, NAIROBI, Kenya, Sept 3 – Major General Hussein Ali has been at the helm of the Kenya Police since 2004. The straight-shooting ex-military officer joined the force with the greater mandate to oversee its transformation and restore public confidence.
But his job has not been without hurdles. Lately, he has been blamed for the perceived rot among the country’s 40,000 officers. He spoke to Capital News about his performance, and the current drive to reform the police.
Q: What is the state of security in the country?
A: The security situation in the country has improved. Let’s take it by category. The serious crimes; those that involve the use of firearms are way down. Carjackings, are way down and we have almost eradicated bank robberies and heists in the city centre and other areas. There was a spate of kidnappings but we were able to get rid of these and 13 people who were responsible are behind bars right now. We have minimised banditry in the rural areas, cattle rustling and border security.
But there are other categories of crimes that we don’t think about from time to time. And these are environmental crimes; the discharge of effluence into our water ways, the theft and trade in tusks and ivory and animal products. In the financial markets, the so-called white collar crimes… we have established an investigative unit at the Capital Markets Authority. Insider trading at the stock exchange is something we are looking at, insurance firms, brokerage firms and enforcing intellectual property rights. In recent times i think we have rolled back crime quite a bit. This past fortnight, the coverage of the census and the by elections in Shinyalu and Bomachoge went pretty well.
Cases involving the murder of victims in the Kiambaa church have been disposed off in the High Court in Nakuru. The case involving the murder of a family of 19 people in Naivasha was concluded and three people were convicted and capital punishment imposed. A case involving the murder of people including two policemen in Kericho was concluded and capital punishment handed down.
There are other cases that involve assault and rape that have gone to court and a number of people convicted. In a nutshell, the security situation in the country is much improved. The trick is in holding it down and improving it.
Q: You have been credited with standing firm against political influence. How did you achieve this?
A: Well, one needs to be a stickler to procedure and rules. In the event that you think people want to manipulate and do things that are not in accordance with procedures you tell them politely but firmly that it is not the way to do things. And this is the way institutions need to work.
Q: You have been described as being domineering and arrogant. Does this in your opinion affect operations?
A: I do not know who would want to describe me in such bad terms. I’d like to think of myself as being courteous and not arrogant. Arrogance is wrong and so is being domineering. But one must make the distinction between being decisive and being arrogant. I am certainly decisive on matters that need to be done. But that is not synonymous with being arrogant. Arrogance is a bad trait.
Q: You have been accused by human rights organisations of being inaccessible. Is this true?
A: This is not true. I think the police are the most accessible people anywhere. Maybe they are looking for an excuse for not coming to us in the first place. We are accessible to everybody and every one can reach us any time.
Q: Are there things you are not proud of in the force?
A: In any institution the size of the police force, there must things that one would wish were not the same. Whereas we have made progress in certain areas, the problems that make us cringe from time to time are those that question our integrity, our performance and dedication to duty. These are the things that we always strive to ensure we improve on. It would be wrong for us to hide our heads in the sand. Every big institution has its problems and these are some of the problems we as a police service have to grapple with to ensure our service delivery is what we want it to become for the public.
Q: Issue has been taken with the fact that you are a military officer heading a police unit. In your view is this a valid argument?
A: No. It is not a valid argument at all. We have an officer from the Kenya police who was appointed commissioner of Kenya prisons recently and I am sure the prisons department is doing extremely well. So I lend no credence to this at all.
Q: How would you describe discipline, transfers and promotions within the force during your tenure?
A: First of all, we have no tolerance in the force for indiscipline. We place a lot of emphasis and take strong measures against intolerance however mundane they may seem to others. On matters of career progression, promotions and transfers; we have a board that deals with these matters like all other institutions. On transfers our policy is that you serve in one station for three years and you move on. As long as we don’t send you to the same province where we recruited you. Secondly, on promotions we have a criteria based on recommendations from superiors. The system we have put in place is more transparent, effective and places emphasis on meritocracy.
Q: Is it true the autonomy of the CID has diminished under your watch?
A: The CID is a major formation of the police. It functions in accordance with Cap 84 of the Police Act. Those who talk about autonomy sometimes do not understand… CID is a professional formation. It does not perform its duties on the basis of autonomy. It performs its duties on the basis of collective responsibility within the police force to bring down crime. The point is, to what extent does it help in bringing down crime. The others are side shows.
Q: What became of elite crime fighting units such as the Cyber Crime Unit?
A: We formed the first cyber laboratory within East and Central Africa to deal with cyber crime and cyber terrorism. For your information, we have a lot of enquiries from as far as South and West Africa. Interpol came to see it… the Americans were here to see how we can work together on cyber crime because this is a future trend within the ambit of organised crime.
Q: What about forensics?
A: We have finger printing, ballistics, hand-writing and photography. The only forensics capability we do not have is the chemical and medical component such as DNA, blood samples, urine etc. You will remember this formed part of the problems in the Anglo Leasing probe and we are looking at coming up with a turnkey project in the next few years using other countries especially European countries so that we have one that is tailor made.
Q: What became of aerial police patrols?
A: Aerial patrols are coming back on line. We put them on hold after the accident in Kapsabet. We had to re look at the serviceability of all aircraft
Q: What of the flying squad?
A: The flying squad is doing very well. You can tell by the state of crime in the city. We have flying squad in various parts of the city.
Q: What of the anti-narcotics unit? It is argued that it is headed by a chief inspector instead of an Assistant Commissioner and this has affected operations. Comment.
A: Why should rank matter? What we are interested in is the performance of the officer regardless of rank. And by the way, we do not have a chief inspector heading that department. Do you remember the saga a few years back where we had close to Sh5 billion worth of narcotics? Even then people told us we had sold the drugs. They did not have the courtesy to apologise when it was found to be false. But on the whole, anti narcotics unit is doing well.
Q: There are too many roadblocks on our roads and matatus have to bribe
A: I think the issue of corruption is one we have to grapple with now and in days to come. Secondly it takes two to tango… We will do what we can to wean our officers from the issues of corruption because it is a crime. We also want to sensitise the public not to pay anybody for their rights – Whether it’s for a job, a P3 or passing a roadblock. You do not have to bribe anybody. Unless of course there is complicity in crime here; where both you and the person you are bribing want to conceal a crime. But the number of roadblocks are situation-dependent. Sometimes we have more than others. You cannot say they should be three or eight. But we need to be mindful of the public not to inconvenience them.
Q: Talk to us about police reforms.
A: There is a Task Force on police reforms that is going about its duties right now. I do not want to pre-empt their work. But reforms is a curious area of inquiry. Many people talk about reforms but they do not know what reforms are about. Everybody would like to pontificate about constitution review (which is okay) but if you ask them what specific areas of the constitution they want reformed, they cannot tell you. Reforms in the police force are much the same. Recently, we had judicial task force on reforms. Quite a number of lawyers, judges were in that task force and they came up with institutional reforms in the judiciary. We would like to think that the Task Force on police reforms will do the same. It would be a waste of time if they dwelt on personalities. You will recall in 2003, this country got rid of Bernard Chunga as Chief Justice. It did not reform the Judiciary. It was a question of comical musical chairs. Remove so and so, bring so and so. We must distinguish institutional reforms that are going to bring down crime for posterity as opposed to individuals. The PPO Nairobi is not the police. The Commissioner is not the police. The police has always been there and will be there long after we are gone. If you want to do reforms look at institutions because the rest will be witch-hunting. We support reforms but hope it is measures that will assist us as a country to eradicate crime.
Q: Comment on the recruitment of police officers during your tenure. Has the process been transparent?
A: Yes. It has been. We place a lot of emphasis on meritocracy like I said. We look for graduates, specialists, gender balance and so on. Our recruitment has been good but being a job seeking exercise, it evokes certain passions. And someone may say I was left out because of this or the other…. where that happens, it should be brought to our attention.
Q: Give us a perspective of officers who have been interdicted during your tenure. Was it generally due to corruption?
A: Actually, no. Most of the cases were not related to corruption. It’s been a question of indiscipline and apathy at work. Corruption cases are prosecuted because corruption is a crime. We do not interdict anybody on the basis of corruption. We take them to court! Most of the interdictions are internal mechanisms of dealing with cases of infringement of regulations and performance.
Q: What‘s your parting shot for the public?
A: Our clarion call has been for the public to work with us. Volunteer criminal intelligence to the police on a permanent basis in keeping with the strategy of community policing so that the public become part and parcel of the crime prevention strategy we have in place because without that partnership we will not go far. From the media, we hope to propagate not just matters that are supportive to the public to crime prevention. We commend our officers for their work. Remember as you for to the nightclub for dinner in a restaurant or are resting in your home, there is an officer who left his house to ensure you are safe. He left his family to ensure you are safe, so work with them. The officers need to remember that the conduct of one reflects on all is us doing a good job.
Q: Finally, would you consider introducing a shift system?
A: We have no problem doing that but the current numbers cannot allow that. If you have an eight hour shift for example, it presupposes we would have three shifts coming in. It may not be possible with the current numbers. We hope to increase numbers sufficiently but in the foreseeable future, it is not possible.