Change of guard in Kenya's Police force

Former police commissioner Major General Hussein Ali hands shakes the hand of his successor Mathew Iteere during the official handing over ceremony at vigilance house. Maj-Gen moves assumed his new station as post master general on Monday. PHOTO/ CORRESPONDENT

What you need to know:

  • An early morning meeting between Kibaki and Raila culminates in President calling Ali and ordering him to fall out amid clamour for major reforms in the Police Force

When the President picked up the phone to call Maj-Gen Hussein Ali on Tuesday morning to inform him that he was replacing him as the commissioner of police, it was on the back of intense lobbying for the job.

Maj-Gen Ali was also fighting his own battle to defend his legacy at the helm and stay on until a time of his own choosing.

But the writing has been on the wall and the former helicopter pilot had survived one fight too many.

According to one Office of the President official with knowledge of the President’s thinking, the decision to remove Maj-Gen Ali was taken weeks ago and it was “just a matter of time and matter of timing”.

Though Maj-Gen Hussein Ali’s exit from Vigilance House was expected, his soft landing as the post master general came as a surprise.

Mr Mathew Iteere, an Israeli-trained commando, was eventually appointed from the General Service Unit (GSU) to take charge.

Created despondency

He beat Mr Francis Okonya who had been proposed by a section of the coalition government as a replacement but was appointed his principal deputy at Vigilance House.

The OP official said there was a feeling at State House that had Mr Okonya been appointed, it would have “created despondency” in the force because he was “relatively junior”.

Mr Okonya, a career detective, was called from the Criminal Investigations Department where he had been second in command.

The quest for the position of top police officer, saw the main political players — ODM and PNU — take part in behind-the-scenes negotiations before the appointment was made.

A meeting between President Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga preceded the changes at Vigilance House.

People familiar with the talks from both sides confirmed that it was agreed that the changes were the beginning of more sweeping reforms to be carried out in the police force.

To signal the new determination for change, a top officer, described as “reform-minded”, was put in charge of reforms to the force. More appointments would also be made at deputy commissioner level to reflect the ethnic diversity in the country, said one official.

Those privy to the reports said former director of police operations David Kimaiyo, who was dropped from the force in a reshuffle shortly after the 2007 post- election violence, was also touted as a potential candidate.

At the same time, officers close to Maj-Gen Ali told the Nation that he had betrayed no signs that he would leave office that soon, after nearly six years in charge.

The officers, who cannot be named lest they are seen to breach official procedures, said his office was preparing a series of activities that would see him appear in the media to argue against some of the recommendations made in the Justice Ransley report on police reforms.

Last week, he appeared for interviews in two broadcast programmes.

The debate on Maj-Gen Ali’s replacement gained momentum as the exit became imminent, following the release of the interim report recommending a purge on police leadership by the taskforce headed by retired judge Philip Ransley.

It was the Ransley report, more than anything else, according to the OP official, that convinced Mr Kibaki of the need for immediate change.

He said Maj-Gen Ali had “overstayed” and that the six years he had spent at Vigilance House was a “very, very long time” for a police commissioner in the multi-party era.

Other changes in the force saw Mr Julius Ndegwa promoted two ranks up to become one of other police commissioner’s deputies in charge of operations.

Mr Jonathan Kipkurui Koskei, who was in charge of North Eastern Province was also promoted to a senior deputy Commissioner of Police II, and appointed to oversee police reforms.

The changes also saw Mr Bakari Omar Jambeni called from the police training college at Kiganjo, to take charge of logistics at Vigilance House.

The position was held by Mr Levin Mwandi, whose fate is unknown.

Mr Jambeni’s position was taken by Mr Peter Kavila, who until Tuesday had been the Director of Operations at police headquarters.

Mr Peter Eregai, who was recently brought back to police from the National Focal Point on Small Arms, was deployed as deputy Director of the CID.

Maj-Gen Ali described his tenure as tumultuous and noted that it would take a long time for the country to get an ideal police force.

Mr Iteere on the other hand said he intended to reduce crime by 30 per cent, with public assistance.

Maj-Gen Ali handed over to his successor at 3pm and said he took pride in what he did during his tenure.

“I take pride that for the six years I have been at the head of the police force no financial scandal has been committed. I will walk with my head held high because I have served with loyalty. Even as I leave the police force, I hope I have left it a better place than I found it. I am proud to have served in the police force for the last six years,” the former police boss said.

He said he initiated many reforms during his tenure including community policing in 2005, promotion based on merit and procurement and construction of housing for police officers countrywide.

Dismissed reports

Maj-Gen Ali said that during his tenure crime levels had gone down by 13 per cent compared to when he took over in 2004.

The former police boss, who addressed journalists for more than 45 minutes before formally introducing his successor, dismissed the Waki, Alston and Kriegler reports that accused the police in general and him in person of extrajudicial killings and other misconduct, saying he and the force performed their duties in accordance with the law.

He said the reports were not based on evidence.

Mr Iteere has been the General Service Unit commandant for the last four years.

He said his priority was to stop organised crime and traffic offences.

He promised to reintroduce the Police Operations Procedure which he said would be followed to the book.