Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Secretary Lenku needs help.

Joseph Ole Lenku faces a most difficult choice. He can admit that the response to the Westgate Attack was poor, or he can keep parroting the line that "we do not discuss security matters in the media" and hope that Kenyans have retreated to the discomforts of their daily grind. It is, however, unfair to lay the blame of the failures tat led to the Westgate Attack on his hospitality-industry-trained shoulders. If the leaked intelligence report is true, the National Executive was well aware of the risks that the Westgate faced from al Shabaab and either failed or refused to take steps to prevent the siege.

The structure of national security is to be found in Chapter Fourteen of the Constitution. The Committee of Experts, again refusing to admit that the proposals from the civil society industry to reform national security were unsuited to a nation in transition, made proposals that attempted to create truly autonomous national security institutions, with neither being under the direct control of the other. As we have witnessed with the fiasco that is the Judiciary reforms, the structure codified in the Constitution is unsuited to swift decision-making or command and control.

Whether we want to admit or not, Kenya is not yet at the level of trust among public officials that each will be expected to play according to the rules, to operate only within their areas of jurisdiction. Traditionally, the President has a had a free hand to shape national security policy, with the National Security Council playing an advisory role. In doing this he also a free hand in choosing the men and women in charge of various national security institutions: the National Intelligence Service, the police, the armed forces (now renamed the defence forces), Cabinet positions and sub-Cabinet appointments. Now the President must share national security administration with an institution that has neither the maturity or expertise: Parliament. As the various committee chairmen have demonstrated over the past five days, Parliament is yet to understand that national security policy and public safety policies cannot be interrogated by them through the media, but behind closed doors in an atmosphere of co-operation and problem-solving discussions.

There have definitely been lapses that led to Westgate and these will be investigated by the Commission of Inquiry the President intends to appoint. Once the Commission is appointed, Parliament must take a back-seat and must resist the urge to back-seat drive. The President should consider directing such a Commission to examine whether an obsession with national security and a casual approach to public safety may have contributed to Westgate and to make recommendations that will strike a balance between the two.

This blogger has in the past asked for public officials to resign for errors that lead to disasters on thew watch. This time, we hesitate to do so. Maj Gen Gichangi is an excellent intelligence boss. Anyone who knows how the NIS works will find it difficult to blame Westgate in them. Inspector-General Kimaiyo has not been in office long enough for the reforms he is spearheading to bear fruit. He needs support to revamp the training and equipment of his police force, including the tough nut of incorporating the Administration Police with the regular Police. Criminal Investigation Department boss Muhoro has a dodgy resume, but even those who pooh-pooh his antecedents will remember that when the late John Michuki directed him to take the fight to the Mungiki, he was brutally efficient. We can expect the same if he receives the same order regarding al Shabaab. Mutea Iringo, on the other hand, seems not to command the same reverential fear his predecessor, Francis Kimemia, once did when it came to internal security. Perhaps it is time the President considered a change of guard in the powerful PS's position.

Secretary Lenku needs all the help he can get. A Commission of Inquiry should help him clarify what he needs to do, how he needs to do it, and what resources he needs to bring Kenyan national security policy into the twenty-first century where traditional threats recede and more amorphous and transnational ones rear their ugly heads.

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