As the Kenyan constitutional referendum approaches, most other aspects of the “reform agenda”, in particular accountability for wrongdoing in the last election, remain stymied. The Internal Security portfolio has passed from John “Rattle the Snake” Michuki, who continues in Cabinet as a key insider, to George Saitoti, another of those who seems a conspicuously odd choice of partners for anyone promoting reform in the security services.
Nairobi — GOVERNMENT is about to dismiss a key potential witness for the International Criminal Court.
It has written to Oku Kaunya to show cause why he should not be fired as Nyanza Deputy Provincial Commissioner.
In December 2007 he was the Deputy Commandant of the Administration Police and Commandant of the AP Training College in Embakasi. He had originally been scheduled to take over from AP Commandant Kinuthia Mbugua in 2008.
It has been alleged that the Administration Police was partly responsible for the mayhem that followed the December 2007 elections.
Kaunya left Kenya in April this year and has not returned. It has been rumoured that he will be a key witness for ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo.
Government has taken Kaunya’s absence from work as desertion from duty which, according to the Civil Service regulations, is punishable by summary dismissal.
Sources in the Office of the President, to whom the Provincial Administration answers, told the Star that the letter was written in mid-June and sent through the Post Office.
Internal Security assistant minister Orwa Ojodeh confirmed yesterday that Kaunya had deserted duty and clarified that any communication sent to him was in line with government policy.
“If government officers desert duty as he did, then they have to give an explanation,” said Ojodeh.
The minister however said he could not confirm whether government had formally written Kaunya.
After receiving death threats from unknown people, Kaunya slipped out of Kenya in April claiming he needed medical treatment for a kidney problem. His whereabouts remain unknown but he is believed to be in Europe.
He may turn out to be a key witness should the International Criminal Court try the perpetrators of the post-election violence.
Kaunya headed the AP Training College which, according to the Waki Report, was a central link in the disruption of the December 2007 election.
The Waki Report said 1,600 officers were sent to the college for “special training” so they could act as election agents for the PNU.
“All officers deployed were dressed in plainclothes, easily identified as they were not from the local community and travelled in large groups by more than 30 chartered buses,” the report said.
“In addition, they received Sh21,000 each for their duties. The entire exercise was called off after some officers were killed and many more injured by citizens,” the Waki Report concluded.
Investigators from the office of ICC prosecutor Ocampo have been in Kenya and they are expected to finalise their investigations in October before Ocampo can ask for the ICC to issue arrest warrants for the key suspects.
As many as 20 witnesses whose testimony is considered crucial have been placed under protection. Several have been flown out of Kenya while others are being protected in safe houses in Kenya.
Yesterday Kaunya’s wife Millicent said the government was aware of her husband’s continued stay abroad and that she had not received any communication about his employment status.
“I have not heard anything so far but he (Kaunya) is out and the government knows why,” said the wife without revealing further details.
Ajaa Olubayi, Kaunya’s lawyer, said he last spoke with his client two months ago.
“I haven’t spoken with him for quite some time and I would not be in a position to say whether he has been asked to explain his absence from work,” said Ajaa
In April Kaunya’s wife said her husband had been feeling unwell and travelled to Germany for treatment from where he was to proceed to see their daughter in the USA.
In January 2004, while he was the Uasin Gishu DC, Kaunya called for the abolition of the Administration Police and the Provincial Administration.
He was supporting those delegates to the National Constitution Conference who wanted the Provincial Administration removed from the Draft Constitution that was finally defeated in the 2005 referendum.
Kaunya’s comments were surprising to the AP command, especially Commandant Kinuthia Mbugua who had waged a spirited battle to have the force retained.
In 2007 Kaunya was promoted to head the Administration Police Training College, a post that put him second only to Mbugua in the AP chain of command.
However in June 2008 Mbugua interdicted Kaunya for putting on the rank insignia of the AP Commandant, apparently in preparation for the departure of Mbugua.
He eventually returned to his post in December 2008 but that did not end his tribulations.
Seemingly to ensure he did not testify to the Waki Commission in early 2009, Kaunya was sent for an impromptu “holiday” in Thailand.
When he returned, he was given a scholarship to the Karen-based National Defence College from which he graduated last December.
Sure, we can hope for responsible behavior by the political powers that be in Kenya in the referendum–but to expect it under the circumstances would certainly be foolish.
Here is the link to “Divide and Rule: State-Sponsored Ethnic Violence in Kenya” by Human Rights Watch from 1993, featuring discussion of then-Vice President Saitoti, who was given the Internal Security portfolio by Kibaki in January 2008, during the post-election violence and before the mediation deal ushering in “the reform agenda”.