The Impact of Politicization of Kenya's Security Agencies: Repeat Attacks, Loss of Lives and a Shattered Sense of Normalcy

In a piece titled "The best law is the one you can trust your enemy with when he takes over" Godwin Murunga, in a bit of revisionism asserts that only after Mzee Jomo Kenyatta died did Kenyans realize that presidential power was not concentrated in the president - the man - but in the presidency - the institution. The assertion is so antithetical to the reality of Kenyatta's fifteen year reign that it is laughable. Jomo Kenyatta WAS the presidency or as he called himself, "The Light of Kenya." He made himself synonymous with the institution by appointing individuals who swore loyalty, not to the country, but to him. He appointed sycophants and tribesmen to head critical branches of the government including the country's security agencies; the latter primarily used to maintain his hold on power.

By politicizing the country's security and intelligence services i.e. the military, police, CID/Special Branch and organizations related to internal security, Kenyatta and his three successors - including his son and current president Uhuru Kenyatta - eventually weakened said institutions and made them ineffectual especially when faced with asymmetrical warfare against non-nation/states such as al-Shabaab. Aside from the oftentimes blatant incompetence of those at the helm of the security agencies, another disturbing outcome of the insidiousness of their politicization is their implication in the harassment, torture and assassination of fellow Kenyans including such luminaries as Tom Mboya, JM Kariuki and Robert Ouko among many others.

Additionally, the corollary of the foregoing has been the very obvious inability and/or reluctance of these leaders to hold to account their appointees when their performance is called into question, not because of political witch-hunting, but because of multiple glaring and very public failures. It is this combination of politicized security agencies, the resultant incompetent and corrupt leadership and the failure to hold said leaders to account that has now come home to roost in this era of globalization, the internet and asymmetric warfare by non-nation/state actors such as al-Shabaab.

While it is the prerogative of a president to appoint and surround themselves with individuals they are comfortable with, to do so at the expense of the competent and effective discharge of the responsibilities of their offices is absolutely unacceptable. Appointing friends and political supporters to sensitive and critical functions of the government AND failing to hold them accountable in the face of repeated failures as illustrated over the last two years with the loss of countless lives and a shattered sense of normalcy is a very stark reminder that choices do indeed have consequences.

Since the digital duo ascended to power in early 2013, Kenya has lurched from one attack to another without a clear and/or coherent plan to stem the violence. The repeated attacks happened even as the cast of characters at the helm of the agencies charged with preventing said attacks remained unchanged. At the height of the violence, individuals in charge of Kenya's internal security - Mr. Ole Lenku, Mr. Kimaiyo, Mr. Michael Gichangi and Mr. Ndegwa Muhoro - were neither reprimanded nor relieved of their positions (even though the former trio were eventually relieved of their duties after more attacks had occurred). In fact, Mr. Uhuru Kenyatta expanded the responsibilities of the then-Inspector General (IG) of Police David Kimaiyo to include all security personnel and equipment of the Kenya Wildlife Service, the Kenya Prisons and the National Youth Service and aircraft owned by the different government agencies and parastatals. Mr. Kimaiyo was given the additional responsibilities presumably to "curb rising insecurity, shorten response times and increase the number of personnel and material available to respond to security situations." With the expanded responsibility, President Kenyatta was expressing support for the country's police/security even as his director of National Intelligence Service (NIS) Mr. Michael Gichangi was telling a group of parliamentarians that the agency had "no clue who was dumping sugar in the country."

Further underscoring the depth of Kenya's politicization of her security and intelligence services was the revelation that the country's top security chiefs - Interior minister Joseph ole Lenku, PS Mutea Iringo, KDF boss Julius Karangi, National Intelligence Service chief Michael Gichangi, IG of Police David Kimaiyo and Head of the Public Service Joseph Kinyua - were holding numerous meetings on how to neutralize Uhuru's nemesis and opposition leader Raila Odinga over planned rallies referred to as Saba Saba - instead of meetings to coordinate responses to the terrorist attacks. Conspicuously missing from this gathering of Kenya's security chiefs was the CS of Defense and presumably Mr. Karangi's boss Raychelle Omamo.

Kenyans oftentimes compare their country to America. In the foregoing scenario, US President Barack Obama would be meeting with, at a minimum, the Secretary of DHS, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, WH Chief of Staff and Head of NSA - America's national security team - minus the SecDef. They would be meeting to monitor the political activities of the vanquished political rival Mitt Romney even as the homeland absorbs multiple attacks from home-grown terrorists and Congress remains stuck in its customary partisan silliness.

Bluntly put, that would NEVER happen and were it to happen, POTUS would face impeachment.

With the recent attack that took 14 more innocent lives and the incredulous admission by the "new" head of internal security Joseph Nkaissery that the "attackers caught (the police) unawares," Kenyans are continuing to pay the price of a politicized network of security agencies headed by corrupt and incompetent political appointees - all secure in the knowledge that they will not be held accountable by their boss. It is a state of affairs that has resulted in repeat attacks by an emboldened enemy, loss of innocent lives and a shattered sense of normalcy; a state that is emblematic of the country's history.