The number of police officers assigned to VIPs will be cut by half if Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang'i has his way.
There are 12,000 officers assigned to various VIPs in various capacities. Some are stationed at the gates of properties owned by the VIPs, even in places where the owners hardly ever visit.
“We will reduce the levels of VIP protection by 50 per cent by July this year so that the officers can be deployed to protect life and property of ordinary citizens,” Dr Matiangi said.
Previous declarations of this kind have gone unimplemented.
Kenya has more than 100,000 police officers, meaning the country has surpassed the United Nations recommended police to civilian ratio of 1:450, according to President Uhuru Kenyatta.
A team headed by former Kenya Airways Chief Executive Officer Titus Naikuni had proposed that the officers assigned to VIPs should be reduced to avoid situations where several policemen are deployed to work for a few VIPs at the expense of the majority.
Some top State officials each have up to a dozen bodyguards, stretching the capacity of the country’s security service.
Apart from the President and his deputy, who have at least 200 and 45 security guards respectively, holders of sensitive dockets are also assigned many officers.
While the size of the security detail varies according to the duties discharged by an official, and the level of risk, there have been concerns about the merit for some, especially those used to public displays of force.
Complaints have also been filed against senior officials who use their escorts to break traffic rules with impunity.
Due to their stretched numbers, police have sought the help of prison warders to beef up security patrols.
All MPs are entitled to at least one police bodyguard and two each for their homes upcountry or in the city. Some policemen are also deployed to some VIPs as drivers.
Governors, deputy governors, chairmen of parliamentary committees, the Chief Justice, the Central Bank of Kenya governor, speakers of the National Assembly and Senate, Inspector General of Police, his deputies, and the Chief of Defence Forces are all assigned police bodyguards.
These public officers each have a chase car, at least five guards, and another division protecting their spouses and children.
Some parastatal chiefs, principal secretaries and even deputy secretaries are also entitled to police bodyguards. This is apart from the Administration Police personnel assigned at every level of the provincial administration such as county and sub-county commissioners.
Yesterday, Senate Leader of Minority James Orengo accused Matiang’i of overstepping his mandate.
“Matiang’i is not supposed to make such decision on his own. Our needs are catered for by the Parliamentary Service Commission. PSC and the National Police Service are the ones to speak on that matter,” he told The Standard.