By Nyambega Gisesa and Hudson Gumbihi
NAIROBI, KENYA: In June 2011, the anti-graft watchdog obtained court orders to freeze accounts of a senior police officer, Kiambu Traffic Base Commander Gabriel Mbiti Mulei, suspected to have acquired wealth through corruption.
On January 15, a file was forwarded to the Director of Public Prosecutions with the recommendation that administrative action be taken against a Senior Police Officer based at Malindi over allegations of taking bribes from matatu operators arrested for committing traffic offences.
In March, five police officers in Lamu reportedly accepted a bribe of Sh30,000 from a drug peddler and released him. Lamu West police boss Joseph Sigei launched investigations into the allegation.
However on Wednesday June 5, when Inspector-General of Police David Kimaiyo released the Kenya Police Service Comparative Crime Figures that cover the period as from January to May 2011, 2012 and 2013 there was something very strange about it — no police officer solicited or accepted a free gift or bribe in all those years.
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Not even the incidences at Kiambu, Malindi and Lamu police were cited in the report.
The same statistics also indicated that the crime has gone down by 10 per cent for the period January to May as compared with the similar period last year, despite arguably the feeling by a large section of Kenyans that crime across the country is almost at epidemic levels.
The report has not only put the Police Service on the spotlight, but also raised the pertinent question, who should police the police? And who will police reforms?
Would the same police force that gives itself a clean bill of health be trusted to reform itself? Do, they really even know they need reforms? As it seems now, the more the police force works to reform itself, the less the change we witness. Hopes of expectations of reforms in the police force seem to be growing slimmer and slimmer day by day.
Is the cold war between Inspector General David Kimaiyo and the chairman of the National Police Service Commission (NPSC) Johnstone Kavuludi a fabrication since reports show records are squeaky clean? Or is it that corruption, disregard of complaints and entrenched cartels are said to have conspired against the much needed police reforms.
The Standard on Sunday has established that the wrangles that have now spilled into the public domain started as soon as Kimaiyo was sworn into office.
Junior and senior police officers are said to have taken sides between their new commander and the Kavuludi team.
Those in support of Kavuludi are calling for full-scale reforms that encompass the power to employ, transfer, promote and sack police officers should remain with the Commission.
They also want their seniors to be more progressive in thinking and to have at least a university education as one of the minimum qualifications.
However, those supporting Kimaiyo hold the view that experience should be a factor in the promotion of senior officers and that a university education should not be used to shear away prospects for those holding senior positions.
The reform agenda, especially a university degree requirement, has already cost the careers of some senior police officers as early from as in January this year when the old guard started pushing for those with such requirement to “get out of the line.”
Good examples include that of degree holders Francis Munyambu, former Central PPO, and Philip Tuimur, former North Eastern PPO, who were transferred to the Police Headquarters in January. You will find them roaming the corridors of Vigilance House without any specific duty to carry out.
Former Nyanza Deputy PPO Larry Kyeng took over Munyambu’s position while former Director of Personnel Charlton Mureithi replaced Tuimur. Kyeng and Mureithi are not degree holders.
There was further acrimony on May 17, when National Police Service Commission advertised 94 positions of County Commissioners who will hold the rank of Assistant Inspector-General but rescinded on some of the requirements later.
According to the advertisement, County Commanders applicant requirements included holding a minimum of Bachelor’s degrees.
Although Kimaiyo and Kavuludi later on clarified that having a university degree was just an added advantage, those without the papers feel that such a requirement might make trimming the list of applicants easier, and to their disadvantage.
If a university degree might be used to trim down on the number of applicants, all eight provincial police officers may be forced to retire or take up new redesignated roles since they lack the minimum academic requirement.
The officers – Benson Kibui, Aggrey Adoli, Levi Kyule Mwandi, Joseph ole Tito, Alfred Ombaba, Charlton Mureithi, Kyeng and Marcus Ocholla — who have been serving under the rank of deputy commissioner of police, a rank that has been abolished.
Other senior officers who are not degree holders include former director of complaints Leo Nyongesa, community policing boss Beatrice Nduta, GSU Commandant William Sayia, police reforms director Jonathan Koskei, Kenya Police College Commandant, Peter Kavila and head of police operations John Njue Njagi.
Hirings and firing
The Standard on Sunday established that Mr Kimaiyo and a group of senior officers want the powers to remain with the IG so that he can use his position of hiring and firing to protect the old guard, who apparently make make majority of the provincial police bosses.
One of the victims of the powerplay is Charles Owino, whose role as police spokesperson has been taken over by former Administration Police Spokesperson Masoud Mwinyi.
On Thursday, Kimaiyo said he had appointed Nyongesa as the director of the powerful Internal Affairs Unit, taking the position that the NPSC had appointed Owino. Kimaiyo opposed Mr Owino’s appointment saying that he was not consulted.
Nyongesa was transferred from North Eastern Province to police operations after failing to control rising insecurity. He now has been tasked with the bigger responsibility at Internal Affairs.
Sources said that poor relations between Owino and Kimaiyo developed after the Spokesperson declined to hold a press conference ordering CORD supporters to vacate the city centre during the petition at the Supreme Court.
It is said that Mr Owino told his boss that the Constitution was very clear on the Bill of Rights that allowed demonstrations and picketing in an orderly manner.
Owino’s stand is said to have won him the admiration of colleagues and at the same time the wrath and anger of his boss.
Kimaiyo’s breaking up the demonstrations also created unease in the police force when hundreds of police officers used force to break up the Occupy Parlaiment Protests outside against MPs’ efforts to increase their pay.
“Where instances of waywardness are manifest, the police will be compelled to take all necessary actions and steps to restore order and normalcy,” Mwinyi answered when we pressed him to state the number of police officers sent to stop the protests against those deployed to control unexplained killings in Bungoma and Busia.
There are also unconfirmed reports that Kimaiyo’s two deputies Grace Kaindi and Samuel Arachi would prefer that he lets the command function be theirs.
It is also unclear what Kaindi and Arachi’s job description is though, on paper, they are supposed to be directly in charge of the two services, Kenya Police and Administration Police, respectively.
On Friday, a high-ranking police officer told The Standard on Sunday: “He should stop trying to lobby for amendments to the National Police Service Act”.
The Acts gives the Kavuludi team the upper hand in police recruitment, appointment, transfers, promotion and sackings.
Kavulundi insists that the commission is superior to the NPS.
According to Captain (rtd) Simiyu Werunga who was part of the process of drafting the Act, transfer of powers to the commission was meant to check police excesses.
“What Kimaiyo is trying to do is to take us back to the old days yet what we did follow studies from other countries having similar police structures,” Werunga said.
However, Kimaiyo has the support of Commission for the Implementation of the Constitution chairman, Charles Nyachae and a section of MPs.