Excerpts from the Memoirs of a Kenyan Spymaster, a unique autobiography by Bart Joseph Kibati who worked in national intelligence for over two decades, where his job was to, with others in the business, identify and analyze threats and advise the government. It is a revealing look at many sectors of his life (he got married the same day that Tom Mboya was shot), Kenya’s transformation in the independence era, the business environment, and the state of security in East Africa and international relations, while serving in two administrations during which he interacted with Presidents’ Kenyatta and Moi.
Police & Cattle & Remote areas
- Cattle rustling by cattle raiders – Ngorokos (former soldier) has long been a feature in Kenya, with Laikipia and Samburu raids spilling over to Turkana, Baringo and Isiolo areas. Suguta Valley where over 40 police were killed in 2012 is a place that police have long avoided going to for years because of the dangers.
- While the ‘Ngoroko’ plot against Moi, was a myth, it was based a well-intended idea to have an elite fighting unit to chase and deal with bandits.
- For decades, Lamu’s Boni forest, which is near the Somalia border, has been a hideout for poachers & bandits and this has been sustained by poor policing practices in the area and support by local tribes.
East Africa & Leadership Styles
- Some keen observations on some of the factors such as economic desires, ideology & actions of leaders – Kenyatta, Nyerere and Obote/Amin and other political party & government officials in the run-up to why the East Africa community collapsed.
- Two days after the signing of an East African a treaty in 1963, there were coup attempts in all three EAC countries.
- To make their decisions, Kenyatta relied on finished intelligence information, while Moi wanted raw information.
- Moi wanted to know why the Kikuyu hated him and Bart told him about quotas in education and government, and the collapse of their banks (which were rolled into Consolidated Bank) and area infrastructure, to which Moi replied: “How can the government build infrastructure if they ask donors not to release funds?”
Industry & Economy
- Beach plots allocated by the President and partnership with hoteliers resulted in massive hotel empires at the coast or wealth from selling utility plots – by people around the president.
- The greed of property developers and corruption of environmental regulators.
- The government moved to grant duty-free cars to university lecturers in a move to pacify their radical ways.
- Coffee smuggling from Uganda, through Chepkube, opened the eyes of many people in government, including police, to quick great wealth that could come from corruption.
- The Numerical Machine Corporation was a success. It just could not shed the ‘Nyayo car’ tag.
Human Resources & Working in the Government:
- When he finished form four at Mangu High School, he had job offers to work at East African Airways, Barclays Bank, the Post Office, Kenyatta University, and also the option to continue his schooling at A levels!
- The recent repeal of indemnity for security forces (and TJRC) makes it hard to do police work such as combating terror threats and is a demonization of patriots.
- How colleagues, and politicians scheme to transfer, promote or demote other security staff.
- There is no pension for older Kenyans who, while experienced, are discarded under the guise that they are preventing youth from getting jobs. It seems the Government hopes they will die soon and stop draining the meagre government pension.
- There were no successful coups in Kenya due to (long-term spymaster chief) Kanyotu and the Special Branch. The 1982 coup was unnecessary; It could have been stopped but for a leak and bureaucracy. But Kanyotu was later misled by Pattni into the Goldenberg scam.
- The more open that national intelligence services become, with things like having a visible head (of tee NIS) and a website, the less effective they have become.
- Finally, he ends by asking if Kenya is facing more terror attacks, urban crimes, and rural banditry today because the country doesn’t have a functional intelligence collecting unit. Or there’s more reliance on technical intelligence than human intelligence by a demoralized, ethnicized spy unit.
Some revelations in Spymaster are shocking, but many of the stories have been cited elsewhere with different interpretations, and many of the people named have passed on, or circumstances have changed. Also another story elsewhere, quotes Lee Njiru a long time civil servant who says that: (the) Official Secrets Act binds civil servants to keep secrets for 30 years and the period had elapsed and he was now free to share what he knows.
Also read The Birth of an Airline by Owaahh, which narrates from the Spymaster book, about the break-up of East African Airways and the birth of Kenya Airways.