IG Japhet Koome: Why we slashed Uhuru and Matiang'i's security

Inspector-General of Police Japhet Koome. [File, Standard]

The Inspector-General of Police Japhet Koome said on Friday that the National Police Service scaled down former President Uhuru Kenyatta's security detail to allow for efficient use of officers.

Addressing journalists in Mombasa on Friday, February 3, the IG also said the move was to align the command structure at the Presidential Escort Unit.

According to Koome, until recently, the security team of Uhuru Kenyatta was still being led by an officer in the rank of Assistant Inspector-General of Police, who is ideally in charge of the entire Presidential Escort Unit.

After President William Ruto was sworn into office on September 13, 2022, he was assigned an Assistant Inspector-General of Police to lead his Presidential Escort team.

Koome says at every given time, there can only be one Assistant Inspector-General of Police who leads the Presidential Escort Unit that provides security to the incumbent president, his or her deputy and former presidents and deputy presidents.

With the Ruto-Uhuru situation, Koome said, there were two Assistant Inspectors-General of Police, under the Presidential Escort Unit, complicating the chain of command in the Police Service.

"[In the National Police Service command structure], we have the IG at the top, below him are the Deputy IGs and the DCI Director; under the DIGs, we have the Senior Assistant Inspectors-General and their Assistant Inspectors-General.

"All regional commands (formerly provinces) are headed by Assistant Inspectors-General. Formation commands are headed by Assistant Inspectors-General. Among the formations, is the Presidential Escort Unit, which is headed by an Assistant Inspector-General. Under the Presidential Escort Unit, we have the Office of the President, Office of the Deputy President and Office of the Retired President(s)," he said.

Koome said the senior-most officer, drawn from the Presidential Escort Unit, who was guarding Uhuru was an Assistant Inspector-General of Police, same with the one currently guarding President Ruto.

"So, how do you expect an Assistant Inspector-General of Police to report to another Assistant Inspector-General?" he posed.

Koome said he was thus left with no other choice but to recall the Assistant Inspector-General of Police assigned to Uhuru so that there can be a clear command structure in the Presidential Escort Unit.

"I have recalled him so that he can be given responsibilities commensurate with his rank," he said, dismissing speculation that he could have been asked by President Ruto to reduce Uhuru's security detail after the former Head of State on January 31 indirectly told Ruto that he's "talking too much yet there's nothing to show for it".

"There is no politics in the decisions we have made. The Inspector-General would not allow himself to be drawn into politics," said Koome.

At the same time, the Police IG said the security personnel of former Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiangi and ex-Interior Principal Secretary Karanja Kibicho have been reduced because they are no longer actively involved in government operations.

"Do you give a retired CS the same security as the current CS serving in the government of the day? This CS or PS in active duty, who regularly has to be in the office by 6am, and sometimes has to leave the office by 10pm, deserves a better-equipped security detail," said Koome.

The IG, however, did not reveal the number of police officers removed from Uhuru, Matiang'i and Kibicho's security teams.

Asked whether the offices of former first ladies, Mama Ngina Kenyatta and Margaret Kenyatta, were also affected in the rationalisation, Koome said: "The former First Lady of Kenya has security; we secure her premises. Even our two late presidents have security; we secure their premises. We respect those offices."

Reports indicate that police officers in Uhuru's security team have been reduced from 96 to 25.

The Presidential Retirement Benefits Act says a former Head of State is entitled to at most six personal bodyguards, and security at his residences.

Article 151 of the Constitution protects the retired president from being denied of his retirement benefits.

Section 3 of the Article says: "The retirement benefits payable to a former President and a former Deputy President, the facilities available to and the privileges enjoyed by them, shall not be varied to their disadvantage during their lifetime."