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Silent jitters as Kenya's police mission to Haiti kicks off

 Inspector General of Police Japhet Koome. [Elvis Ogina, Standard]

Hours before the first batch of Kenyan police officers depart for the troubled nation of Haiti on a UN-backed mission, silent squabbles are rocking the deployment.

The standoff reportedly pits junior officers against their seniors over the vexing subject of allowances, an issue that has reportedly been longstanding, 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 Ksh 100,000 before departure, but this has been scaled down.

“This is not what they promised us. They are giving us only Ksh 20,000 to take care of our shopping before departure. Surely, what can it buy? Does it mean that we are leaving our families empty-handed?” said 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 Ksh 1.5 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 Ksh 1 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 Ksh 150,000 and Ksh 200,000 for the lowest-ranking officers.

The officers are being paid in both 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.

“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!” observed Musamali.

According to Musamali, the immediate families of these officers ought to have been provided with psychosocial support.

Chris Otieno, a security consultant says insurance is critical but this might be the prerogative of the UN.

" This is very important for such a mission and we hope that it will be factored in due time," said Otieno.

An officer who asked his identity to be hidden told us:  “We only told our families that we have been selected for the mission, and that’s it. No one has made any endeavor to speak to our families and even explain to them the kind of mission that we are embarking on. Deep down, we know it’s not going to be easy for any of us,”

The first batch of 400 officers is set to depart the country later tonight.

Last week, a team of Haitian police commanders visited Nairobi ahead of the planned deployment.

The U.S. government had pledged to give Kenya $100 million (Ksh 14.7 billion) in support of the mission to Haiti.

Other countries that have committed to the Haiti mission include Chile, Jamaica, Grenada, Paraguay, Burundi, Chad, Nigeria, and Mauritius.

More than 2,500 people have been killed or injured across Haiti in the first three months of the year as gang violence continues to surge.

Last month, the controversial Haiti deployment was delayed by Kenyan officials due to what was described as unfinished preparations on the ground.

Reports indicated that conditions were not in place in the capital, Port-au-Prince, to receive the contingent of officers, including a base to host them.

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