Police Shakeup: Kenya Kwanza’s New Sheriffs


Police Shakeup: Kenya Kwanza’s New Sheriffs

In one of his most categorical commitments since coming to power, President William Ruto has promised the National Police Service (NPS) complete autonomy, but first some changes. 

The new government has replaced the Inspector General (IG), the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) director and his deputy along with 15 directors of several other DCI units, five regional heads for Nairobi, Central, Rift Valley, Coast and Nyanza as well as the Kisumu and Turkana DCI bosses. 

In the run up to the August 9 polls, Ruto and his Kenya Kwanza brigade had ceaselessly lamented about the seeming partisanship of the police topbrass, accusing them — especially the now former Director of Criminal Investigations (DCI) George Kinoti — of doing political hatchet jobs in the name of fighting corruption. To Ruto, Kinoti was targeting his allies, including the then Mathira MP and now Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua, who faced dramatic arrests and had his bank accounts frozen.

It is with this backdrop that Kinoti, just like his boss, the immediate former Inspector General of Police (IGP) Hilary Mutyambai, read the writing on the wall and opted out of their jobs the minute Ruto became President. Mutyambai went on terminal leave on medical grounds, six months before the expiry of his term, while Kinoti resigned as DCI and took cover under the wings of the Public Service Commission (PSC), from where he will be redeployed within the civil service. 

Kinoti’s move from policeman to civilian was made possible by the National Police Service Commission (NPSC), the independent police-employing agency, which ‘donated’ Kinoti to the PSC, where he is to enjoy the prevailing remuneration and privileges as a government officer until he attains retirement age.  

However, for Ruto’s team, Kinoti’s and Mutyambai’s exits weren’t enough.

As the new administration was replacing Mutyambai as Inspector General of Police with former Nairobi Regional Commander Japhet Koome, and almost simultaneously installing former head of the Internal Affairs Unit (IAU) of the police service Mohamed Amin as Kinoti’s replacement at DCI, a multitude of other purges were happening within the police structures. 

In a telling move in replacing Mohamed Amin at the IAU, the appointment of former Director of Investigations Bureau (IB) John Gachomo—who served at the helm of the IAU for a record two days— was rescinded, and instead Esther Nganga was picked to take up the IAU role. Gachomo was sent back to the DCI headquarters at Mazingira House along Kiambu Road, awaiting redeployment. 

In all of these NPS realignments, it comes as no surprise — unless one is new to Jerusalem — that the hardest hit agency is Kinoti’s Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI). 

Seen as the backbone of police operations, the DCI has under its command the Anti-Terror Police Unit, the Anti-Narcotics Unit, the Interpol Regional Bureau, the DCI Academy, the Bomb Disposal Unit, the Banking Fraud Unit, the Cyber Crimes Unit, the Crime Research and Intelligence Bureau (for intelligence-driven operations), Ballistics, Scenes of Crime, Sting Squad, Principal Crime Registrar, Crime Intelligence Unit, Homicide’s DNA, Toxicological, Chemistry and Biology Lab Units, among others. There’s also the Special Services Unit (SSU), which has dominated the news lately for all the wrong reasons.

Formerly known as the Special Crime Prevention Unit (SCPU), the SSU adopted its new name in 2019 under Kinoti’s leadership as DCI, following the disbandment of the elite crime-busting Flying Squad. Going by the unit’s name, SSU officers carried out classified if not near-classified duties, while occasionally providing back-up for officers from other units, including in anti-terror related operations. 

That the unit has come under both administrative and judicial fire from the Ruto government, including facing accusations of carrying out suspected extrajudicial killings, further complicates matters for Kinoti and those he served under/with and those who served under him.

And so the exorcising of Kinoti’s demons by the Ruto regime got underway in earnest. 

Among those on the exit list was Kinoti’s deputy, Hamisi Massa, who was sent on terminal leave less than a month after he took the role and was replaced by Nicholas Kamwende, the former Director of Planning at DCI headquarters. Massa joined a number of officers who have since left the service, including Director of Complaints at DCI, Amos Teben, who is now retired. 

With Kinoti and Massa out of the way, a total of 15 directors of various DCI units were then moved around on October 30 by the then acting Inspector General of Police Noor Gabow (who alongside Edward Mbugua served as deputy IGPs under Mutyambai, both of whom have survived the Kenya Kwanza purge and retained their positions as deputy IGPs). 

Also moved were all officers of the rank of Assistant Inspector General, with only DCI officers of the rank of Commissioner of Police remaining unmoved. DCI bosses in respective regional and county offices like Nairobi, Central, Rift Valley, Coast and Nyanza regions were similarly moved. 

Some of the changes like Abdalla Komesha who has now been named the principal Deputy Inspector General was just last week transferred to head the operations department in the DCI signalling the chaos and uncertainty of the rushed transfers.

Manasseh Kalonzo was yet to take up his role as the Nairobi Police Chief when Adamson Bungei was transferred from Baringo to take up his station.

To sceptics, these transfers seem suspect and politically instigated – more like Ruto trying to build a police apparatus that is sympathetic to him. 

To supporters (and others), these shake-ups are long overdue considering some transfers had apparently been frozen under the former police bosses, police mistreatment by their bosses having been one of the inferences Kenya Kwanza kept making pre-election. 

But whether acting in good faith or in self interest – or with a strange mix of both – the enormity and swiftness of the ongoing police reorganization will attract scrutiny and criticism.

“Even if we transfer police officers a million times, nothing will change. As a matter of fact, knee-jerk transfers negatively affect the performance of the police,” Governance and security expert Ndung’u Wainaina said.

“The system is not accountable to people, it is a regimental policing and cannot outlive the government of the day,” he said.

Ideally, the National Police Service Commission (NPSC) in collaboration with the Office of the Inspector General of Police (IGP) should determine transfers of officers based on operational needs and personnel requirements as envisaged under Article 246 (3) of the Constitution and as outlined in the NPSC Transfer and Deployment Regulations, 2015. 

These were part of the legal provisions introduced over a decade ago for purposes of creating a democratic and accountable police service that isn’t politicized or prone to crime. 

“Our role as NPSC is to confirm the transfers before they are effected, or do the confirmation in instances where the IG deploys an officer and the deployment turns out to be a transfer,” NPSC Chairperson Eliud Kinuthia said. “None of the transfers is political. They are purely operational and NPSC sees no problem with that. From the rank of the Chief Inspector downwards, NPSC has delegated its transfer function to the IG.”

However, despite these reforms, the rank-and-file within the police still claim that in practice, transfers remain political, at times used as punishment, like in instances where officers are mischievously transferred to hardship areas for refusing to play ball.

While passing judgement on a matter where an officer was moved to six different police stations in a span of two years, a Nyeri court ruled that the transfers ignored the constitutional requirement that an officer should serve for a continuous period of one year and a maximum of three before they are deployed to another station. It was a case of having good laws and poor implementation. 

These good laws and good intentions versus sabotage and poor implementation challenges as regards police reforms are featured in a 2016 report by SafeWorld, where  Kenya is cited as an important case study in understanding the role political dynamics play in determining the pace and nature of security sector reforms. 

The report shows police reforms are still subject to interference by the Executive arm of government, despite the setting up of independent processes and mechanisms for accountability that were meant to do the groundwork for positive police reform. 

As it hurtles towards its 100-day mark, the Ruto administration and proponents of its police shake-up will either live to regret or celebrate their swift and far reaching actions, depending on how the IGP, the DCI and the entirety of the NPS will fare in the next five years of Ruto’s first term.

Former    Current  
Principal Administrative Secretary (newly formed) Bernice Sialaal Lemedeket
Inspector General: Hillary MutyambaiJaphet Koome 
Principal DIG: Munga NyaleAbdalla Komesha
DIG Aps:  Noor GabowDIG Aps:  Noor Gabow
DIG KPS: Edward MbuguaDIG KPS: Edward Mbugua
DCI: George Kinoti   Mohammed Amin
IAU: Mohammed AminEsther Ng’ang’a
Deputy DCI Director: Hamis Massa (took terminal leave)                                   Nicholas Kamwende
Director of Investigations Bureau (IB): John Gachomo                                                    Eliud Lagat
Director Anti-terror Police Unit Martin Otieno                                                                    Johnstone Kola
Director Complaints: Amos Teben (retired)                                                                Bernard Nyakwaka
Director of Planning at DCI headquarters: Nicholas Kamwende                        Wanderi Mwangi
Director of Forensics: Margaret Karanja                                                                 Johnstone Mwongela
Director of Operations: Benard Gicheru                                                                   Said Kiprotich
Director of Serious Crime Unit: Obadiah Kuria                                                     Not named
Director of Reforms Directorate: Bernard Baraza  Munga Nyale
Director of Crime Research and Intelligence Bureau (CRIB): Paul Mumo    John Onyango
Director of DCI Academy: Amos Omuga     Not named
Director of DCI Legal Department: Augustine Kittony                                                     Amos Omuga
Director of Personnel: Abdallah Komesha                                                                     Not named
Anti-Narcotics Unit: Hamis Massa (took terminal leave)                                            Margaret Karanja
Director of DCI, Railways: Wanderi Mwangi                                    Not named
National Counter-Terrorism Centre: Abdallah Komesha                   Gideon Kibunja
Director of Operations NPS: Rashid YakubBoniface Maingi
Nairobi Region Head of DCI: Paul Wachira                         Peter Njeru 
Central Regional Head of DCI: Bernard Nyakwaka                                         Bethuel Oburu
Rift Valley Region Head of DCI: Paul Wachira                                                      Francis Wanjau
Coast Region Head of DCI: Bernard Baraza                                                        Ali Bule Samata
Nyanza region Head of DCI: John Onyango                                                      Geoffrey Kathurima
Kisumu Head of DCI: Francis Wanjau      Hussein Bakari
Turkana County Head of DCI: Daniel Kimulwo                                                              Obadiah Kuria
Nairobi Police Commander: Manasse MusyokaAdamson Bungei
Chronology of the musical chairs

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