Wednesday, November 05, 2014

What have you been smoking over there?

Never pick a fight with a man who buys ink by the barrel. That was the received wisdom. Today, unless you have a penchant for the masochistic, never pick a fight with a billionaire whose ego is the size of a small planet and who isn't afraid to set his own house on fire in order  to win an argument. Joseph Ole Lenku is discovering that when it comes to fighting wars and winning battles, Senior Counsel Ahmednasir Abdullahi is not only willing to lay it all on the line, he will only back down when the Almighty pries the Grand Mullah's cold, dead fingers from his equally cold, dead iPhone 6 Plus. By retaining Donald B Kipkorir, Mr Ole Lenku is determined to bring his A-Game. It will not end well, if it ends at all.

Under Jomo Kenyatta, Daniel Moi and Mwai Kibaki, save for the spectacularly foolish appointment of Katoo Ole Metito, appointed well and truly feared Ministers for Internal Security. Two stand out; John Michuki and Christopher Murungaru. We may question the wisdom or propriety of many of their decisions, like Mr Murungaru's war on the Mungiki or Mr Michuki's war with the Standard Group, but none of us is in doubt that they were respected and feared in equal measure when they headed the internal security machinery of the government.

In President Kenyatta's choice of Mr Ole Lenku as Interior Cabinet Secretary, few were prepared for the problems that would come to bedevil the security sector or how intense feelings would get regarding Mr Ole Lenku. Mr Ole Lenku was unfortunate to have been appointed during a fraught transition period, saddled with an uninspired and uninspiring Principal Secretary in Mutea Iringo, and appointed at a time when the Secretary to the Cabinet commanded greater loyalty in the ministry than the CS and used that loyalty to undermine the CS and his commands. It did not matter that the worst start to the reforms in policing had commenced against the backdrop of escalating terror attacks, an explosion in petty corruption, and rising police-on-police violence and murder. Mr Ole Lenku was dropped into the deep end of internal security affairs; we are not sure whether he is swimming or drowning.

Adolf Hitler invaded Poland on the pretext that Germanic peoples needed Lebensraum to grow and prosper. He should never have turned his attention to British Isles after his conquest of France, Belgium and Luxembourg. Instead he should have shifted his vast and professional military forces to the Eastern Front before the winter of 1941, committed his logistics to the war, blitzkrieged Moscow and occupied it before taking on Stalingrad. In any case, Hitler fought full-fledged wars on two fronts and lost in the bargain.

Mr Ole Lenku is in the middle of a stalled policing reform process, he is mediating a war between the Inspector-General and the National Police Service Commission, one between the National Police Service and the Independent Policing Oversight Commission, an escalation in the banditry and cattle-rustling prevalent in Baringo, West Pokot, Samburu and Turkana, an escalation in attacks against police, a curfew in Lamu, and public perceptions of his competence having hit the floor and carried on plummeting. It would not be wise to open up a new front with a war against the acerbic senior counsel. The Grand Mullah has not made his reputation by being a delicate flower but by being a verbal and litigious sledgehammer against which every challenge is a nail.

Mr Ole Lenku has very little to gain by pursuing Mr Abdullahi in the courts, but he has everything to lose. Mr Kipkorir is an excellent litigator; look at how he managed to set the legal case straight with the Shollei victory in the courts. But he takes on a fool's errand to fight Mr Ole Lenku's war with Mr Abdullahi in the courts. Whether he prevails or not, the damage is done. Mr Abdullahi will drag out the process for as long as it is embarassing for the Cabinet Secretary. By the time the apology is given, if it ever, it is almost likely that more and more mud will have been flung that it won't matter. Mr Ole Lenku may have the National Police Service at his command but he is neither feared nor respected in the same that Murungaru, the late Michuki and the late Saitoti were respected and feared. It will end badly for Mr Ole Lenku; only Mr Abdullahi will get what he wants.

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