Isipila who went out of his way to ensure that I was comfortable in my new environment.

He relocated one of the officers to another space in order to create space for me.  I recall that at one time my close friend. The late Col (rtd) Jan Kamenju  who was the Director of Security Research and Information Centre  (SRIC) and Brigadier (rtd) Christopher Kuto came to my office but could not get chairs to sit on, forcing me to borrow a chair from the next office for them to feel comfortable.

Creating the Nairobi Secretariat for the new small arms control body was a daunting task for anyone but I had to do it as quickly as possible. This was partly due to the fact that he creation of this office had failed to take off three years before I was posted to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The 10 signatory states of the Nairobi Declaration on the Proliferation of Small Arms namely Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda had entrusted the Kenya Government with the task of creating the regional secretariat.

I got some encouragement, however, upon realising that the staff at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs had changed their hearts and minds regarding my presence and the kind of work I was undertaking.

In the course of taking over the new office at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs I observed that the Small Arms file that was handed over to me was very unpopular with the staff in the International Organisations and Conference (IOC) division, who had been responsible, on an interim basis, for small arms issues.

Ultimately I could not blame them because apart from other underlying factors, small arms were a rather strange subject for them to deal with. With my law enforcement background, I was the right man for the job, quite at home with the intricacies of small arms.

Another reason that made the staff working in this section apprehensive about dealing with small arms file was the strongly worded letters that were often sent by the development partners questioning various aspects relating to the non-utilisation of grants meant for the establishment of a fully-fledged Nairobi Secretariat.

The Nairobi Secretariat that I had taken over in 2003 when I moved to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs had been formed as an interim arrangement to coordinate issues regarding small arms in the region after the signing of the Nairobi Declaration in 2000.

Member states had mandated the Kenya government to set it up awaiting the establishment of a regional body dealing with the issue of small arms.

The proposal to create the Regional Centre on Small Arms (RECSA) was conceived later following a meeting I had with the Director of Political Affairs Thuita Mwangi and the head of Legal Affairs at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Michael Kiboino in 2005.

Following the establishment of RECSA, the 1ST Extra-Ordinary Meeting for the Council of Ministers Meeting took place in Kampala, Uganda on April 25th, 2006

On the agenda of the meeting was the appointment of the Executive Secretary for the newly established regional body.  This item was discussed at a closed meeting in which the Council of Ministers unanimously appointed me as the first Executive Secretary of RECSA on a four year contract that could be renewed once.

In their own words, the appointment was in recognition of the great contribution that I had made in the creation of RECSA and the competence displayed in the discharge of my responsibilities.

I realised later, however, that this did not go down well back home. It came to my knowledge that before I travelled to Uganda for the ministerial meeting, some “politically correct” candidates had already been lined up for the post.

Some of those who had been lined up were senior and retired military officers who had been frequenting the offices of influential Cabinet Ministers in the new regime in their schemes to get appointed.

The position of Executive Secretary had become attractive as a result of the new diplomatic status RECSA enjoyed, along with attractive benefit and good terms of service that came with the position.

Upon my return to Kenya from Uganda, I found out that the resentment over my appointment was in top gear. One influential Cabinet Minister went to extraordinary lengths to bar my accession to the post and gave instructions that the appointment be reversed.

He appeared to be ignorant of the fact that the authority for appointment rested solely with the Council of Ministers from all the twelve member states. The Kenya Government could not alone make any drastic decision to give preference to one of its own preferred candidates without the consensus of others.

The agenda for the meeting had also been circulated three months earlier by the RECSA secretariat to all member States indicating that the appointment of the Executive Secretary was one of the issues to be discussed at the meeting.

Being convinced that my country would support my candidature in consideration of my contribution made in the transformation of the Nairobi Secretariat into the new entity, I was confident of getting the post.  Strangely, in the comprehensive report written to the Foreign Affairs PS on the outcome of the meeting in Kampala, nobody bothered to congratulate me on my appointment.

I came to learn later that senior officials at the Ministry who would have written such a congratulatory letter were apprehensive that the appointment might be reversed due to the undue external influence of the powerful personalities in the new regime.   Some of them were overheard saying that as officials of the former regime, we were spent force while they also wondered how I could have been appointed to such a high profile position and yet “our time” was over.

 At one point, as the matter of my appointment was being discussed, some officials at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs who were interested in my position enthusiastically joined the rumour mill claiming that the position of the Executive Secretary for RECSA was a diplomatic post that required an officer who has previously worked in a diplomatic environment.

In my view, all this talk was rather misplaced, based on misconceptions by some unprincipled characters who wanted to reap where they had not sown.

These officers were short on memory, conveniently forgetting that they were the same people who had disassociated themselves from the issue of small arms claiming that such matters were within the purview of law enforcement.

One voice of reason stopped the impending diplomatic row that would have been precipitated by revision letter to be written to my appointing authorities.

The arrival of a sober-minded senior official from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to the Office of the President at Harambeee House saved the day. After listening to all the arguments, the official advised the panel against any move to reverse the decision made in Kampala by the Council of Ministers.

He informed the team that the Government of Kenya was fully represented at the Kampala meeting by an Assistant Minister for Foreign Affairs Danson Mungatana and was the head of delegation and he never objected to my appointment.

He told them that the twelve member States decision was based on the commitment I had shown in the creation of the Nairobi Secretariat and the goodwill I had developed with other partner states and donors.

Advised team

The senior official further advised the team that if the Kenya Government acted contrary to his advice, the position of the Executive Secretary of RECSA would be advertised in all the twelve member States, followed by interviews to identify the most qualified candidate for the position.

He advised them that Kenya would most likely lose such a golden and rare opportunity given to the country on trust. The panel was satisfied with the advice and put the matter to rest. Interestingly, I got my congratulatory letter of appointment from the Foreign Affairs PS immediately thereafter, three months after I was appointed to the position.

On appointment, I heaved a huge sigh of relief as I was able to receive my first substantial payslip, thus stopping to earn my paltry salary on payment vouchers.

This was because RECSA had then become an autonomous body from the Kenya Government with its own rules of engagement.

 The terms of service in my new appointment gave me a new lease of life and the hope that I had almost lost. Upon attaining the mandatory previous retirement age of 55 years, I left the public service but continued with RECSA until the end of the two terms contract when I retired from the diplomatic position.

As fate would have it, I was to become the fourth indigenous Kenyan Director of Criminal Investigation since the department’s inception in 1926. When I was appointed as the director of the Criminal Investigation Department in 1999, I took over from Mr Noah arap Too who had been the longest serving CID boss since Kenya attained independence in 1963.

Too served for 15 years while his predecessor Mr Ignatius Nderi one decade. Prior to the CID appointment, I was Senior Deputy Commissioner of Police 1, a rank below that of the then Commissioner of Police Duncan Wachira. I was Mr Wachira’s deputy for two years taking over from Mr Jackson Koskei who had proceeded on retirement.

Some of the senior CID officers doubted my ability to perform as the director and questioned my investigative skills and experience, because I had not worked as a detective before.  Indeed my appointment took many of them by surprise because they had high expectations that they would be promoted to the CID director post after Too’s retirement.

The public likewise did not give me a chance to settle in my new job as questions were asked about my capacity to head the department.

The questions and doubts were mostly based on the uninformed argument that as a uniformed officer I could not step into the “big shoes” of a professional detective like my predecessor. Ironically, Too happened to have been a uniformed officer before he assumed this position.

Those critics ignored the fact that I was once one of the directing staff at the Kenya Police Training College, giving lectures on investigation, crime prevention and practical police work for both junior and senior students attending courses.

Equally, they had over looked the fact that I had been an Officer Commanding Station (OCS), Officer Commanding Police Division (OCPD) and the Provincial Police Officer (PPO) of the largest province over a period of 26 years.

Nevertheless, without seeking to blow my own trumpet regarding my ability to cope with the new challenges, I bravely took over the post and introduced a new style of management.  In press briefings, soon after taking over the office, I informed the media and other people present of my strategic approach to modernise the CID.  I told all those present to evaluate my performance upon the end of my “contract” as the director of CID.

Despite the skepticism, I took over and soon realised that the CID was experiencing internal structural and staffing problems.

These included human resource management deficiencies, poor manpower planning, lack of succession management plans, promotional stagnation of personnel, inadequate training and, above all, a very demotivated staff. There was only one Deputy Commissioner of Police who was my immediate deputy and 12 Senior Assistant Commissioners of Police. These officers were deployed either as Provincial CID chiefs or Section heads at CID headquarters.

At the CID headquarters, there were 22 specialised sections which provided technical support to the provinces and divisions.  At the core, the CID employed about 2,500 police investigators spread around the country and more than 500 civilian staff.

It became clear to me that irrespective of efforts to achieve overall objectives of the department of crime prevention and detection, this could not happen while I was working with demoralised officers.

It became clear to me that a major overhaul was needed in the department in order to be able to adapt to the rapidly changing crime trends in the country.

Consequently, I wrote to the then Commissioner of Police Philemon Abong’o highlighting the problems that I faced in my new office.  My main request to the Commissioner was for his intervention to enable the department to fulfill its core function of crime management and control.

In response to the request, the Permanent Secretary and Director of Personnel Management appointed a team of experts to conduct an operational analysis and manpower needs assessment of the CID.

At the end of its work, the team produced a report titled Revitalization and Strengthening of Criminal Investigation Departments towards the end of 2000.

In the report, he team made far reaching recommendations on how to revitalise and strengthen the CID.

It is important to note that before appointment of the implementation committee of the report, a Strategic Plan for the period 2000-2004 had been prepared through the concerted efforts of CID staff.

Thus the CID was among the very first departments of government to develop a Strategic Plan. The Kenya Police Force developed its Strategic Plan in 2005 following a directive from government requiring all its departments to develop such a plan.

Although the Strategic Plan and the Policy Document on Revitalisation and Strengthening of the CID would have been useful during the development of the Kenya Police Strategic Plan and reform plans developed in later years, senior officers at the Police headquarters chose to disregard these useful documents. They were shelved because they were associated with officers who had worked in the regime of President Moi. Change and adaptation of the department to the new crime situation has been slow and hesitant

mainly due to the resistance of those people, both within and uoutside the police force who wish to maintain the status quo.

When I took over as director of CID, I had to take immediate action to address the challenge of cybercrime. My reform agenda for the CID commenced with an audit of all officers within the department in order to know who were computer literate. To my immense surprise and disappointment, the outcome of the audit was far worse than I had imagined.

There were very few officers that had even basic capacity to investigate computer crimes. It was inconceivable for a department like the CID with its investigatory mandate to lack such capacity. As a longtime measure, we found it absolutely necessary to establish an Information Communications Technology (ICT) section within the department.

 At the time, ICT was still a very grey area in the government. The private sector was far better equipped in their technological operations.

The CID was therefore among the first departments in the government to have embraced ICT in its work.

At that particular time, I recall that judges were also undertaking some computer lessons in some of the training schools.

The establishment of ICT section was a good start and a major leap forward from the way things had been in the past.

To further strengthen this resolve to introduce the use of modern technology in the CID, I organised computer training courses for all senior staff at Kenyan Institute of Administration and University of Nairobi.


Good example

To set a good example for my juniors, I hired a tutor to train me on how to use computers for an hour every day. It was my greatest disappointment to learn that some years after my departure from the CID, the Cybercrime Unit was disbanded.

The importance of putting up mechanisms to deal with cybercrime on one hand and the need to deal with challenges posed by armed violence on the other created the necessity to establish specialised units to tackle the twin menaces.

My office, therefore, established the Special Crime Prevention Unit (SPCU) upon realisation that the Flying Squad, the only crack unit under the CID at the time that dealt with armed robberies and car-jacking could not effectively tackle the rising cases of armed violent crime.

While Flying Squad was confined to Nairobi, the new unit would operate throughout the country.

The unit comprised of a rapid response team that could be called upon within a short span of time in response to any emerging serious crime reported in the country.

The demand for the services of this squad grew quickly. The SPCU was better structured than the Flying Squad. It had, shortly after it came into existence managed to dismantle several criminal syndicates and arrested notorious criminals.

 Soon after the initial successes, a specialised unit by the name of Track Unit was established.

The main reason for the reaction of the unit was to address the issue of frequent loss of valuable evidence from scenes of crime during investigations. Any evidence now had to receive a stamp from the new unit during the pursuit of gangsters.

This unit worked closely with the Criminal Intelligence Unit (CIU) as its main back-up in providing information for their operational purposes.

Invaluable support

It was crucial for the CID to maintain good working relationship with the National Security Intelligence Service (NSIS) under the leadership of Brig Wilson Boinnet. The CID under my stewardship managed to get invaluable support from the NSIS soon after I restructured the CIU. The NSIS greatly helped the department in training the newly recruited crime intelligence officers at the National Intelligence Academy (NIA).

The first 60 officers to graduate from NIA were deployed to work under the PCIOs in all the eight provinces in the country.

In Kenya and probably elsewhere, the Prosecution Section is usually an integral part of the CID. On taking over, I found out that the section had its own share of problems and challenges. There were 270 prosecutors ranging from the rank of Inspector to Senior Superintendent deployed in 244 courts countrywide.

The general rule requires that the police prosecutors should be of the rank of Inspector and above. Due to shortage of personnel in the CID, however, it was common practice for officers below the rank of inspector to carry out prosecution of cases in court. It was obvious to me that some of these court prosecutors could not handle legal arguments in court against eloquent, well-trained defence attorneys.

It became necessary, therefore, for the department to train additional prosecutors in order to be effective.

One of the important branches at CID headquarters is the Crime Reading Section which serves as the main source of reference and as a think tank to advice the director on criminal cases referred to the office either from the provinces or the other police formations.

As Director, I found it necessary to revamp this section because it required officers with a legal background who could give informed legal advice. To my astonishment, there was no officer with background in the CID who could be engaged by the department to provide legal advice.

 Strengthen office

In view of the need to strengthen this office, I sought authority from the Commissioner of Police to recruit two practicing lawyers as Kenya Police Reservists. The two lawyers who became reserve police officers were Mr Benson Musau and Mr Bernard Mbae. The Integrated Ballistic Identification System (IBIS) has become the de facto standard tool for law enforcement agencies around the world for sharing ballistic data. Soon after my appointment, I found out that the department still used traditional methods of firearms identification.

Three officers working in this section, Mr Nduguga, Mr Lubanga and Mr Mugo, were the only firearms experts whom the police force and the courts in the country depended on ballistics matters.

Sadly, all the three officers were due to proceed on retirement soon after I took over. There was a huge backlog of cases in the ballistics section requiring examination which had ultimately overwhelmed the three firearms examiners.

In endeavouring to resolve the inherent problems, I asked for and received authority to purchase an automatic ballistic identification machine from Canada. At that time, Kenya, South Africa and Algeria were the only three countries in Africa that had acquired such a machine. As a follow up on my efforts to strengthen the ballistic section, the newly hired university graduates who had joined the department became a necessity.


Anti-corruption unit

In September 2001, President Moi ordered for the formation of the Anti-Corruption Unit to combat rampant graft in the public and private sectors. The formation of the unit was precipitated by the unexpected disbandment of Kenya Anti-Corruption Authority by the High Court. This unit was administratively under the CID director. I was part of the high level team that worked on the formation of the Anti-Corruption unit which was to serve as a stop-gap measure to fill the gap left by the dissolution of the previous body.


The anti-graft body came up with laudable research strategies that proved useful to the government in its fight against corruption. One of the admirable achievements came in 2002 with the launch of the Public Service Integrity programme to operate under the Public Officer Ethics Act.

With the re-establishment of an independent body under the name of Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission, ACPU was disbanded.

The dream to build a forensic laboratory was a matter that was pending when I took over from my predecessor Too. The main reason for the establishment of this important facility was to boost the capacity of the CID to conduct investigations using new technologies. It became imperative for the CID to acquire Mazingira House as its new headquarters due to the congestion on the two acre plot which accommodated the old CID headquarters at that time.

By the time I was transferred from the CID the construction of the new Mazingira Complex was almost complete although I did not have the opportunity to sit in one of the offices. I am nevertheless pleased that the CID is now able to serve the people of this great country in a more spacious and conducive environment.

When I took over, promotions and job designations had been haphazard and most incomprehensible. Job stagnation was a major cause of discontent among both police and civilian personnel within the CID as promotion for a wide cross-section of officers was almost non-existent.

General police duties

Contrary to expectation, a number of officers would have preferred the general police duties to working at the CID since opportunities were more promising.

This was rather strange to me because since the early days of my career as a policeman, uniformed policeofficers on general duties wished to work in the CID due to its good reputation. Having taken some time to work out a succession strategy for the CID, I was satisfied that things were moving smoothly.

In addition to the steps outlined above that had been undertaken to enhance professionalism, I, however, felt that there was need to inject a new crop of officers with a sound academic background to the CID.

As a matter of procedure, I sought authority from the Commissioner of Police for the CID to start recruiting university graduates direct from the Kenya Police College Kiganjo after they had completed their initial nine months training.

Pioneers of these programmes included Dr John Mutonyi, who later became Assistant Director of KACC.

Among others who pursued similar academic work but in different courses were Ms Grace Kahindi, Mrs Mary Awuor, Mr Michael Jacobam, Mr Henry Gathogo, Mr Gideon Kimilu and Mr Maurice Amattta.

Beyond the parallel degree programme undertaken by these officers I had started discussion with the University of Nairobi administration regarding the need to credit courses offered at the CID training school.

During my time, the wave of positive change within the CID drew much apprehension from some senior officers at police headquarters, partly because of the high public profile the department was gaining.

Hostility against this branch of the police force had the effect of reducing the well-known and vibrant department to what many people described as being “just like a crime branch within a police station.”

The Standard



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