Immortalized in the annals of English literature is a line from William Shakespeare’s play, The Tragedy of Julius Caesar, which reads in part: Cowards die many times before their deaths. The valiant never taste of death but once. A defiant acclaim for those who choose not to cower at the presence of adversity, but instead, decide to face it with courage.
In many ways, the late retired Major-General, Joseph Kasaine ole Nkaissery, epitomized that valiant spirit; that defiance; that indefatigable refusal to cower in the face of difficulty. He personified the singular Kenyan spirit of resilience, valour, hard work and true patriotism.
As we gradually come to terms with his demise, I am reminded of the exemplary service he led throughout his career and the immense sacrifices he had to make over time in order to fully devote himself to serving the country, safeguard its people and uphold its integrity.
From when he enrolled to serve in the Kenya Army in 1973 to defend our nation against threats from yonder to when he was elected to Parliament to represent the people of Kajiado Central constituency; and later to heading the Interior Security docket, he led an archetypal leadership that has influenced many.
I had the pleasure and the privilege of working with him both when we served together in Parliament, and during my term as President. Throughout that time, I found him an exceptional public servant. He was direct: he did not mince words. He was efficient: he did not waste time or resources. He was a patriot: he loved this country and all its people, which is why he dedicated his life to protecting it, and to keeping Kenyans safe.
When he joined the administration as Cabinet Secretary for the Ministry of Interior and Coordination of National Government, we were facing challenges in our nation’s internal security – mainly from extremist terrorist attacks.
At which point, I could not think of anyone better to take leadership of the docket. In itself, it was an immense sacrifice to resign from his role as Member of Parliament for Kajiado Central, to take on a bigger responsibility for the nation.
Naturally unrestricted by his then political party allegiance, he accepted the job of serving the people of Kenya in my administration, demonstrating his resolve to serve in the national interest by putting the country above party politics.
The impact of his leadership in the docket was immediate. Under his watch, there was better coordination of security operations in the country leading to reduced cases of attacks, and enhanced prevention of crime.
More recently, his insights were critical in the formulation of my plan for strengthening our nation’s security which seeks to expand the Integrated Command, Control and Communication Centre to cover other cities and towns outside Nairobi; enhance community participation in security by strengthening the Nyumba Kumi initiative (community participation in policing as he often called it); strengthen the Anti-Terrorism Police Unit by acquiring more specialized vehicles; provide modern equipment and trained officers to expand our border protection capacity; expand the capacity of the Anti-Stock Theft Unit; modernize the National Police Service Air-wing to improve aerial surveillance; construct 20,000 houses annually for Police Officers and Prison Warders and establish a Level 5 National Police Service hospital; and equip the newly completed Forensic Laboratory to enhance science related criminal investigations. His passion for the safety and security of all Kenyans is evident here.
To say that Major-General Nkaissery has left big boots for us to fill is by no measure an overstatement. The onus, I dare say, is on us to emulate him going forward to ensure that we, collectively as a nation, place the country above self-interests and political ambitions to see that we move forward to achieve the dreams that our forerunners set for us many years ago.
Let us take a moment to reflect on the life of a man who repeatedly put the country’s interests above self, and choose to emulate that principle for a more prosperous, peaceful and united country.
(Kenyatta is President of the Republic of Kenya and Commander-in-Chief of the Defence Forces)