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President Uhuru puts his faith in spies and military men :: Kenya

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Former military and intelligence chiefs are securing top jobs in strategic State institutions.

The decorated ex-soldiers and top spies are either beating rivals in competitive recruitment for posts that require advertisement or are handpicked by President Uhuru Kenyatta where he has the prerogative in appointments.

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Military discipline and the insight of intelligence officers are considered key assets for the respective jobs. There is also the view that for security-related positions and investigative agencies, these individuals are better suited as they can tap into vital networks.

The perception that these men are clean and disciplined has convinced President Kenyatta to put his trust in them as he banks his legacy on the war against corruption.

Further, commanders from the two agencies lobby to have one of their own lead the security dockets, which insiders claim have been abused in the past, thus exposing the country to danger.

At least 10 senior appointments under Uhuru have seen former military and intelligence men picked.

These include the Office of Public Prosecutions (ODPP), Immigration Services, the Kenya Maritime Authority (KMA), the Financial Reporting Centre (FRC), the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC), the Firearms Licencing Board, the Kenya Coast Guard Service, the Kenya Civil Aviation Authority (KCAA) and the Kenya Airports Authority (KAA).

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The trend began after the September 21, 2013, Westgate terror attack in which more than 70 people were killed.

Uhuru has since come up with a new agency – the Multi-Agency Taskforce (MAT) – formed to coordinate security and investigation issues targeting terrorism, general crime and corruption.

Members of the team include officials from the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI), NIS, FRC, EACC, ODPP, the Asset Recovery Agency (ARA) and the Attorney General.

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The MAT will now have at least four spies –  DPP Noordin Haji, FRC Director-General Saitoti Maika, NIS boss Philip Kameru and EACC chief executive officer nominee Twalib Mbarak. It will also incorporate DCI George Kinoti, a career detective.

A monitoring desk set up within NIS has given the nod to continue with the trend.

“Those who don’t deliver are immediately replaced. This is about service delivery and there is nothing like nepotism or favouritism,” said a senior official aware of the progress.

Another official said the military, which has in the recent past produced intelligence commanders, is keen to see its retired or serving commanders absorbed into public service.

“You find that a brigadier or colonel is retiring at a young age. Where do you want them to go with the massive experience they have? This has to change,” said one retired general who asked not to be named.

The candidates have even taken over positions traditionally reserved for police.

For instance, at the KAA, Brig (Rtd) George Kabugi was appointed as general manager security services – a position traditionally held by a senior police officer. Government Spokesman Eric Kiraithe was the last officer who held the crucial job.

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In October, another military man, Maj (Rtd) George Nyamoko, was picked as KMA director general.

The man who had served in the Kenya Navy for 20 years replaced George Macgoye, who served as the acting director after the exit of Nancy Karigithu, now the principal secretary for maritime and shipping affairs.

The Firearms Licensing Board, which was reconstituted a week ago, saw career spy Charles Mwongera Mukindia appointed to head it. At the newly-formed Kenya Coast Guard Service, Brigadier Vincent Naisho Loonena was preferred over other agencies.

The nomination of Mr Mbarak – a military intelligence officer who also served in the NIS – as the EACC chief confirms the trend.

“Don’t be surprised to see more commanders from the services join the police,” said another official.

The EACC on Thursday submitted Mbarak’s name to Parliament for vetting and approval to succeed Halakhe Waqo, whose term has ended. Mbarak beat 13 other candidates in the race to head the agency.

Mr Haji served as the deputy director of counter-organised crime at the NIS. In December 2014, Uhuru appointed Joseph Boinnet, who had served as an assistant intelligence principal officer, as Inspector General of Police. He was a former police officer before he joined NIS.

The NIS director of counter-terrorism, Alexander Muteshi, was last July appointed as the director of Immigration Services. He succeeded another military man, Maj Gen (Rtd) Gordon Kihalangwa, who was appointed principal secretary in the Department of Immigration.

This was made possible after commanders from the two agencies convinced the authorities that the police could not deliver, insiders claimed.

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At the KCAA is Capt Gilbert Kibe, while FRC’s Saitoti Maika began his career in the military before joining NIS.

Others named so far include National Transport and Safety Authority Chairman Lt Gen (Rtd) Jackson Waweru, National Social Security Fund Chairman Gen (Rtd) Julius Karangi, Kenya Railways Corporation Chairman Gen (Rtd) Jeremiah Kianga and Kenya Ports Authority Chairman Gen (Rtd) Joseph Kibwana.

A number of diplomatic missions have been taken over by officers from both the military and intelligence in a trend that is now becoming common. They include Maj Gen (Rtd) Joff Otieno (Egypt). 

On November 19, Uhuru said he had tasked Chief of Defence Forces Gen Samson Mwathethe to chair the Blue Economy Committee because he could not entrust the position to his Cabinet secretaries.

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