The Westgate Mall terrorist attack was the most deadly of such incident in Kenya since the 1998 Al Qaeda-linked bombing of the US Embassy in Nairobi.
Much as the incident was attributed to failure in intelligence coordination between the various security agencies, it also exposed the soft underbelly of our security apparatus.
Recently, there has been runaway insecurity in the country. There have been multiple murders, kidnappings and carjacking in different parts of the country—with the police appearing to be outnumbered, outgunned and outmaneuvered.
And once again, the police service is on the spotlight, accused of sleeping on the job. But what really is the problem?
Impeccable police sources reveal how lack of coordination within the police force, which stems from poor implementation of police reforms, is responsible for the insecurity in the country.
“The problem of insecurity cannot be sorted out until poor coordination in the force is addressed,” asserted a senior police officer from Vigilance House.
Implementation of Act
“Vested interest, poor implementation of the National Police Service Act and political interference is responsible for the mess,” added the officer who cannot be named due to possible reprisals from his seniors.
He said the National Police Service Act 2011, which formed the National Police Service Commission (NPSC), was being manipulated, mutilated and adulterated to suit certain vested parochial, political and personal interests.
The drama on how to carry forward police reforms has played out in the media and public gallery to the embarrassment of the force and the entire country
From the riddle of body parts of a dead man being found on the doorsteps of the NPSC offices to the bare-knuckle fight between Inspector General David Kimaiyo and NPSC Chairman Johnstone Kavuludi over police reforms and Parliament meddling in the issues make for a theatre of the absurd.
It is understood that the problem is so serious that there is often a crisis in the chain of command in the event of a security scare.
In a damning revelation, the officer says there are just too many senior officers in charge, whose roles clash, adding that the police officers are confused by the mangled chain of command.
“They simply do not know which command to obey with so many of their seniors ordering them around,” he observes. “Even more incredibly, there are officers who are still wearing badges of Deputy Commissioner of Police yet such a designation is not recognsied in the Constitution anymore — it is a jumbled mess and a blatant disregard of the law,” he asserts.
Elsewhere in the counties, while the CID Director has posted the constitutionally recognised Regional coordinators, the former Provincial Criminal Investigation Officers (PCIO) and the District Criminal Investigations Officers (DCIO) remain in office thus creating confusion.
Following the 2007/08 post-election violence, many task forces were set up to investigate the cause of the violence and what can be done to avoid a repeat in future. Several of these task forces came up with elaborate reports including the Johann Kriegler Report and Justice Phillip Waki Report, among others —all of which found that there was a problem with the Human Resource System in the Kenya Police Force.
“All these reports found that there was a big problem with the mode of police recruitment, training and deployment and recommended an overhaul of the system through an elaborate police reforms programme,” says the source.
“Fundamentally, all the experts found that the systems and processes were deeply mired in ethnicity, nepotism, corruption and politics,” he adds.
Most of task forces’ recommendations were also included in the current Constitution, which forms the basis of the current reforms being undertaken in the force. “Most importantly, the reports and the Constitution found that police affairs cannot be handled like any other civil servants’ because the police are unique by the very nature of their work. So the formation of a NPSC commission was mooted,” he says.
However, lingering political interests, including pressure from individuals who are keen to maintain the status quo are frustrating the reform processes, he claims. At the heart of the confusion — or its intrigues, is the power struggle involving the IG and the NPSC chairman — especially over who should have the final say on disciplinary action against any officer from the rank of Inspector and above.
Weight behind Kimaiyo
Interestingly, Parliament appears to have thrown its weight behind Kimaiyo, with talks that they would amend the National Police Service Commission Act to make the Inspector General of Police the chairman of the NPSC with MP for Laikipia West Dr Wachira Karani and his Kisumu Town West counterpart Olago Aluoch having gone on record to support such a move.
But such a move could be counterproductive to police reforms. This is because it could create a strong centre of power that would bring back bad memories of the former all-powerful Commissioner of Police. Although the current Constitution stipulates that a person occupying such a position is thoroughly vetted, individual police expressed fears that the process is not entirely independent. “The former Police Commissioner was an appointee of the Executive; he was all powerful because he took orders only from the Executive. I fear that by making the Inspector General chairman of the NPSC would create another monster which will carry out his duties arbitrarily due to lack of checks and balances,” says a senior police officer in Nairobi who wish to be identified only as Ibrahim.
Other officers blame the runaway insecurity is caused by disgruntlement within the police force blamed on irregular and skewed promotions.
“Some of us have worked here for over 20 years but we see people who joined the force just recently being promoted to higher positions yet they do not have better qualifications than us,” says a junior officer from Kasarani in Nairobi.
He says such developments could create bad blood between officers, even suggesting some of them could adopt a go-slow attitude at work.