NAIROBI, Kenya Feb 6 – The controversial debate on the suitability of a civilian to head the police department dominated interviews for members of the national Police Service Commission that got underway on Monday at the Kenyatta International Conference Centre (KICC).
Opinion was divided amongst candidates interviewed, with most of them insisting that it would be inappropriate for a civilian to head the police service.
A former District Commissioner Malombe Nyamai said that if appointed to the commission, he would prefer a serving police officer takes over as Inspector General of Police as opposed to giving the job to a civilian.
“We have to start from somewhere; at least an insider… somebody who is serving in the police force. Because to me security issues are a bit sensitive which you cannot risk by trying to get somebody who is outside the police,” Nyamai told the panel before he was reminded about the constitutional requirements which open the position to civilians.
The Constitution sets out qualifications for applicants to the Inspector General’s position, which includes a degree from any recognized university but does not limit it to people who have served in the police previously.
Senior police officers led by Spokesman Eric Kiraithe and CID Director Ndegwa Muhoro recently ignited the debate and announced they were opposed to any move to have a civilian appointed to the post of Inspector General.
During Monday’s interviews, panellists took candidates through several general questions, but mainly centred on the raging debate.
Another former District Commissioner George Njenga was more assertive, saying a civilian would spend a lot of time grasping how the police work compared to a serving police officer who understands the job.
“I believe in a young person with the necessary qualifications who is serving in the police, but not a civilian,” he said when asked his thoughts on the raging debate. “A civilian will spend a lot of time learning how the police work.”
The third candidate who appeared before the panel, James Atema who has served both in government and private sector mainly doing consultancy work, said as long as one meets conditions set out in the Constitution, it does not matter if he or she is a civilian or not.
“The point is not whether he is a civilian or a policeman, the point is whether the manager or the IG is a manager capable to motivate and deliver services as per the law and as per the new Constitution. Now if that person is a policeman, so be it. If that person is a civilian so be it,” Atema said.
The three are among 38 candidates who have applied to sit in the National Police Service Commission whose primary mandate will be to recruit an Inspector General of Police, two deputies and the Director of the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) as outlined in the Constitution.
The commission will also be charged with the responsibility of reviewing salaries for police officers and determining them from time to time.
The interviews were suspended last month following the expiry of terms of Hassan Omar Hassan who had been nominated by the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights (KNCHR) and that of Okong’o Omogeni of the Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission (KACC) now known as the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission.
The two have since been replaced by Kipng’etich arap Tororei and Peter Mwangi respectively.
During Monday’s interviews, Njenga who is a career civil servant was asked why he wanted to come back to the government.
Lawyer Ahmednasir Abdullahi nominated to the interviewing panel by the Judicial Service Commission, particularly felt that Njenga and Nyamai were “system people” having served much of their lives in the public service.
“You are a systems person; don’t you think you will be the odd one out here? Since you were a DO, DC and this police service commission is a reformist body because the DOs, DCs sit in the security intelligence committee – since we are reforming those and you were there – don’t you think you are part of the problem the Police Service Commission is trying to address?” posed Abdullahi, asking Njenga to state what contributions he intends to bring on board.
Njenga however, defended himself saying: “I think somebody does not remain constant all through, I accept there is that history of being a DC and so forth and whatever is associated with it but I can also play a reformist role because there is no time to become a conformist.”
The candidate insisted he is an independent person and even gave an example when he served at the Tourism Ministry during the Moi era and was telephoned from State House and asked to sack six senior officials who had been involved in the illegal sale of elephant tusks.
“I said no, there was no way I was going to just sack people like that, but you see the call was coming from State House and I was supposed to report back immediately and say that I have sacked them. Later I was called to go to State House and my boss was not around, but he was called and we went together and we were told the allegations. The complainant was there and we were told a vehicle had been impounded so there was evidence and we asked to be given more time to resolve the issue,” he narrated.
Acting Internal Security Permanent Secretary Mutea Iringo asked him what he would do to minimise crime in the wake of sophisticated crime in the country.
“In fact this is an issue I tried to introduce when I was a DC. I called for the recruitment of graduates to join the police. So at this time and age I think we need them (graduates) even more. That time we did not have a single graduate at the Administration Police for example,” he said.
Abdullahi sought to know from Atema why he did not take time to involve himself with policing matters during his short stint in government and the period he has been serving in international postings for NGOs.
“Having looked at your CV, I see you are more theoretical. There are people who formed NGOs to check the government and its policing issues, isn’t it too late in the day for you to come back?” Abdullahi posed.
Atema defended himself saying he was involved in the formation of the NGO council.
“I have contributed a lot in the advocating for civil liberties freedom in this country, having worked in the Action Aid for more than 10 years. Part of our work was to change the lives of the people and I have been at the heart of it,” he said.
Other candidates interviewed on Monday include Maj (rtd) Billow Khalid and Jane Kamangu.
On Tuesday, Josephine Gichuhi, Lawrence Nyalle, Ronald Musengi, David Cheruiyot and Edna Ameyo Nyaloti are due to face the panel.