NAIROBI, Kenya, Sep 11 – The search for a new Police Commissioner who was named on Tuesday was a rigorous one and took nearly three weeks, Capital News can now reveal.
A secretariat that was set up to identify the new police chief camped at the Office of the President and vetted nine nominees before settling on Mathew Kirai Iteere in time to stem a political storm in the event the process leaked to the public.
Impeccable sources both at the Office of the President and within the intelligence ranks with knowledge of the intrigues told Capital News how names of the proposed individuals both within the police department and outside were scrutinised.
The Kenya Institute of Public Policy Research and Analysis (KIPPRA) was involved in the vetting that saw Mr Iteere garner the highest points to secure the high-profile job.
"He emerged as the best candidate because of his track record and the lack of any political involvement in his career," a source in OP who requested to not to be named since he is not authorised to release information to the media.
Among those who were proposed were Iteere who was serving as the GSU Commandant, Francis Okonya at the time deputy CID Director, Prisons Commissioner Isaiah Osugo and his deputy George Macgoye, Mr David Kimaiyo of the Small Arms Secretariat and Bakari Jambeni who was the Commandant of the Kenya Police Training College in Kiganjo.
The source disclosed that others included Mr Julius Kipng’etich of the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS), former CID director Mr Joseph Kamau and Western Provincial Police chief King’ori Mwangi.
The vetting panel reportedly struck out the names of non-police officers immediately they received the list and kept those of serving police officers because of the concerns raised during the six-year tenure of former Police Chief Major General Hussein Ali.
Senior police officers, security experts and human rights activists had argued previously that the government bungled in appointing a Police Commissioner from outside the force.
The panel was then left with Mr Iteere, Mr Okonya, Mr Kimaiyo, Mr Jambeni and Mr Mwangi as possible candidates.
Our sources said Mr Mwangi who is the Western Province Police chief emerged as a strong nominee but his name was struck out.
Others expressed reservations about Mr Kimaiyo while Mr Jambeni was overlooked since he is about to reach his retirement age.
The panellists were then left with Mr Iteere or Okonya who had earned sufficient points in the rigorous vetting exercise.
The Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) is reported to have been lobbying for Mr Okonya while the Party of National Unity (PNU) insisted on having Mr Iteere to replace Major General Ali.
A compromise was reached a week before the appointment was made public after security agencies, senior government officials and the political class ruled out Mr Okonya since he held a relatively low rank in the force.
"He (Mr Okonya) was one of the best candidates but it was felt that he was too junior to lead the force. Mr Iteere emerged as the best choice because he was a Senior Deputy Commissioner of Police and that is how he was finally picked," the source said.
Having been cleared by the National Security Intelligence Service (NSIS) and the vetting experts, Mr Iteere’s name was then presented to President Mwai Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga who were both got detailed explanations why the other candidates were dropped.
A meeting held at Harambee House between the two principals is reported to have resolved to make the appointment immediately.
"That is when Mr Iteere was telephoned and instructed to go to Harambee House for the briefing. Major General Ali was also informed of the new turn of events," our source explained.
Major General Ali was reportedly caught by surprise when he received a telephone call from the Office of the President informing him that he was being re-deployed. At the time, he was not told where he was being posted.
"That is when he telephoned all the PPO’s and formation commanders to relay the information. He also asked the Public Relations Officer at vigilance House to quickly convene a press conference," our source said.
When the PRO, Erick Kiraithe telephoned crime reporters to inform them of the press conference he said "there is an urgent press conference by the Commissioner at 3 pm."
He did not reveal if it was all about a new commissioner taking over but hinted that there were "changes."
The Nairobi rumour mill immediately speculated that Major General Ali was about to resign while others claimed he would decline his new posting as Post Master General of the Postal Corporation of Kenya.
This was not to be as Major General Ali who was accompanied by the incoming commissioner turned out the press conference to highlight what he termed "great achievements during my six-year tenure."
When Mr Iteere finally got a chance to speak, he said: "I intend to have an open-door policy; I will closely work with the public, the press and police officers here to win the war against crime. I intend to make a difference in the management of crime in this country."
In defending his record Major General Ali claimed his tenure as Commissioner of Police had been "outstanding."
"Judge me by my performance in the six years I have been office, anything else other than that is besides the point," he said when journalists asked him about numerous local and international reports which had indicted him for overseeing a police force that was accused of extra-judicial killings.
Prior to the changes made at police headquarters, Capital News had broken news of anxiety, night meetings and lobbying amongst senior police officers including Major General Ali who has for long battled to stay on at Vigilance House.