Jack Miller, the Special Branch spy who feared his wife

Members of the police seen with the acting Governor and the Commissioner of Police, Mr.R.C. [File, Standard]

At the dawn of independence, most government departments dominated by whites were taken over by Africans.

However, the transition was gradual. In some offices, the takeover lasted years. One such department was the police force, especially in areas with a huge European settler presence like the Rift Valley, where white officers did not immediately relinquish their positions.

Europeans had established White Highlands around Nakuru, and after Kenya attained independence, they decided to stay on rather than leave the country. They, however, were not comfortable with African police officers taking over. They lobbied to have Jack Miller retained as a Special Branch officer. Miller had excellent contacts within the larger settler community in Nakuru.

Most of these white settlers did not trust Africans and felt they were incapable of performing their jobs, as one Bart Joseph Kibati came to learn.

Kibati had graduated in May 1969 from the Special Branch training school in Nairobi’s South C. His first assignment sent him to Nakuru where he was posted as a deputy district Special Branch officer, effectively becoming Miller’s understudy.

Kibati soon discovered that his boss was a funny character who never gave the job of intelligence the seriousness it deserved. The Special Branch, then a department in the police force, was a precursor of the present-day National Intelligence Service.

On many occasions, Kibati and Miller clashed as the former fought hard to bring sanity to the job. According to Kibati, Miller spent most of his time in bars. His juniors would write reports and slip them under the door of his office – a practice Kibati detested.

In his autobiography, Memoirs of a Kenyan Spymaster, the officer recounts how his boss liked driving himself around in the official Land Rover.

Kibati later learnt that Miller was using his spy job to run away from his wife.

“I remember one hilarious incident when his wife came looking for him at his favourite watering hole, Midland Hotel, one of the oldest hotels dating back to 1906. When he saw her, he bolted, jumped into his Land Rover and drove off to the Rift Valley Sports Club like a hunted gazelle, his wife in hot pursuit,” says Kibati in his autobiography.

Miller got refuge in the men’s bar of the clubhouse and remained there until his wife got tired and left. Clubhouses were out of bounds for women in those days. Needless to say, Miller did not reveal what transpired when he got home later that night.   

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