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Why Annan security has been tightened

By | October 7th 2009

By Cyrus Ombati

Chief Mediator Kofi Annan came back at a critical stage in the reform process but with unprecedented heavy security detail around him.

Insiders say this has been prompted by the former UN Secretary General’s unrelenting push for punishment of suspected perpetrators of post-election violence, and conclusion of reforms in the next one year to 18 months.

Annan’s position, it is believed, could have been made more precarious, especially to ‘dangerous elements’, from when he handed over the secret envelope containing names of suspected masterminds of last year’s mayhem to the International Criminal Court Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo.

Kofi Annan: Since his arrival at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport on Sunday evening, Annan has been in the company of up to 12 police officers at any given time — all drawn from Police headquarters, Diplomatic Police, and UN office in Nairobi. Photo: Standard/File

Unlike previous visits when Annan even strolled the streets of Nairobi with skeletal security detail, this time he is a heavily guarded man — with a siren and roar of escort cars announcing his arrival.

Since his arrival at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport on Sunday evening, Annan has been in the company of up to 12 police officers at any given time — all drawn from Police headquarters, Diplomatic Police, and UN office in Nairobi.

He has been assigned a team of uniformed and plainclothes officer trailing his movements to keep vigil at all times, in a manner that has raised curiosity.

While standard procedures for UN emissaries, and the threat of terrorism and international politics of rivalry dictate vigilance for top officials, security has clearly been beefed up for the mediator operating under the auspices of the African Union.

Those believed to be in the list Annan handed over to Ocampo, include business and political elite who may want to frustrate his efforts to haul them before the international court for trial.

Similarly, anyone out to put the Grand Coalition Government in trouble could pull the trigger in the hope it would be blamed for it.

Chances are also not been taken on his life given his sensitive position, his links with the international community, especially the US, which has myriad enemies.

This is made more worrying by the proximity of lawless Somalia to Kenya and the perception it is the new haven of terrorists.

In any case Kenya has suffered two terrorist attacks, one of which destroyed the US embassy in Nairobi in 1998. In both cases, some of the suspects fled to Somalia.

Intelligence sources indicated that getting Annan out of the way would be an attractive option for those who know they could be targeted when the ICC moves in to investigate, as he has come to represent the face of reforms in Kenya.

And coming only weeks before Ocampo’s own visit to meet President Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga, Annan is seen as the most potent threat to some powerful individuals bent on forestalling their possible prosecution.

Sources said intelligence officials felt that Annan was coming at a time the deadline for the working timetable of the International Criminal Court chief prosecutor had lapsed, opening the way for The Hague to take over.

Annan had handed over the list of those who may be indicted by the ICC last July to Ocampo. The list contains names of some prominent local politicians, including Cabinet ministers, top civil servants as post-election violence suspects.

"There is a general feeling that Annan is coming here to pave the way for Ocampo, who is expected at the end of the month to take over his cases," said a top security official, who is familiar with the intelligence brief behind Annan’s security.

"It was prudent that such measures are taken to ensure his safety at all times while he is here. None would want to see something bad happen to him," said the official.

It is likely that after Annan and Ocampo’s visit, ICC may issue a shocking statement that will touch on political careers of many.

Moreover, the proposed reforms in key sectors as the electoral body would ensure level-playing ground that some politicians may be opposed to, and would prefer the Kibaki succession is waged in the existing skewed framework.

Diplomatic and intelligence sources intimated that implicated individuals in Government may be asked to step aside to pave the way for reforms, and the implementation of Agenda 4, further upping the stakes that necessitate enhanced security.

Pushing for reforms

There was also the notion that anti-reformists, or those who have been in the forefront claiming the reform agenda is on course and in schedule were not happy with Annan’s coming.

"You cannot take chances when such a man is coming at a time some people’s jobs are at risk," added our impeccable source.

Annan is here to push for various reforms in the Judiciary, police and the Constitution that will, in the end, see a number of top Government officials lose their jobs.

The head of the team guarding Annan is a superintendent of Police Dominic Kisavi from the Police headquarters’ operations department.

His detail is only comparable to that of the Prime Minister Raila Odinga and Vice-President Kalonzo Musyoka’s who have hi-tech communication gadgets.

Like the two, Annan enjoys an escort team with blaring sirens to clear his way, and a team of armed officers riding in a Land Cruiser

"They don’t use walkie-talkies as it has been in the past. They were supplied these equipment by the UN to ease his movements while here," said a senior security official who sought anonymity, because of the sensitivity of the issue.

In addition, since his arrival Annan has been using private Mercedes Benz cars, with local registration numbers. He previously rode in a Government car.

At Serena Hotel, security agents have been using sniffer dogs to check vehicles at a barrier before they are let in. Only security vehicles and those of the hotel dropping guests are allowed near the entrance.

Tight security

Security agents have been vigilant every step of the way. This began with the booking of his suit at Serena Hotel by officials from the Kenya National Dialogue and Reconciliation Monitoring team. Several armed GSU officers were positioned at strategic positions at JKIA during his arrival on Sunday.

According to insiders, this was aimed at ensuring his room was not bugged. Last year, there were claims Government agents had bugged his room to monitor his communication with the international community on the development of the talks.

"This time the security is tight and is being done by his people who booked the rooms and drew out his itinerary. I think they do not want to make any blunder," said another senior officer.

Mr. Robert Watkinson of Portland International Affairs, Annan’s public relations agents, said he could not give the comparison between Annan’s security now and the last time he was here.

Speaking to The Standard, he said: "I’m afraid that, for the obvious reasons, I simply cannot comment on the security arrangements around Mr Annan’s visit to Nairobi and how they relate to previous visits to Kenya."

Police spokesman Eric Kiraithe downplayed the heightened security and said it is the responsibility of the State to ensure guests and the citizens stay safe.

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