The Burden of Keeping Kenya VIPs Safe

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Following claims of alleged plot to assassinate Prime Minister Raila Odinga, and in line with his family’s request, he has been given ten more elite agents to guard him.

This takes up his round-the- clock security to about 60 officers, making him Kenya’s second-most protected VIP after President Kibaki, who has a 200-member force, supplemented by another standby unit wherever he visits, complete with air evacuation, and armoured protection.

The more than 10 officers from regular police and General Service Unit were deployed to PM’s protection unit on Tuesday. The guards usually give round-the-clock protection to the VIP’s spouses and children. Some are also stationed in their offices and homes.

Police sources reveal 2,500 police officers – out of the national tally of40,000, some of whom, are in traffic department, guard ministers, MPs, politicians, and top Government officials. Insiders said about 1,600 officers from the 30,000-member Administration Police complement them.

The General Service Unit’s contribution to VIP protection stands at 600.

However, each member of the bloated 42-member Cabinet is entitled to at least nine police officers.

Police spokesman Eric Kiraithe did not want to be drawn into discussion on the deployment of bodyguards, but added it is their duty to ensure safety of lives and property of Kenyans. "Police have a duty to protect all Kenyans and their property," he said.

Precaution

Sources in Government security circles revealed the decision to reinforce Raila’s safety was taken to ensure whether the claims by Gem MP Jackoyo Midiwo were true or not, the PM and his family were safe.

State security agents said even if the claims were untrue, it is considered possible that someone could take advantage of the talk of a threat to actually endanger his life to foment a political crisis.

They said if anything happened to him, it would be assumed his killers were known, and the alarm had been raised.

Our sources also revealed the decision was made to mitigate the "paranoia or the legitimate fear" for his life among his supporters.

"You never know what may happen in this hullabaloo and that is why we have taken the measures," said a senior police officer, who asked not to be named because of the professional practice among security agencies.

Vigilance House has also instructed its field commanders to ensure Raila’s security was bolstered whenever he visits their jurisdictions.

Midiwo, who is one of the Grand Coalition joint Chief Whips, had claimed that some top Government officials, including a minister and a Permanent Secretary, had met in a Nairobi hotel to plan Raila’s assassination, as part of their Kibaki succession strategy.

President’s guards

But it is not just Raila’s security that has been tightened as The Standard established. The President’s guards have also almost been doubled following a series of local attacks linked to Al Shabaab terrorists.

The President now has a 200-member elite squad – mainly from GSU – that also guard his family and other presidential installations.

But whenever the President moves, the local Provincial Police Officer (PPO) has to ensure he is well guarded. Where he stops to address the public, about 200 plain clothe and uniformed officers are deployed.

Pooling together security officers within the various units in that particular province to supplement the President’s advance party alongside those that are in his entourage attains this target.

Kalonzo, like Raila, before he got more officers on Tuesday, has 45 officers seconded to his security unit.

The rest of the ministers officially are entitled to at least two armed guards at their homes at any time, and another two while travelling. But even then, depending on the risk assessment levels determined by security chiefs, some ministers could have more.

At least three ministers are known to have up to 10-armed police officers in chase cars at any given time. They include Deputy Prime Ministers Uhuru Kenyatta and Musalia Mudavadi, and Internal Security minister George Saitoti.

There are no clear criteria for allocating guards to VIPs, though some argue it is informed by assessment of individual risk, as security intelligence determines.

Police records reveal at least 370 police officers wake up every morning to guard Cabinet ministers, their spouses, and homes. According to official policy, every one of 222 MPs is entitled to an armed guard, while two are assigned to each minister, and their assistants.

Cabinet ministers

But Cabinet ministers enjoy the services of additional police guards, who are posted to their urban and rural homes.

Some permanent secretaries and heads of parastatals are also accorded up to three police bodyguards. The VP, Chief Justice, Central Bank Governor, the Speaker of the National Assembly, Commissioner of Police, and Chief of Defence Forces are also in the league of the heavily protected public officers. These public officers each have a chase car, at least five guards, and another division protecting their spouses and children.

An unspecified number of influential personalities, former Cabinet members, and retired public servants also have police guards. This is because of risks posed by decisions they made, and information they have by virtue of office.

Senior police officers, however, claim some politicians and well-connected businessmen at times exploit their connections in Government to be assigned police protection.

"There is nothing you can do sometimes because these people use their Government connections. They intimidate our bosses to get more security," said a senior police officer on condition of anonymity.

Police also guard Government buildings and foreign missions, which keep straining deployments to other crucial assignments.

Source: The Standard

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