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Shakeup looms in police leadership as Uhuru Kenyatta's term comes to an end

DCI boss George Kinoti, left, and Inspector General of Police Hillary Mutyambai. [Phares Mutembei, Standard]

The four top positions in the National Police Service are set to have new faces as President Uhuru Kenyatta’s administration leaves office on Tuesday.

With less than 48 hours before President-elect William Ruto takes over, there has been intense lobbying for the positions, with Ruto having publicly criticised the conduct of some of the current security chiefs.

Ruto and his deputy Rigathi Gachagua are expected to start reorganising the government after being sworn in on Tuesday.

In the National Police Service, new security bosses are expected to take over from the current top commanders who are likely to be let go by the new administration.

Insiders in the Ruto camp told The Sunday Standard that the president-elect was keen on bringing new faces into leadership, but also wants to maintain some.

IG Hillary Mutyambai, whose term ends in April, is on sick leave and handed over to his deputy, Noor Gabow, who is in charge of the Administration Police.

Mutyambai has a constitutional tenure of four years and is not eligible for re-appointment.

His three assistants, the DCI and the two Deputy Inspectors of Police (DIGs) serve at the pleasure of the president.

It is not clear when Mutyambai, who has since been discharged from hospital, will resume work.  

IG Hillary Mutyambai. His term ends in April. [Edward Kiplimo, Standard]

Edward Mbugua, the deputy IG in charge of Kenya Police and George Kinoti, who heads the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI), are the other two chiefs whose future hangs in the balance.

Mbugua is currently serving on contract after attaining the retirement age of 60 years. President Kenyatta extended his term for one year, which will end in February 2023.

An official familiar with the matter told The Sunday Standard that Mutyambai was likely to be out of office for some time. It is not clear if the new administration will allow the IG to continue serving or he will be retired ahead of his time.

The new administration has several options in the event they want to replace Mutyambai. This includes compensating the IG and have him leave office before the end of his tenure.

There is also the other option of retiring Mutyambai on medical grounds reasons in the event that he will need more time to recover.

Behind-the-scenes lobbying

Kinoti and Gabow, who are yet to attain the retirement age, could continue working if the Ruto government decides to retain them.

Ruto and his deputy have so far pledged to among other things, reorganise the security sector after complaining that government officials used State machinery, including the police, to harass and intimidate them.

In his first speech after the Supreme Court upheld his election, on Monday, Ruto told journalists that his administration would streamline the public service, with an eye on the police.

Deputy IG Noor Gabow. [Wilberforce Okwiri, Standard]

“The criminal justice system will be reserved for criminals. It will never again be used for political reasons. It will never again be used for those who have a contrary opinion to ours,” said Ruto.

It is against this background that senior police officers seeking to occupy the top offices in the Service have been silently campaigning for appointment. 

Among the senior police officers seen as potential candidates to take over from Mutyambai, should he be let go under the circumstances mentioned above, include Gabow, who is already exercising the powers of the IG in an acting capacity.

Gabow boasts of 34-year-experience as a police officer. He has risen through the ranks from a junior officer in the 1990s to the office of the DIG in charge of the AP service. He was the head of security at the Bomas of Kenya, the National Tallying Centre, during the August general elections.

Former Flying Squad boss Nyale Munga has also emerged as one of the front runners for the top position in the police force.  Sources told The Sunday Standard Nyale was also being considered as a possible replacement for Kinoti.

Nyale is currently the principal deputy to the IG at Jogoo House and is a career police officer who has risen through the ranks to Senior Assistant Inspector General of Police. Another senior officer seen as a possible candidate for this office is Douglas Kanja, the current General Service Unit commandant. Kanja was promoted to the position of GSU boss four years ago.

Prior to his appointment, Kanja served as the Kilifi County police boss. He has close to 35 years’ of service in the police.

Former Flying Squad boss Nyale Munga. [Collins Kweyu, Standard]

Former police spokesman Charles Owino is another candidate who is being considered for the position of IG or DIG. He returned to the police service in June after he resigned to contest for a political position in his home county.

Rashid Yakub, who is the current National Police Service Director of Operations, is has also been touted as a possible candidate to become DIG in charge of Administration Police in the case of sweeping changes and promotions. Yakub spent much of his career life as a police officer in the service. 

Former Nairobi Area head of DCI Nicholas Kamwende is also said to be among those being considered. The University of Nairobi graduate is the Head of Forensics at the DCI headquarters, and has held other senior positions, including head of the Anti-Terrorism Police.