Cablegate: Kenya Police: Reforms Aplenty, but Performance Lags

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1. (SBU) Summary: The Kibaki administration has implemented
significant reforms of the Kenya Police Service and greatly
increased its resources. The worst police abuses of the
Moi-era have been eradicated. However, reforms and increased
resources have not yet yielded a dramatic rise in police
effectiveness. Public anger over persistent high rates of
violent crime remains a top election issue in Kenya. End

Background: Kenya Police Service & Administration Police

2. (U) The Kenya Police Service (KPS) is older than Kenya
itself. KPS traces its lineage to the private security guard
force formed in 1887 to protect warehouses in Mombasa owned
by the Imperial British East Africa Company. These security
guards later formed the nucleus of a police force under the
British East African Protectorate, established in 1895. The
force policed urban areas and protected railway installations
and railway workers. Kenyan police fought alongside Kenyan
soldiers in both World War I (against German Tanganyika) and
World War II (against Italian Somaliland and Italian-occupied
Ethiopia). Today the force numbers about 40,000 officers,
divided into ten functional units and distributed throughout
the country's eight provinces. Among the most important
units are the Anti-Terrorism Police Unit (Kenya's Muslim
organizations regularly call for its disbandment), General
Services Unit (GSU -- paramilitary police, once notorious as
brutal enforcers for KANU, the former ruling party), Criminal
Investigation Department (CID), Airport Police, Traffic
Police (worst reputation for corruption of all units),
Anti-Stock Theft (responsible for curbing cattle rustling in
pastoral areas), Tourism Police, the Diplomatic Police
(operational, but not formally established in law), and the
recently upgraded with U.S. assistance Marine Police Unit

3. (SBU) The KPS is headed by the Commissioner of Police
(CP), who is appointed directly by the President without
consultation with the legislature. The incumbent,
Major-General Hussein Ali, is an ethnic Somali appointed by
President Kibaki in 2004. His appointment caused some
consternation among senior KPS officers who resented an army
general being placed in command over them. (Since he assumed
the post, Ali was promoted from Brigadier-General to
Major-General, indicating he continues to enjoy strong
support within the military.) Ali is known for a very
brusque style. He has publicly castigated KPS as
dysfunctional and expressed his intent to reform it. He does
not consult with senior KPS officers. He has alienated major
security sector donors (UK officials refuse to work with
him). Ali is strongly supported by Kenya's first lady, Lucy
Kibaki. For policy coordination purposes, the CP reports to
the Minister of State for Internal Security and Provincial
Administration in the Office of the President. However, Ali
is known to insist strongly that he answers only to the

4. (U) The Administration Police (AP) is an entirely separate
civilian security service from KPS. Its origins lie in the
colonial-era Tribal Police. While KPS secured the railway
routes, urban centers and settler-populated areas, the tribal
police enforced often unpopular colonial laws in "native
areas," providing the muscle behind British-appointed
"village headmen." Today, the AP numbers about 18,000. It
is deployed in every administrative center in the country,
but is concentrated in frontier districts, especially along
the insecure Somali, Ethiopian and Sudanese borders. The AP
is directly under the control of the Minister for Internal
Security and Provincial Administration. The AP exists to
enforce the rule of the central government-appointed
Provincial Commissioners and the District Commissioners who
serve under them. Their tasks include border security, VIP
protection, guarding government installations, anti-banditry
patrols in sparsely populated regions and quelling violence
between warring communities. They have a paramilitary
structure and training regime. AP officers have arrest
authority but no detention or prosecution authority. AP

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officers make arrests and then hand over suspects to KPS.
This report focuses on the KPS rather than the AP.

Police Status When Kibaki Government Came to Power

5. (U) In early 2003 the Kibaki administration inherited from
the Moi regime a corrupt, inefficient and thoroughly
politicized KPS and an AP in only slightly better shape.
Public opinion polls regularly listed KPsF#Q;QCZQ[$^stitution in Kenya (although the judiciary was not far
behind). The AP got higher marks. Kenyan victims of violent
criminal attacks feared to report incidents to the police.
Those who did often found that the predatory attentions of
the police exacerbated the original crime. KPS's major
problems included:

-- Poor infrastructure: Decrepit offices and police barracks
built in the 1960s with little or no subsequent maintenance.
Three families crowded into a tiny apartment. No housing at
all for KPS officers assigned to rural Kenya.

-- Low Pay: Pay for rank & file officers well below a living
wage, an open invitation to corruption.

-- Insufficient numbers: UNDP recommends a ratio of one
police officer for every 400 citizens. In 2003, the ratio in
Kenya was 1:900.

-- Politicization: The police (especially the GSU), were
openly used by the Moi regime to harass, intimidate, torture
and kill political opponents (as documented in our human
rights reports from the era). Moi's allies in government and
business were not simply above the law, they were able to
direct police to act against their political or commercial
rivals. (NOTE: The worst human rights abuses under the Moi
regime were committed by the Special Branch, whose members
were drawn from KPS, though Special Branch was not a formal
unit of KPS. The Kibaki government disbanded the Special
Branch and replaced it with a professional intelligence

-- Poor Command & Control: A politically well-connected
policeman could have considerably more effective power than
his commander. Commanders could be overruled at any time by
politicians and their friends. Well-connected subordinates
could arrange transfers and promotions without the knowledge
of their superiors.

-- Poor professional standards, lack of training and skills,
lack of equipment.

-- Poor Community Relations: The public avoided the police,
who were regarded as "thieves in uniform."

-- Criminal Activities: Police were widely known to
moonlight as robbers and to rent out their weapons to robbers
in return for a fee and a share of the loot.

6. (SBU) Some of the ills of KPS are due to colonial era
policies that the leadership of independent Kenya opted to
retain. The British maintained a policy of not assigning
police to their home areas and of rotating police every few
years. It was believed (with good reason) that a Kikuyu
policeman might refuse to evict fellow Kikuyu from their
lands or to enforce the hated "hut tax" on them. However,
the same policeman could be reasonably expected to do so
enthusiastically as regards Maasai, for example. A policeman
assigned to the same area for a prolonged period, it was
thought, was likely to form local relationships that would
inhibit effective enforcement of colonial policy. The result
of these policies is a force that is alienated from the
public it is to serve. Police are often unaware of and
unconcerned about local customs and personalities. This has
been a major issue between the police and the Muslim
community on the coast.

Police Reforms & Increased Resources

7. (SBU) In 2003 the Kibaki administration drafted an
ambitious four-year strategic action plan to address these

NAIROBI 00002974 003 OF 004

issues. Some of the reforms achieved to date include:

-- Introduction of a mission statement and change of name to
emphasize service to the public over enforcing government
policy on the public. The Kenya Police Force became the
Kenya Police Service.

-- Some infrastructure improvements to existing barracks and
stations, expansion of new facilities in underserved regions.
While progress has been achieved, there is still much to do
in this regard.

-- Increase in pay. Police pay increased in 2003 by 120%.
Police salaries are now sufficient to earn entry into the
lower middle class.

-- Recruitment and promotion processes were reformed after a
scandal in 2005 that resulted in the cancellation of a
training class and the dismissal of police officials deemed
guilty of irregular recruitment. The new system has not
generated complaints, which is rare in often contentious
Kenyan society. Numbers have increased such that the present
police to population ratio is 1:530 (down from 1:900).

-- Training has been enhanced (an INL official recently
visited the training center and was positively impressed).
There has been an increased adherence to mandatory retirement
rules and an increase in discharging officers for bad
behavior. These moves allow newly recruited, better educated
and better trained officers to make up an ever larger
percentage of the force. That said, one senior police
official lamented to PolCouns "we still have a lot of
deadwood on our hands."

-- Communications equipment and vehicles are more available
than in the past. A new electronic fingerprint
identification system has been installed at CID headquarters.
Some crucial security equipment is lacking. This explains
the Internal Security Minister's recent lobbying for USG
support in this regard (ref A).

-- Improved community relations through the introduction of
community policing policies. KPS and AP have established
websites and launched information campaigns to promote the
public's cooperation in solving crimes. Outreach programs
seek to overcome the public's traditional fear and loathing
of the police. Community policing concepts did not exist in
Kenya prior to 2003.

8. (SBU) In addition to these reforms and resource
increases, Ali has successfully shielded KPS from the
incessant political interference that had plagued it during
the Moi years. CP Ali jealously and aggressively defends his
prerogatives and control of the KPS. While we believe Ali is
likely to use KPS to support the government's political
objectives to some extent when directly asked to do so by the
President, he is not willing to see members of parliament and
party financiers routinely treating the police as their own
private security force, as was formerly their practice. The
KPS today is much less politicized than it was under Moi.
The GSU in particular is beginning to lose its notoriety as a
ruling party goon squad. However, this new found
institutional autonomy is wholly dependent on the person of
CP Ali. His drive to reduce the scope of individuals outside
KPS influencing operations extends to security sector donors,
such as the UK and the U.S. Security consultations and
cooperation with Ali can be very difficult.

9. (SBU) Similarly, CP Ali has taken personal control over
all promotions and transfers to ensure advancement for those
who abide by his policies, to relegate to backwaters those
who do not and to eliminate outside influence. He has also
improved command and control by increasing service discipline
(including mass firings of dozens of traffic police at a time
when captured on video taking bribes). However, again, these
actions are not institutionalized. There is no guarantee
that the next CP will be equally vigorous in defending KPS
autonomy and promoting service discipline.

10. (SBU) While progress on the reform program has been

NAIROBI 00002974 004 OF 004

achieved, the reforms have not yet translated into a dramatic
rise in effectiveness. Fear of violent crime is still the
number one political issue on the minds of Kenyan voters.
Elements of the police are credibly linked with large
criminal organizations (ref B), narcotraffickers and gun
smugglers. Ali's abrasive style has alienated would-be
allies in the donor community. His extreme aversion to
sharing authority with others sank an attempt to establish a
U.S.-funded joint anti-terrorism task force in 2005. While a
reformer brought in from outside could not be expected to be
loved by senior KPS officers, Ali often goes out of his way
to insult and provoke them. KPS officers then retaliate
through attempts to sabotage Ali's initiatives. Ali has
shown no interest in scrapping colonial era policies that
prevent police from serving their home communities. The rate
of police rotations has significantly increased under his

Prospects for Further Reforms & Resource Increases

11. (SBU) The Kibaki administration's most recent budget
(ref C) includes a very hefty increase in police funding,
including the recruitment of another 25,000 officers,
producing a population to police ratio of 1:450. Ali
recently weathered a storm of protests against his leadership
from a public, media and diplomatic community enraged by a
spate of grisly and brazen murders. It appears his place is
secure. He is on track to become one of Kenya's longest
serving CPs. In the meantime, we and the Kenyan public await
the day when his reforms begin to yield a dramatic rise in
police effectiveness against the perpetrators of violent
crime. Police responsiveness, crime scene security,
investigatory prowess, and integrity (especially among
traffic police) remain far from sufficient to meet the
security needs of Kenyans.

© Scoop Media

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