Faced with criticism on its role in the post-elections violence and the resurgent Mungiki, Kenya’s intelligence networks are on a PR campaign to shore up public confidence.
The National Security Intelligence Services (NSIS), the Criminal Investigations Department (CID), the Provincial Administration and the country’s military intelligence have recently come under strong criticism for failing to predict the post elections violence that almost split country in January this year. The violence, which assumed ethnic undertones left at least 1,500 people dead and an estimated 350,000 homeless.
In media articles, the NSIS has said that it knew of the possibility for violence before the polls. The body says it assisted in preparation of media policy aimed at thwarting hate speech on FM radio. On the Mungiki phenomenon, a retired NSIS officer said in a print media article that undercover intelligence officers have so infiltrated Mungiki that their every movement is, “known.”
Meanwhile, the Kenya Police has absolved itself from the murder of Virginia Nyakio, wife to jailed Mungiki leader, Maina Njenga. The police have released, “intelligence” stating that Virginia was the victim of “factional feuds” within the Mungiki. Last week, Permanent Secretary for Internal Security said that the government knew about Mungiki plans for national protests. However, according to the Permanent Secretary, the protests began three hours before schedule. Nevertheless, the Permanent Secretary was unable to explain why it took police so long to respond to the Mungiki protests which paralyzed commuter transport in Nairobi for three days.
Last year, following criticism over the Kenya’s handling of the conflict between the United States, Ethiopia and the Union of Islamic Courts in Somalia, Kenya’s military intelligence leaked information that its agents had played a key role in the overthrow of Islamic militants from Mogadishu. An article in the media said that “many” undercover agents from Kenya had sneaked into Somalia to obtain valuable information on the whereabouts of key Islamic Courts leaders.
Kenya’s intelligence was reputed to be among the best during the 1970s and 1980s but its reputation took a beating due to its involvement in political oppression under Daniel arap Moi’s presidency. Today, the NSIS is supposed to be a professional intelligence gathering outfit with little powers of prosecution. The NSIS gets billions of shillings each year from the national budget but has been hard-pressed to justify its expenditure.
During the worst of the violence, state authority crumbled in the Rift Valley, Western and Nyanza provinces. Mobs of warriors marched across ridges and valleys burning and looting everything in their wake. Regional transport ceased as highways were blocked and bridges blown up. The town of Kisumu was sacked by mobs. Policemen were lynched in Western Province as administrators from Nyanza fled to Tanzania. Government offices were purged of civil servants from immigrant ethnic groups who were then replaced by retirees from among local people. The Sabaot Land Defence Force (SLDF) used the chaos to extend its reach to the whole of Mt Elgon District and Trans Nzoia. By February before the army was sent to the area, the SLDF was on the outskirts of Kitale town.
Apparently, all the security services were caught seemingly unawares. When looting began in Kisumu on 29th December, there were only a handful of policemen in a Landcruiser patrolling the entire town. In Eldoret, there were just 150 officers in a town of close to 500,000 inhabitants. This lack of preparation made many to believe that Kenya’s intelligence network is asleep on the wheel.