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Citizen Weekly

Sunday 24 August 2014


Chief of Defence forces Julius Karangi is at the top of his game. His powers and influence are major. Last week alone, he played a huge role in militarizing the immigration and intelligence sectors.

No other military general officer has ever enjoyed such power and prestige in Kenya after the British left in 1963.

On President Uhuru Kenyatta’s visit to Nyeri County as head of State last year, the Commander-In-Chief, then newly in office, spent a day and a night at Karangi’s rural home, again another first for a military chief in Kenyan history.

The fall of Michael Gichangi as director of National Intelligence Service was partly attributed by experts to “bad blood” between the two former Air Force men. Again, no other top military commander in Kenya has influenced a change of guard in the civilian intelligence organisation.

At the same time, it is highly ironical that Gichangi’s career as Kenya’s spymaster started soon after a point at which the presidency and its strategists had decided to look East for the first time since independence and to embarrass traditional allies in the West.

In January 2006, President Mwai Kibaki and his core team had just lost Kenya’s first national referendum to the opposition, which enjoyed massive Western support. Eight years later, in August 2014, Uhuru and his inner core team had just returned from President Barack Obama’s US-Africa Summit when they decided it was time to drop Gichangi although he had constitutional security of tenure.

Diplomatic and investigative media sources did not fail to notice that only three days of Uhuru’s US tour were fully covered by the media and on his social media accounts. Four days remain a mystery and he was nowhere to be seen or heard from. Analysts are coming to the conclusion that the president may well have met carefully selected public and private US security consultants who will be guiding his most strategic security decisions and policies from now on.

It is often forgotten how well-grounded Uhuru is in the American system, in the face of Raila Odinga’s own networks and high-profile antics. For example, few people noticed, or attached much attention to the presence of Jendayi Frazer, the former US assistant secretary of State for African Affairs, who headed the Bureau of African Affairs, at the US-Africa Summit on August 4-7 2014, or how she interacted with the president and his top advisers.

 Frazer is a close friend of the Kenyatta family, including Uhuru’s elder sister Christina Pratt. When her former boss Johnnie Carson warned Kenyans against voting for Uhuru and his then running mate William Ruto saying “choices have consequences”, Frazer attacked him furiously. She has also written extensively in US and other media on the inappropriateness of the Kenyan cases currently at the ICC in the matter of the 2007-08 post-election violence.

Frazer knows every trick in the American book of diplomatic and intelligence trickery and she is one of Uhuru’s most valuable guides in the turbulent waters of American power plays.
Like Gichangi, Karangi is basically an Air Force man. Both have spent training stints in the USA, but Karangi has by far the most strategic American links and networks. For some reason, insider sources say, both men loathe each other.

But Karangi has something no other Kenyan has ever enjoyed – among his many decorations is the American Legion of Merit, which, according to Wikipedia, is “a military award of the United States Armed Forces that is given for exceptionally meritorious conduct in the performance of outstanding services and achievements. The decoration is issued to members of the seven uniformed services of the United States as well as to military and political figures of foreign governments”.

General Karangi is a frequent visitor to the USA, including calls on US Army General Martin Dempsey at the Pentagon, his American counterpart.

When he goes on his sabbaticals to US universities and TV and FM stations, Raila would do well to note that Jubilee has strategic friends, networks and engagements where it really matters – behind closed doors in the corridors of real power.

This is why it was possible for Uhuru to be received by three American presidents – the incumbent Obama, his predecessor George W Bush and Bush’s predecessor Bill Clinton, and all this despite the case at the ICC.
Karangi and his preferred choice of successor to Gichangi, former military intelligence chief Major General Wachira Kameru, detailed their best contacts in United States military intelligence and the superpower’s extended intelligence community to keep a close eye on Raila when he was based at Boston University’s African Presidential Centre.

Also closely watching every move and weighing every word that Raila made or uttered while he was in the US for two-and-a-half months were Kenyan Diaspora intelligence agents.
The best-informed men in Kenya on all things to do with Raila in the US were therefore not Gichangi’s NIS but Karangi and Kameru external intelligence.

On a visit to US military intelligence facilities six years ago, Brig Kameru really impressed his hosts. At the US Army’s Intelligence Centre, which he visited for two whole days, Kameru told his hosts that he was looking to “borrow the best practices”. He also visited Central Command at MacDill Air Force Base in Florida. Remarkably, even that long ago, three years before KDF stormed into Somalia, Kameru had his eyes focused on Somalis in Kenya. He told his hosts that Kenyan was facing growing concerns about the potential of terrorist groups entering the country.

When President Kenyatta nominated Kameru to take charge at NIS, media and diplomatic analysts read the move as a coup for Karangi. Earlier, the same week, Uhuru had appointed Maj, Gen, (Rtd) Gordon Kihalangwa, director of immigration.

The mainstream newspapers struggled to outdo each other with headlines about the military taking over top civilian designations. The Standard on Saturday even hazarded a guess that Interior Secretary Joseph ole Lenku might be replaced by retired Army General Joseph ole Nkaissery.

One of the President’s biggest surprise moves when he came back from America was to shuffle PS Monica Juma from the ministry of Defence to Interior and National Coordination, changing places with the distinctly anti-West Mutea Iringo. Juma is the wife of Peter Kagwanja, the PNU frontline apologist who has been looking for a toe-hold in the Jubilee regime, but has been hampered by having written an academic study whose research linked Uhuru to the Mungiki killer cult when Uhuru was deputy prime minister. The prosecution at the ICC has quoted extensively from the Kagwanja research.

 Juma also has deep British and American roots, including being an Adjunct Faculty member at the African Centre for Strategic Studies of the National Defence University, Washington, DC. This is the university that Carson once headed and where he rewarded retired President Daniel arap Moi with a distinguished tour after he stepped down from power. Uhuru is therefore developing deep connections with the West. His meeting with George W Bush, the creator of the infamous Department of Homeland Security, an institution whose Kenyan version Uhuru would like to be part of his legacy, was significant.

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