Mpeketoni, Kenya: A top cop who was interdicted for failing to stop the Mpeketoni killings has spoken out for the first time, just days after an investigative report revealed he was frustrated by his bosses, his orders were disobeyed, and he was pulled out of an active operation and sent home.
Leonard Omollo, who was the County Commander for the Kenya Police in Lamu County, told The Standard on Sunday about the humiliating phone call from his daughter telling him his 33-year career was no more.
“It was embarrassing. My interdiction was announced in the media, even before I got the letter,” said Omollo, as he responded to queries on the report by the Independent Policing Oversight Authority (IPOA).
The senior police officer, whose official rank was Assistant Commissioner of Police, does not know when he will return to work because he was told to stay away from police headquarters “until investigations are complete.” All he is left with to show for the government’s gratitude is a national honour awarded to him on Jamhuri Day last December.
“President Uhuru Kenyatta awarded me the Order of the Grand Warrior for stopping the killings in Tana River. If I had prior warning, the Mpeketoni attack would not have happened. But I did not have any information about a pending attack,” said Omollo, whose station was in Lamu Island. He believes he is a victim of power politics at the county level because he was the only top cop who was interdicted over the failure to deal with the heavily armed gangsters.
He says the decision was unfair. The County Commissioner, his deputy, the county AP commander and the intelligence boss, all of whom sit in the county security committee, are all on duty.
“Why was I the only one picked?” he posed. The IPOA report records Omollo’s predicament and notes he had a hard time mobilising police officers to deal with attackers. IPOA also decried the “breakdown in command structure” because even though all police officers take orders from the Inspector General, the units on the ground only act on orders from their bosses.
“This contributed to a slow response and disjointed operations. Kenya Police commanders lamented that they cannot directly issue operational orders to officers from the Administration Police Service and specialised units such as the the General Service Unit (GSU). These units have to obtain approval from their national headquarters before embarking on any operation,” the report added.
The report notes that when the GSU and AP bosses were asked to deploy, they declined, fearing an ambush similar to the Baragoi massacre in Samburu County, where over 40 police officers were ambushed and killed by bandits.
A day after the initial attacks in Mpeketoni, Robert Kitur, the then acting regional coordinator, and Henry Ondieki, the regional criminal investigation officer, ordered Omollo to prepare an “operation order” on how to deal with the attackers and hand it in by 7am the following day.
That was on June 16 at about 6pm.
The IPOA report quotes a confidential source which says Omollo had to go back to Lamu to prepare the strategy “after allocating zones to senior officers in the county.”