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That tea girl or watchman in the office could be a detective

By Jacob Ngetich | April 8th 2018

NSIS increases detectives in public and private sphere as more recruits join agency

The cleaner in your office who comes to clear tea cups from the boardroom table when you are in a meeting or the watchman you send to buy you snacks could actually be spying on you.

There are about 10,000 National Security Intelligence Service (NSIS) detectives across the country who are not your high flying men in a tie or women in a skirt suit.

According to investigations by Sunday Standard, most public and private organisations around the country, have one or more spies working in the company. Few or no one in the organisation will know that what they do is just a side hustle.

In a whatsApp group, one member feeds relevant information to NSIS.

First established in 1952 by the British government to spy on the Mau Mau that had devastated white settlers, the spy agency has metermophosised into a professional group that not only operates in Kenya but also abroad.

Although the NSIS website proclaims there are no vacancies, it however seems to be looking for recruits with the statement, “we are keen to meet energetic and talented professionals who would like to join our team.”

A week ago, the spymaster recruited more than 2,000 agents who were graduates of the National Youth Service.

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Although NYS Director General Richard Ndubai declined to confirm if his ex-officers were being taken up as spies, he noted in an interview with Sunday Standard that more than 2,000 heeded the call to turn up after a memo was circulated across NYS units.

“They may not have reached 3,000 but those who came were picked and proceeded for training,” said Mr Ndubai.

The recruitment could push the numbers of the under cover officers to more than 10,000 in what according to one senior officer, will help the organisation enhance intelligence gathering.

In the NYS memo dated March 13 to the units welcoming the recruitment, Ndubai noted that the government agency targeted ex-officers aged between 40 and 45.

“A reputable Kenyan security agency wishes to recruit ex-NYS servicemen/ women who meet the requirements shown below,” said the memo dated March 13.

Paramilitary training

Women must not be pregnant during recruitment and entire period of training, the memo added.

“Candidates are advised to come with their personal effects because those who will succeed will directly proceed for training after the interview.”

In 2016, a secret intelligent report by NIS warned that NYS recruits if not accommodated into gainful employment could in future with their paramilitary training be a source of security concern.

The report noted that with joblessness and despondency, thousands of skilled NYS graduates their training could be targeted for recruitment by terror groups among other criminal gangs.

The enrollment could either have been in response to President Uhuru Kenyatta’s complaint in February of failure by the disciplined forces’ to recruit NYS servicemen and women.

“Am informed that only the National Police Service and the Prisons Service have since recruited a few officers from the NYS. I shall require a compliance update from all disciplined services following each intake,” said President Kenyatta.

This comes amid reports of heightened intelligence gathering in the country which some observers liken to the old days when spies lurked in every public and private sphere.

There are also reports that the Director General of NIS Major General Philip Kameru has become a frequent visitor to State House, where it is believed he briefs the president on the security matters.

President Kenyatta appears to have borrowed a lot from former President Moi who those in power claim

Notably, President Kenyatta has lately been a keen consumer of intelligence according to a source who sought anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter.

“President Kenyatta in his second term has changed and has most of his decisions informed by the intelligence information availed to his officer,” said the source close to state House.

Abridged version

An officer who also requested not to be named said that former President Kibaki was not a keen consumer of intelligence.

He said: “Former President Kibaki only got concrete and abridged version of the intelligence. People close to him however consumed the information and acted on it on his behalf.”

The case of President Kenyatta and that of his predecessor Kibaki, parallels that of the United States where unlike former President Barack Obama said to have been an avid consumer of intelligence, US head of state Donald Trump is said to despise lengthy intelligence reports.

Instead, Trump has insisted on short and very brief reports.

In 1998, a new Act of Parliament in Kenya established the National Intelligence Service (NIS) to replace the Directorate of Security Intelligence which at the time was known as “Special Branch”.

Another Act of Parliament in 2012 gave birth to NSIS that was initially domiciled at Nyati House before it moved offices near Windsor Club.

With the mandate to detect any potential threat to Kenya and taking steps to protect security interests whether political, military or economic in the country NIS operates in many cadres.

Before the president appoints one into office according to a source, NIS will run a thorough background check on him.

The spy agency pick officers from highly educated to lowly individuals depending on where one would work. The detectives prepare reports and send them sometimes on a daily basis. Some of the information form the report that is given to President Kenyatta.

It is however not clear how many of the officers are operating abroad and file their reports back home.

NIS is one of the organisations that are heavily funded and in just three months alone during the election period, they spend Sh3 billion according to 2018 Controller of Budget report.

This was on top of the Sh6.5 billion that they had been allocated for their operations.

According to a source at NIS, apart from recruitment which is normally secretive, a number of bright administration and regular police join the spy agency when they deem necessary.

The officer said so attractive is the agency that its the dream of many disciplined force members.


But, there have been cases where some have been approached and given private employment out of their regular jobs depending on the interest the spy agency has.

The Special Branch was first formed in 1952 by the British government under the police to spy on Mau Mau but it was in 1986 that it was transformed into the Directorate of Security Intelligence (DSI) under Wilson Boinnet.

Brig (rtd) Wilson Boinett who was appointed as NSIS Director in January 19,1999 and served for seven years and Maj-Gen Gichangi who joined the service on January 19, 2006 served under Kibaki.

Gichangi who resigned in August 2014 ‘on personal grounds’ after serving for eight years, was replace by Maj Gen Kameru who was Director of Kenya Defence Forces’ Military Intelligence.

President Kenyatta’s close working relationship with Kameru and Inspector General of Police Joseph Boinett has helped stem previous incidents of security lapses.

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