Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i is expected to face lawmakers today over the replacement of General Service Unit officers attached to Deputy President William Ruto with Administration Police officers.
The move comes amid concerns about lack of clear policy on VIP protection, which gives a lot of leeway to the office of the Inspector-General in deployment of security to state officers.
Although the DP has since accepted the AP security detail posted to his homes, the move has evoked memories of similar decisions in the past targeting mainly gadflies of the state.
Yesterday, the DP termed Dr Matiang’i’s expected appearance before the Committee on Administration and National Security as a waste of time.
This is despite claiming that his life is in danger on Saturday and one of his allies, Nandi Senator Samson Cherargei, asking Senate Speaker Kenneth Lusaka to convene a special sitting to discuss the matter.
“Parliamentary time should not be wasted on non-issues. The AP is a professional security service and those who think it’s a downgrade are wrong,” Dr Ruto tweeted yesterday.
“Parliament should instead focus on deployment to serious security situations in areas where bandits are causing mayhem and destruction,” he said.
The change of security guards has earned Dr Ruto support from unlikely quarters.
Central Organisation of Trade Unions (Cotu) secretary-general Francis Atwoli has termed the move by the government unfortunate.
“I don’t support what the government did and if they were to change that security they should have done it with the knowledge of the Deputy President. We don’t want these lame excuses to be blamed on the government when there are big issues affecting Kenyans,” said Dr Atwoli.
The matter has since spilled over to the courts.
Thirdway Alliance chairman Miruru Waweru and Angela Mwakali now want Inspector-General of Police Hillary Mutyambai compelled to reinstate the elite officers who were withdrawn from the DP’s homes last Thursday.
“The first and second respondents (Mr Mutyambai and the GSU Commander) be and are hereby directed to return to their stations at the official or private offices and residences of the Deputy President, officers of the General Service Unit who until August 26, 2021 were deployed to protect the Deputy President,” the application states.
Through lawyer Elias Mutuma, two further want the police boss restrained from curtailing and denying Dr Ruto access to any office or residency designated for the Deputy President.
“The acts and omissions of the first respondent have compromised and threatened the security of the Deputy President,” says the application filed at the Milimani Law Courts yesterday.
While the DP is guaranteed security by the General Service Unit (GSU) courtesy of the Police Standing Orders, the law does not specify who qualifies for state security and how many officers they should have.
Save for retired state officers such as presidents, deputy presidents, prime ministers, chief justices and Speakers of Parliament who get protection as part of their retirement packages, the responsibility of state security is left to the Inspector General of Police.
State officers who enjoy government protection include Cabinet secretaries, governors, deputy governors, members of the National Assembly and the Senate, top judges, senior military, police and prison commanders, commissioners of constitutional agencies, Principal Secretaries and heads of critical institutions like the Central Bank.
An unspecified number of influential people like retired public servants and security officers also have bodyguards assigned to them because of the positions they held while in office. There is, however, no provision in law on who among them qualifies for government protection.
A report presented by a team headed by a former Kenya Airways Chief Executive to retired President Mwai Kibaki that would have seen to the formulation of a formal policy on VIP protection is still gathering dust nine years after it was filed in 2012.
As things stand, the IG’s office not only assigns VIP security, but he can also redeploy officers attached to anyone and bring in new ones as he did with the DP’s security detail, a move he characterised as ‘normal.’
“This is normal reassignment of duties within the National Police Service to enhance efficiency and effectiveness,” the IG said last week through police spokesperson Bruno Shioso.
Opposition chief Raila Odinga, Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka, ANC leader Musalia Mudavadi and a number of politicians allied to the DP have had their security withdrawn or scaled down in the past.
In the run-up to the 2017 presidential elections, the government said it did not see the need to attach several bodyguards to the National Super Alliance (NASA) principals.
“Why should we give you 20 police officers so that you can loiter around with them from press conference to press conference; from hotel to hotel, when they are needed elsewhere?” asked Dr Matiang’i after the government had reduced bodyguards assigned to NASA opposition chiefs.
“What law have we broken? The Inspector General of Police deploys police officers where they are needed!” a tough-talking Dr Matiang’i said at the time.
Additional reporting by Sam Kiplagat