Exiting spy man Maj-Gen (rtd) Philip Kameru’s failure to tame Azimio protests and his designate-successor Noordin Haji’s success in striking a rapport between government and opposition informed the changes at the secret service agency.
While Kameru’s exit from the corner office at the NIS headquarters in Ruaraka came as a surprise to many Kenyans, it was not lost to top bureaucrats within the power circles of President Willliam Ruto who had seen it coming.
As early as April, Haji, a scion of one of Kenya’s most respected provincial administrators Yusuf Haji, had been picked as Kameru’s successor.
At the time, the power men around Ruto were happy that the Director of Public Prosecutions had succeeded where Kameru had failed; to get Azimio leadership led by Raila Odinga to cease their weekly demos.
President Ruto is understood to have assigned the task of stopping the demos to the intelligence chief and his agency, but it was proving a hard nut to crack. The opposition was both slippery and resolute in its resolve to continue the demos.
With Nairobi businesses counting losses, and the capacity of the demos to ride on a popular wave of discontent over the cost of living rising, it was increasingly becoming clear that something had to be done.
It was then that a team of five men including Haji, managed to convince the opposition leaders to call off the protest and dialogue with the government. This major turn of events saw Haji further warm himself into the president’s heart, according to multiple sources familiar with the matter.
Former Kakamega Governor Wycliffe Oparanya in an interview with a local media house lifted the lid on the behind-the-scenes activities that led to the agreement for talks between the Government and opposition.
In the interview, Haji’s name came up as one of the lead negotiators who represented the president in the talks but he is reported to have denied being part of the team.
On Tuesday, a statement from the head of public Service Felix Koskei confirmed that Ruto had picked Haji as the next NIS boss. If confirmed by Parliament, Hajji will take over from Kameru who is leaving office 16 months ahead of his exit date.
“It is notified that His Excellency the President has, in accordance with Section 7(1) of the National Intelligence Service Act, nominated Mr Noordin Haji for appointment as the director-general of the National Intelligence Service,” a statement by the Public Service boss read in part.
Kameru’s term as the NIS boss was supposed to end in September 2024.
Kameru was first appointed NIS boss on September 11, 2014, a month after the resignation of former air- force trained Michael Gichangi who left office citing personal reasons.
Multiple sources familiar with the state maneuvers told The Standard that Kameru, a trusted man who served in the Uhuru Kenyatta regime was persuaded by the President, to leave office to allow him to fully reconstitute his government.
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“He (Kameru) had an excellent relationship with the President. It’s just that the President has to put people in office that will help him deliver,“ said a senior government official familiar with the matter.
And to further illustrate the goodwill, the sources said, the government has agreed to compensate Kameru to the date of his term in office. He had been serving his second term as the spy agency boss after the ex-president renewed his tenure in office for another five years to enable him to oversee the August 8, 2022, general elections.
The announcement by the head of Public Service that Kameru would be leaving office came as a surprise to common mwananchi coming days after defence CS appeared to publicly praise the spy boss for supporting the current Ruto.
Other sources have attributed the exit of Kameru to pressure from some individuals within the inner circle of the President who was uncomfortable working with him.
He was the last man standing among the top security men appointed by retired President Kenyatta, who transited into the new government. Ruto was sworn in amid a cloud of suspicion that the country’s top security organ had attempted to invalidate his victory by exerting pressure on the electoral commission to tinker with results.
He remained in office even after his peers were shown the door partly because of the loyalty he had shown to the current President.