Peaceful marchers against alleged corruption at “partly private” power monopoly (#SwitchOffKPLC) are teargassed by Kenya Police Service . . .

The #SwitchOffKPLC march in Nairobi against alleged abusive and corrupt practices toward consumers by KPLC, Kenya Power and Light Company, a partly privatized monopoly, was hit by tear gas from police.

Who has the teargas tender for the Kenya Police Service? In times of violence and times of peace, the Kenyan police are always there to teargas someone on behalf of some interest or another with access to the Kenyan State House.

Tear gas is not just for use against peaceful and lawful protests, like the #SwitchOffKPLC march today, but also celebrations that run afoul of State House sensibilities for some reason or another, as I so indelibly remember from February 28, 2008 when Kibaki and Raila signed the “peace deal” to end the challenges to Kibaki’s second term (in return for various commitments that were partially implemented over the years) and citizens celebrating the end of the Post Election Violence were gassed in what seems now like the a profoundly symbolic act. But today was more typical: citizens organize to call attention to public corruption issues, announce a march and notice the authorities as required, asking for security, Instead of being provided security by the Kenya Police Service, they get tear gassed.

I wrote about a parliamentary discussion touching on the question of whether the private shareholders of the partially privatized monopoly KPLC were helping themselves to free services from the taxpayers back in 2010. The latest scandals seem to go most especially to more direct forms of consumer ripoffs, but you can see the environment from the discussion:

Before new World Bank Loan announcement Kenyan Parliament Grills Asst Minister over issue of whether the gov’t is paying costs to the benefit of private shareholders of Kenya Power & Light

Eng. M.M. Mahamud: Mr. Speaker, Sir, the largest seven shareholders of KPLC are the
Kenya Government, which is represented by the Treasury; Barclays Bank of Kenya through various nominees accounts, the NSSF Board of Trustees, Stanbic nominees, the Kenya Commercial Bank, Jubilee Insurance and the NIC Services. As regards Transcentury, according to the books of accounts this year, the annual report of the financial statement for the year ended 30th June, 2009; it is listed as number 16 shareholder with 4.69 per cent. The highest share percentage is Kenya Government by 40.421 followed by Barclays Bank by 12.81 per cent and 23 per cent for other shareholders not listed in the accounts. But according to the report that I have
here, Transcentury only owns 4.69 per cent. I do not know about the other questions that Dr. Khalwale is talking about.

I will endeavor to learn more about the current KPLC shareholding structure, but last year it was reported that “Mama Ngina” Kenyatta had come into a few million shares (just over 1/1000 of the total).

According to the KPLC website, the Government of Kenya now owns 50.1, up from the 40.421 as of June 2009 testified to in Parliament in 2010.

“Cobra Squad” – a better way to fight crime?

Kenya: Police brutality, like other election violence, is used to rally political support as well as to suppress opposition

It is pollyannish not to appreciate that in a society as violent as Kenya’s, where violent crime and violent vigilanteism, along with police brutality, are features of everday life to be navigated by most Kenyans, the public reaction against or in favor of extra-legal violence by the police very much divides along political lines in accordance with who is delivering and who is receiving the violence.

It is the sort of thing that can be seen in the context of the height of the “civil rights movement” in the early 1960s in the American Deep South where I live.  Photographic and videographic images that shocked the rest of the United States and some of the rest of the world reflected police brutality under the command and for the purposes of political leaders who in some substantial part were playing for popular support among their own constituencies.  Not to argue that most white voters were necessarily in favor of particularly bad behavior by the police, but to note that popular support feeding political opportunism was part of the dynamic of repressive violence.

In this respect it has particularly saddened me to see Kenya led now by politicians who elevated themselves in the political ranks on the basis of their perceived reputations as champions of tribally organized violent politics after the failure of the 2007 vote count.

Why the U.S. got started training the Kenya Police Service: 1977 Embassy cable 

R 041148Z MAR 77
FM AMEMBASSY NAIROBI
TO SECSTATE WASHDC 6574
INFO DA WASHDC//DAMO-SSA//
CDRTRADOC FT MONROE VA//ATTNG-PRD-SA-T//
USCINCEUR VAIHINGEN GERMANY//ECJ4/7-SARA-T//
CDRUSA CRIME LAB FT GORDON GA

C O N F I D E N T I A L NAIROBI 2870 {declassified, released 2009}

E.O. 11652: GDS
TAGS: MASS, PINT, KE
SUBJECT: FIREARMS IDENTIFICATION TRAINING FOR KENYA POLICE
REF: (A) STATE 017363, (B) 76 NAIROBI 13349,(C) DSAA 4058/76 282216Z DEC 76

1. IN REPLY TO JUSTIFICATION REQUESTED IN REFTEL A, EMBASSY
SUBMITS FOLLOWING:

2. PURPOSE OF PROPOSED TRAINING:

A. ENABLE GOK POLICE PERSONNEL TO QUALIFY AS EXPERTS IN
COURT TESTIMONY REGARDING BALLISTICS AND FIREARMS EXAMINATION.

B. TO IDENTIFY WEAPONS USED IN CRIMINAL AND TERRORIST
ACTIVITY BY TYPE, MODEL AND INDIVIDUAL WEAPON USING SCIENTIFIC
TECHNIQUES FOR COMPARISON AND EVALUATION.

C. TO ESTABLISH FROM EXISTING EVIDENCE THE OWNERSHIP AND
ORIGIN OF THESE WEAPONS.

3. USEFULNESS TO GOK:

A. COUNTER-GUERRILLA AND BANDIT OPERATIONS. PRIMARILY
IN NORTHERN PROVINCES DIRECTED AGAINST INFILTRATION
OF SOMALI SHIFTA GUERRILLAS. THESE OPERATIONS TO DATE HAVE
BEEN CONDUCTED BY THE KENYAN ARMY AND THE KENYA POLICE,
PARA-MILITARY GENERAL SERVICES UNIT (GSU). THEY ARE CONDUCTED
AS POLICE OPERATIONS REQUIRING ALL UNITS INVOLVED
TO RESTRICT THEIR ACTIVITIES TO THOSE OF LAW ENFORCEMENT.
THE SERVICES OF A COMPETENT FIREARMS EXAMINER WOULD BE
EXTREMELY VALUABLE TO THE GOK FROM THE STANDPOINT OF INITIAL
IDENTIFICATION OF THE TYPE AND ORIGIN OF WEAPONS USED AND
ALSO AS AN EXPERT WITNESS AT SUBSEQUENT COURT PROCEEDINGS.

B. CONVENTIONAL CRIMINAL ACTIVITY, TERRORISM. GOK
SOURCES ESTIMATE THAT THE NUMBER OF CONVENTIONAL CRIMES
(MURDER, ROBBERY, ETC.) INVOLVING THE USE OF A FIREARM HAVE
INCREASED APPROXIMATELY 50 PERCENT IN THE LAST FIVE YEARS.
POACHING IN THE NATIONAL PARKS REMAINS A SERIOUS PROBLEM WITH
POSSIBLE LONG TERM DAMAGE TO THE TOURIST INDUSTRY. KENYA MUST BE
CONSIDERED AN AREA OF POSSIBLE TERRORIST ACTIVITY BECAUSE
OF THE POLITICAL ORIENTATION AND MILITANCY OF HER NEIGHBORS.
A TRAINED FIREARMS AND BALLISTICS EXPERT WOULD BE A KEY
PERSON IN THE INVESTIGATION AND PROSECUTION OF ANY CASES
INVOLVING THE ABOVE TYPE OF ACTIVITY.

4. AS MENTIONED REFTEL B, THE KENYA POLICE, IN ADDITION TO
THE ARMED FORCES WITH FORENSIC LABORATORY SERVICES. THE
KENYA POLICE HAVE ADVISED THAT THE INDIVIDUALS INVOLVED
IN PROPOSED TRAINING COULD BE SECONDED TO THE KENYA ARMY
IF NECESSARY TO OVERCOME OBJECTIONS RAISED IN REFTEL C.
THE KENYA POLICE IS UNDER THE DIRECT CONTROL OF THE OFFICE
OF THE PRESIDENT.

5. DIRECT USG INTERESTS: Continue reading

Thirty eight years after the U.S. started Kenya police training in 1977, yet another failure in Garissa University massacre

The trained elite forces of Kenya’s Recce Company Crisis Response Team of the Kenya Police Service’s paramilitary General Service Unit (GSU) do not lack for personal courage and technical competence, as they showed once again in dispatching the four terrorists who spent the day Thursday murdering Christian students at  Garissa University College after killing the two guards and seizing control of the campus.

Sadly, as we also saw in the Westgate tragedy, the top ranks of leadership in Kenya’s security apparatus lack the will and/or the focus that would be required to use such forces effectively to protect Kenya’s citizenry from even such small bands of terrorists.

The infuriatingly obtuse mediocrity of Kenya’s political elite was perhaps most conspicuously on display in Foreign Minister Amina Mohamed’s characterization of the police response to the university siege as “adequate” in her interview yesterday with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour, going so far as to conclude “we did all that we could do.”  While it is true that the Kenya Defense Forces did not intervene with “friendly fire” as at Westgate, the terrorists were left in control of the school for hours on end while the Recce Squad remained in Nairobi before finally departing by plane in the early afternoon, followed by two hours of briefings on the ground in Garissa before the successful assault.  Reporting in the Sunday Nation indicates that the Recce Company members, trained in the U.S. and Israel, are regularly being diverted to ordinary policing tasks in diverse locations and not maintained as intended on standby for the emergency Crisis Response Team at their Nairobi headquarters.

Surviving students reported being aware of their insecure environment long before the attack, which was preceded by specific warnings of attacks on university campuses, as well as the British and Australian warnings of threats which so angered President Kenyatta in the preceding days.  Most individual politicians in Nairobi have more security than this inviting cluster of “upcountry” Christian young people sitting in Garissa which has long experienced small scale church attacks and other terror incidents, as well as mass “security” repression on a periodic basis.

In an interview with the Daily Nation about the background of the middle class Kenyan among the terrorists, the assistant principal of the high school attended by the now notorious killer noted that student had finished at the school “way back in 2007 when radicalization was unheard of.”  “Terrorist was a gifted, obedient student

Even “way back in 2007” when I went to Garissa to train prospective parliamentary candidates the area was insecure enough that police escort was required from a checkpoint on the highway east of Mwingi in Eastern Province on into Garissa, crossing the Tana River into North Eastern Province.  It is hard for me to understand the idea that some grand foresight would be required to see the need for more security for this particular campus.  On its website, the University reports that it “benefits greatly from Garissa’s urban setting.  It feels closely tied to and responsible towards the city and county.  For its part it contributes to the cultural life of the city and region, and in all its activities pays regard to community and urban needs.”  The University came into being as the first full university in the old North Eastern Province in 2011 as an upgrade to an older Garissa Teacher Training College.  A noble initiative toward the crucial long term endeavor to begin the work of bringing this historically neglected region more fully into the Kenyan nation–one that made it an obvious target for Islamist extremists opposed to this endeavor.  And now shuttered indefinitely in the wake of the horrific mass executions.

Jeffrey Gettleman’s story in the New York Times “Shabaab Militants Learning to Kill on a Shoestring” identifies the extremist ideological counter-narrative. In claiming credit for the attack on one of the largest concentrations of non-Muslims in the area a Shabaab spokesman called the University part of a scheme by the Kenyan government to spread “their Christianity and infidelity” in a Muslim area that the Shabaab consider a “colony” under Christian control.

Nonetheless, Radio France International in a story headlined “Not enough Kenyan police in Garissa because its considered a ‘punishment zone'” quoted analyst Adam Hussein Adam saying “This is something that has been there since independence, and we continue to see that place [Garissa] as an outlier, and therefore we don’t deploy enough state authorities there until we have a problem like we now have.”

To me, the idea expressed in various quarters that pulling the Kenya Defense Forces out of AMISOM in Somalia now would resolve the underlying contested nature of the broader northeast within Kenya seems naive.  I don’t think the original 2011 incursion into Somalia was well considered or the best priority for Kenyan security at the time, and the AMISOM role for the KDF ought to be evaluated on its own merits now and going forward.  Nonetheless, I do not believe that there is a de facto bargain to be struck by withdrawing the KDF that would assuage those fighting what Nairobi-based security consultant Andrew Franklin has described for many months now as an insurgency within Kenya’s border counties.

Attention also needs to be paid to the experience and motives of the 27 year old Nairobi law graduate and banker, the son of a local chief from Mandera County who came to the capital for high school, followed by university.  Reportedly he wanted to join IS but settled for Al-Shabaab because he did not have a passport to travel to the Middle East but could transit the porous border into Somalia.

My piece on police reform in The Star: “Could Kimaiyo be Kenya’s Kivuitu of 2013?”

“Could Kimaiyo be Kenya’s Kivuitu of 2013?”

.  .  .  .

. . . [H]e is in a new position set down on top of an old and dysfunctional organisation that he has inherited and that he does not have time to change before the election.

The news already reports a rift over appointment authority between Kimaiyo and the chair of the new National Police Service Commission—the kind of kinks in a new system that should be expected and that inevitably take time.

Ultimately, Kimaiyo even on paper, is only one member of the National Security Council. Even though he has some additional theoretical authority, he is to implement rather than set the government’s security policy.

Like Samuel Kivuitu in the weeks before the election in 2007, he has respect and credibility from his past, but he is one man only, one vote on security policy, and not fully in control of what will happen even within the police service at this point. This should be a sobering thought in light of what we all saw play out in the last election.

Follow the link to read the whole piece from the Star.

FYI, this was submitted for publication before the back and forth in the campaigns about alleged involvement of civil servants in politics.

Please also read this from Pheroze Nowrojee in the Star, “Of Civil Servants and our Politics”:

The Inspector-General of Police, David Kimaiyo issued a public statement that politicians should not discuss land ownership in their campaigns. He did not suggest that there was any breach of the law by any politician. Yet he called for a gag. He was stepping into the political arena. He was abridging the Bill of Rights. Kimaiyo too was way out of line.