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Hidden bombs in picking Boinett successor

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Intense lobbying to replace outgoing Inspector General of Police (IG) Joseph Boinett who has served his four-year non-renewable term is at its crescendo with top National Police Service (NPS) operatives and other security agencies jostling to take over.

Director of Criminal Investigations (DCI) George Kinoti, Deputy IG in charge of the Administration Police Noor Gabow, Deputy IG in charge of the Kenya Police Edward Mbugua, NPS spokesperson Charles Owino and Kenyan envoy to Brazil Isaac Ochieng are believed to be front-runners.

General Service Unit (GSU) commandant Douglas Kanja who was highly praised for how he handled the DusitD2 terror attack and Police Training College commandant King’ori Mwangi are also in the fray to succeed their boss.

Mr Boinett who was sworn in on March 11, 2015, was tapped from the National Intelligence Service (NIS) to steady the ship at a time the country was facing persistent terrorist attacks that his predecessor David Kimaiyo had failed to counter. At the time Boinett was being appointed, Deputy President Dr William Ruto’s now defunct United Republican Party (URP) wing of the ruling Jubilee Party wielded immense power in government.

President Uhuru Kenyatta ceded to URP’s demands to replace Kimaiyo with another member of the Kalenjin community. Coincidentally both Boinett and Kimaiyo hail from Elgeyo Marakwet County.

Security analysts say lapses during President Kenyatta’s first term, under Kimaiyo, were as a result of poor coordination between NIS and the police.

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“What was happening is that there were a lot of gaps which had to be filled and the best way to do that was to appoint NIS guys to key positions to enhance the synergy between the security agencies,” says Mr George Musamali, a security consultant based in Nairobi. “That is why the president found himself turning to NIS in search of guys who can get the job done.”

He said the President’s preference for NIS operatives could be linked to integrity. “Given the sensitivity of working at NIS, most of the officers there are highly vetted and it is very unlikely to come across a senior intelligence operative with integrity issues. If the president does not pluck someone from NIS he will do it from the military because he knows he can trust people from the two agencies,” Mr Musamali said in an interview with Business Today.

Search for the new IG

The security expert says the IG position requires a manager who will delegate most of the operational duties to the deputy IGs and concentrate on the administrative issues. “It is as simple as that, if we can get an IG who can streamline administrative issues, the president will have found the right man,” said Mr Musamali.

General Service Unit (GSU) commandant Douglas Kanja who was highly praised for how he handled the DusitD2 terror attack.

Asked whether he quantifies Boinett as a success, Mr Musamali said: “He has done well. On a scale of 10, I would award him a seven because of his achievements including the unification of NPS and because of how he handled welfare matters in the service.”

He, however, says that extrajudicial killings  committed under his watch are a blot in his record.

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When Uhuru was appointing Boinett, inter-party politics was a huge factor.

That was then. This time round, the president has already exerted his authority as leader of government. His recent appointments to key government positions show that he is prioritizing law and order and a multi-agency approach to deal with all challenges ranging from corruption, terrorism and public order.

DP Ruto has recently differed with Haji and Kinoti over the handling of the Ksh63 billion dams scandal

Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Noordin Haji, Ethics and Anti-Corruption (EACC) chief executive Twalib Mbarak were headhunted from NIS with President Kenyatta showing increased appetite for the spying lot. The new IG will be expected to read from the same script as Kinoti, Haji, Twalib and NIS boss Philip Kameru.

There is also the issue of succession politics. The IG position is key as it requires someone with the grit and guile to guide the country through crucial moments and at the same time maintain loyalty to the president.

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Conversely, 2022 politics is likely to hold sway. DP Ruto has recently differed with Haji and Kinoti over the handling of the Ksh63 billion Rift Valley dams scandal and is likely to lobby for one of his men to the key IG position. The next presidential election promises to be a high octane affair, the man in line will be required to deal with it carefully.

Ethnic arithmetic is also likely to be another factor while picking the next IG.

Uhuru recently nominated Eliud Kinuthia to replace Johnstone Kavuludi as National Police Service Commission (NSPC) chairperson, making it even harder for Kinoti, Mbugua, Kanja and Mwangi to ascend to the Vigilance House top seat as they all hail from Mt Kenya.

The police defender

Kenya’s envoy to Brazil Isaac Ochieng, a security operative turned diplomat, has been out of the country for a while and that is likely to count against him. Mr Owino’s credentials could be blotted by his fiery defence of the police during the 2017 presidential elections which put him on a collision course with opposition leaders. The police were accused of extra-judicial killings during the two fiercely contested presidential elections.

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