Jitters as Kenya's Haiti mission kicks off

Police parade. [File, Standard]

The first batch of Kenyan police officers departed for the troubled nation of Haiti on an UN-backed mission on Monday amid silent squabbles rocking the deployment.

President William Ruto said Kenya has solid credentials in peace-making and conflict resolution globally.

“Our police officers’ presence in Haiti will give relief to the men, women and children whose lives have been broken by gang violence. We will work with the international community to bring lasting stability in Haiti,” he said during the pre-deployment briefing held at the Administration Police Training College, Embakasi,” he said.

There, however, been a standoff reportedly pitting junior officers against their seniors over the vexing subject of allowances, an issue that has reportedly been long-standing, albeit spoken silently.

Kenyan officials have been reluctant to discuss details of the deployment.

On Monday, top police chiefs in the country were embroiled in a meeting at the Embakasi AP training college over the standoff after some junior officers reportedly raised the matter.

The officers had initially been promised Sh100,000 before departure, but this has been scaled down.

“This is not what they promised us. They are giving us only Sh20,000 to take care of our shopping before departure. Surely, what can it buy? Does it mean that we are leaving our families empty-handed?” posed one of the officers set to travel on the mission and who requested anonymity.

Efforts to reach the National Police Service spokesperson Dr Resila Onyango for comment went futile. 

This is in contrast to their senior counterparts, who are reportedly going to enjoy huge perks and allowances.

Deputy Inspector General (DIG) of Police Noor Gabow will be the overall head of the Haiti deployment. Mr. Gabow, who will coordinate the mission from both Nairobi and Washington, will have all his travel and accommodation expenses paid for, including a monthly allowance of close to Sh1.5 million.

Mr. Samuel Chebet will command officers from the General Service Unit (GSU), while Geoffrey Otunge, the Director of Operations at the AP headquarters, will command the Administration Police (AP).

Specialized units under the AP that will take part in the deployment include the Rapid Deployment Unit (RDU), Anti-Stock Theft Unit (ASTU), and the Border Patrol Unit (BPU).

Both Mr. Chebet and Mr. Otunge will also enjoy huge perks, including an allowance of close to Sh1 million.

Further, it is emerging that the junior officers have yet to be guaranteed life insurance despite embarking on a risky mission outside their jurisdiction.

“We have been training for the last few weeks, but no one is telling us anything regarding this subject. I honestly feel a bit demoralized, but we signed up for this already,” stated an officer in the deployment who sought anonymity.

According to the officer, the only commitment they have been given is that each officer, in addition to their normal salaries back home, which will still be paid, will receive a monthly allowance of between Sh150,000 and Sh200,000 for the lowest ranking officers.

The officers are being paid in Kenyan and UN terms.

Security analyst George Musamali has expressed disappointment over the state of affairs and general preparedness.

“When you embark on a mission of this nature, preparation is non-negotiable,” stated Musamali. He added, “It is unheard of; how do you send an officer overseas without life insurance? This is a life-and-death kind of mission. Let’s face it, not everyone will come out alive, and we have to be aware of this fact. You must provide insurance!”