- Employing its wide mandate, the NIS is now involved in almost all facets of running the government, from dealing with corruption, terrorism to land issues.
- In November last year, the agency flagged nine judges and three lawyers seeking appointments as Court of Appeal judges.
In the wake of the incessant terror attacks in 2013 and 2014, the relationship between the then National Intelligence Service (NIS) Director-General Major-General (Rtd) Michael Gichangi and President Uhuru Kenyatta was so strained that the President had grown tired of receiving intelligence briefs.
People in the know say the relationship was further tested by a confrontation between the spy chief and other security chiefs, among them the then military chief Julius Karangi and police boss David Kimaiyo, over the Mpeketoni killings in which al-Shabaab militants slaughtered more than 60 people.
The bad blood among the intelligence and security honchos resulted in the forced retirement of Maj-Gen Gichangi, who was blamed for not doing enough in gathering intelligence to avert the attacks.
Maj-Gen (Rtd) Philip Kameru, his successor, in a meeting with senior officers of the spy agency, promised to repair the public image of the intelligence agency and regain the confidence with the President.
Six years later, after the President openly rebuked the intelligence body, Maj-Gen Kameru has managed to restore the glory of the NIS and placed it as President Kenyatta’s most powerful organ in the security sector.
“The intelligence agency has become the enforcer of government policy. Although it is difficult to place a yardstick, it has emerged as the most trusted entity in public service in the Uhuru era,” says Edward Wanyonyi, a graduate of war studies from King's College, London.
Last week, as he announced Cabinet changes in which Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Mwangi Kiunjuri was fired, President Kenyatta — in his most overt recognition of the importance of the spy agency — directed it to deal with cartels in his government.
“I direct the NIS to undertake a rigorous review of all cartel groupings that have become leeches, sucking away the blood and sweat of hardworking Kenyans. I want the review to pay particular attention to cartels operating in the public systems of budgeting, procurement, regulation and the illegal rigging of markets,” he said.
“It should also put the agriculture sector under the microscope. Once this review is completed, I further direct the DCI to take necessary action, working alongside the DPP, to confront these cartels with every instrument available.”
Not only has the NIS become the most powerful security and intelligence agency in the country but Mr Kameru is also close to the President.
The NIS has now become heavily involved in the running of the country with its extended mandate including political intelligence, economic intelligence, active measures, counter-intelligence, political security and law enforcement through the multi-agency team.
“The NIS is now fully involved in national safety and security ranging from issues dealing with counter-terrorism to economic crimes. They are also involved in local governance and political issues, including giving birth to the “handshake” between ODM leader Raila Odinga and President Kenyatta and also on foreign policy matters,” says Byron Odera, a security analyst and a former Special Forces commando.
Captain (Rtd) Odera argues that the NIS is like a shadow government. “Essentially, the decisions at strategic levels are intelligence-driven. The Big Four Agenda is also shaped around the same, albeit with interdependence on other moving parts.”
The power of the NIS, whose staff numbers are not public, is enhanced by its unique legal status through the National Intelligence Service Act, 2012, which gives it the responsibility for “security intelligence and counter-intelligence to enhance national security in accordance with the Constitution”.
Employing its wide mandate, the NIS is now involved in almost all facets of running the government, from dealing with corruption, terrorism to land issues.
The Ministry of Land has created a Sh490 million Land Information System in collaboration with the NIS.
The digital registry is expected to be operational in all the 61 land registries countrywide before end of April.
Already, NIS officers have embarked on testing the system in Nairobi. They are expected to have finished and operationalised the system by March 31.
In November last year, the agency flagged nine judges and three lawyers seeking appointments as Court of Appeal judges.
Adverse reports had been made against the candidates. Although, complaints were levelled against 21 of the 127 applicants, only the nine judges and three lawyers were blacklisted.