Sharp shooters picked to guard presidential candidates

The security of senior politicians and State officers is once again in sharp focus as the country’s security bosses grapple with enhanced safety of six presidential candidates and their running mates ahead of August 8 contest.

President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto, flag-bearers of the Jubilee Party, already enjoy the protection of the elite paramilitary officers attached to the Presidential Escort Unit. The main Opposition figures, Raila Odinga and Kalonzo Musyoka, also enjoy State protection by virtue of being retired Prime Minister and Vice President, respectively.

While Raila is normally assigned 12 bodyguards, six to accompany him and six to guard his residence, Kalonzo’s protection detail is classified and is drawn from the Presidential Escort Unit, as is the protection of retired Presidents and Vice Presidents.

However, for the remaining six candidates and their running mates, the National Police Service has released top police officers trained in VIP protection, including sharp shooters, and has given them modern equipment to ensure their charges are safe until the election results are announced and the winner declared.

Inspector General of Police Joseph Boinnet has also appointed senior police officers as “liaisons” with the different political parties participating in the elections to ensure peaceful campaigns.

Women candidates

The IG’s commitment dovetails with the remarks Interior Cabinet Secretary Joseph Nkaissery made this week that the State had already mapped out the country, identified hotspots and put in place adequate measures to ensure safety of candidates, voters and staff of the electoral commission.

Nkaissery also pledged protection for women candidates in the August 8 General Election.

“We have already identified 20 hotspots and are going to ensure women candidates in those counties get security,” he said on Tuesday.

While the true numbers of officers attached to the President and the Deputy President are classified for national security reasons – even though some reports quoting insiders in the National Police Service put the numbers at 250 police officers — we have established that all other politicians who have approached the police service for additional protection during the campaign period have been accorded additional security depending on what the authorities say is “risk and threat analysis”.

“All candidates are sufficiently protected. We have committed to provide full security not just to presidential candidates but to their teams as well. The officers are trained and equipped appropriately,” police spokesman George Kinoti told the Sunday Standard.

The idea for enhanced protection arises because according to the Constitution, there is a huge risk of the elections being postponed if a presidential candidate dies.

“A presidential election shall be cancelled and a new election held if—a candidate for election as President or Deputy President dies on or before the scheduled election date,” reads article 138(8)(b) of the Constitution.

The authorities want to make sure such an eventuality does not arise because of crime or violent attacks on political candidates.

“The IG told all aspirants to make their applications for provision or enhancement of security given that some already have security throughout by virtue of current or past offices they have held,” says Kinoti.

“It is however important to understand that any additional security detail must be based on risk and threat analysis, which must establish grounds for maintaining or enhancing security to a number equivalent to the perceived risk. Otherwise additional officers are available at the nearest police stations,” he added.

The assessment of the risk is usually done by the National Security Advisory Committee, which is chaired by the President’s Chief of Staff Joseph Kinyua and which reports to the National Security Council in which the President sits.

The policy on the deployment of bodyguards to State officers shows that at least 1,765 police officers have been deployed to guard the Speakers of Parliament, governors, MPs and independent officers. Each of the 18 Cabinet Secretaries has six bodyguards, two who accompany them, and four who guard their residences, but some in sensitive dockets such as the Interior Ministry have more.

As for the Principal Secretaries, the bodyguard tally is a total of 130 for the 26 of them. Senators have five bodyguards each, one with them and four guarding their residences, while MPs have one bodyguard each, but some, depending on their profile, have been assigned more bodyguards.