WISE TO MORTIFY?

Uhuru’s rebuking DCI Kinoti good for politics, bad for criminal justice system

Those against DCI investigations will find a political angle to each of them

In Summary

• Police and military commanders function on the assumption that they enjoy absolute confidence of their Commander-in-Chief. Uhuru shattered that.

• It is difficult to understand the motivation behind the President addressing one of his senior security officers in public. Was he massaging community egos. Is he willing to overlook wrongdoing?

DCI boss George Kinoti addresses PEV victims at DCI headquarters on November 23, .
PEV CASES: DCI boss George Kinoti addresses PEV victims at DCI headquarters on November 23, .
Image: NANCY AGUTU

In the security services, a public reprimand by the Commander-in-Chief must rank as the lowest one can sink.

Police and military commanders function on the assumption that they enjoy absolute confidence of their Commander-in-Chief.

On that score alone, I half expected that DCI boss George Kinoti would resign a day after he was publicly humiliated by President Uhuru Kenyatta over his attempt to reopen investigations into the 2008 post-election violence.

While resignation over principles is a foreign concept in Kenya, at the very least, after the President’s speech, I thought Kinoti would petition State House to give him an ambassadorial appointment at some nondescript Southeast Asia station.

It is difficult to understand the motivation behind the President addressing one of his senior security officers in public. However, if it was meant to score political points among his erstwhile buddies, the goals conceded in the process may have been more, making the goal difference in this scenario negative.

Kinoti has already weathered the storm of delegitimisation by the Tangatanga wing of Jubilee, in which nearly every action he takes, which is disagreeable to them, it is branded the work of political opponents from the so-called 'deep state'.

From the numerous corruption investigations to the drama around the murder of Sergeant Kipyegon Kenei, the Tangatanga brigade believes Kinoti is an errand boy for dark forces that seek to stop DP William Ruto’s presidential bid.

With this in mind, it would have been [appropriate] to cut Kinoti some slack and protect his standing in the police service. Be that as it may, an interesting question arises from something else the President said at the launch of the BBI signature collection drive.

Something like “as someone who consumes information from many sources, I can assure you that if the handshake hadn’t happened, the country would have been brought to its knees."

He was obviously referring to his access to intelligence briefs, which give him unfettered access to advance information ordinary mortals can only dream of. So how was Kinoti able to mobilise over 70 PEV victims and call a presser at DCI headquarters, without the President getting prior intelligence on it?

If as he said, the President only learned about Kinoti’s new project the next day from the media, where is the breakdown in his chain of command? And would this mean there are unelected masters of the political game pulling the strings from the shadows?

Or was the President engaging in public posturing and political correctness, while directing events from behind the scenes?

There is a bad precedent about to be set here. If indeed Kinoti had real PEV victims writing statements and seeking help to recover their property and prosecute perpetrators of the violence, does it now mean that criminal actions can be swept aside on the basis of political agreements?

With another possibly divisive election around the corner, is the President telling the country that electoral violence between feuding communities will not be investigated if those communities come together in electoral coalitions?

Kenya has become a historical injustices paradise because of the perennial fear to confront our past and bring closure where possible. But this is the first time that the President, our symbol of national unity, is asking publicly that we don’t revisit the graves and ashes of victims so that we don’t awaken the more evil instincts in our political contests.

This is very disturbing, especially so because this portends a scenario where those against DCI investigations will find a political angle to each of them, and cite possible 2022 political implications, and voila! the investigation is closed.

How, for example, will Kinoti proceed with investigations into the murder of Sergeant Kenei, which has already been politicised? Does he have to keep walking on eggshells to avoid stepping on the toes of political formations whose anger may inflame passions at election time?

Where I come from, there is a saying that “when you blame the hawk for eating your chicks, you must also blame the hen for wandering too far with her chicks.” There is a manner of delivery around Kinoti that unwittingly invites most of the criticism directed at him.

Watching his presentations in public, Kinoti reminds me of a validation-starved prosperity gospel preacher, attempting to peddle fake miracles to the indoctrinated minds of a malleable congregation. He deploys what seems like too much emotion and drama around investigations.

I remember the Tob Cohen murder investigation, when Kinoti arrived at the deceased’s home, proceeded to hug Cohen’s sister like a long lost relative rather than a police officer, and proceeded to make promises to her on how he was going to catch the killer.

I couldn’t help wondering how he had already concluded that the people he was hugging and making promises to were clean, in the matter.

It is such actions that fuel the perception of Kinoti as one prone to partisanship, and a man who easily sees guilt from a one-dimensional view. In fact, quite often, it seems that if Kinoti were to have his way, he would arrest his suspects today and have them in jail tomorrow.

The DCI boss and the President have only added ammunition to the crime buster’s haters and compromised his ability to move forward from here. But the bigger losers are the innocent PEV victims who thought this was one last chance to recover their property or get justice.

A more unsettling picture emerges when you consider just how far this doctrine of 'lest we reopen graves we left behind' could go. Essentially, the underlying message is that we will have to massage the delicate egos of ethnic communities and their tribal lords if we are to maintain peace.

With that message coming from the highest office in the land, we can as well saddle up for a lonely ride ahead. In this landscape,  political expediency may take precedence over criminal justice, depending on which graves we fear revisiting because this may interfere with peace and tranquility in those areas.

In the interim, an officer whose wisdom has been publicly questioned by his commander-in-chief, is much better off in a posting where some other form of wisdom is required. Kinoti may want to start exploring the peace and fulfilment that come with farming, or ask to be posted as ambassador in a country far away from State House, Nairobi.