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.
Excerpts from his recently published official biography – Against All Odds.
– He worked at customs department at the port of Mombasa where he was disgusted by the bribery he saw. He did his pupillage at Kaplan & Straton. Later he got a Rotary Club scholarship to study business management at Cyprus and he was poached to work at Manu Chandaria’s Comcraft in the legal department.
Lost the 1983 election and came fourth. But when the MP was shot two years later by a policeman, occasioning a by-election, Kalonzo reluctantly entered that and won.
He has always been touched by the poverty he saw when he grew up and launched the Kalonzo Musyoka Foundation in January 2006 which worked with Shelter Afrique to launch affordable housing for rural women in Kitui.
Cabinet & Economic Intrigues
KANU era: Mwingi is one of the fastest growing towns in Kenya because of the water it gets from Kiambere-Mwingi. But that was only after he fought off powerful forces after he secured $116 million from the Italian government – a powerful voice who wanted it to go to the National Water & Pipeline Corporation but Kalonzo steered it to TARDA so it did not become a white elephant.
CHOGM The Commonwealth Summit in New Zealand which was attended by Mandela was almost overshadowed by ‘Bull of Auckland’ incident. But Kalonzo explained the incident to officials there so that it did not reach the media there or affect the ongoing summit. But it did leak afterward in the Kenya media.
When Tony Blair praised him before President Moi after the 1997 CHOGM, he knew had lost his Foreign Affairs docket – and after the elections, he was moved to the Education & Manpower ministry.
In 1998 he fled teachers striking outside his office by hiding in his wife’s car. He then got Mulu Mutisya and elders to negotiate a settlement with teachers union (KNUT) and the strike was called off the following day.
Moi was shocked at the excesses of Mobutu when they visited Gbadolite – his hometown and said “River Ubangi could generate electricity for all of Africa.
South Africa: After Kenya had in 1963 turned down an ANC request to set up a base in Nairobi, Moi worked hard to mend fences with South Africa after Mandela was freed, and Mandela thanked Moi for $1 million that Kenya gave to ANC during apartheid struggle. Mandela also made a secret visit to Nairobi when he fell ill on a flight in April 1990, then returned for an official visit in July.
NARC: Free primary education was Kalonzo’s brainchild as education minister. When Kibaki became the NARC candidate in 2002, Kalonzo gave the campaign team all the papers and policies that he had written – including on FPE that was soon implemented by the new government.
MOU breach: Happened when Kibaki moved Kalonzo from Foreign Affairs to Natural Resources. All NARC summit leaders had a choice of their ministerial dockets – and he had chosen Foreign Affairs, Raila had taken Roads & Public Works and Moody chose Home Affairs.
Jubilee: After beating back a “feeble” Musalia (for president) effort, Uhuru and Ruto turned on to him; and his reunion with Raila started the day Uhuru and Ruto returned from the ICC hearings and after (vice president) Kalonzo had met them at the airport and driven around Nairobi with them.
Indian Africa, minorities of Indian-Pakistani origin in Eastern Africa, is a 484-page book with lots of information, charts, statistics and stories of the arrival and enduring impact of Indians in East Africa:
Almost all Indian traders to East Africa were from the northwest (Sindh) now Pakistan, Gujarat, Punjab, and Maharashtra in India.
The Indian population in Kenya which fell to 78,000 in 1979 rose once again to stabilize at 100,000, half of whom acquired Kenyan nationality. The demographic resurgence was probably due to donor pressure but also favorable treatment under President Moi who got into a tactical alliance with high society to check the influence of the emerging Kikuyu middle class. Thus in 1986, Indians who had been dispossessed in 1967 returned to manufacturing, by buying out subsidiaries of multinationals.
Indians are in 80% of industrial sectors and control 90% of business activity in the textile industry through 50 mills and 350 other companies. In the pharmaceutical sector, they control 60%, 80% of the chemical/plastics, 80% of iron business, and 90% of electrical installation ones (French Embassy statistics).
25 of the 44 banks are controlled by Kenyan Indians.
Family business structure: Capital raised stays with the founder (first generation) while the second generation (sons) assume managerial and administrative positions and prepare the business for expansion.
Business Capital: Most Kenyan Indians businesses are totally dependent on local resources unlike the perception that they get foreign capital – only 5% of 210 entrepreneurs surveyed said they had received such – and this was from expatriate parents in Britain, India, Dubai.
Business Finance: Bank loans are secondary sources of funding – only 33% had received them, while 67% never had. They have other informal sources of credit such as employer associations to which some Europeans and Africans all benefit – and 32% of interviewees were members of groups like the United Business Association. Suppliers are frequent credit sources for small merchants. To obtain credit, one must demonstrate honesty, good management and present minimum guarantees such as from family members, real estate collateral, and repayment schedule. There is also mutual help within communities on matters of illness, death, or when a business is failing.
The book has profiles of different types of duka wallahs (traditional shopkeepers) as well as chapters on the settlement and emergence of business communities in Kampala, Nakuru, and Dar es Salaam.
For Ismailis, health and education are their priority political commitments.
Digital Kenya, by Bitange Ndemo and Tim Weiss, charts the rapid emergence of Kenya in the world of technology. Through stories and interviews with people in the sector, you learn about risk-taking and making policy from humble beginnings back in the mid-1990’s when the whole country shared 32 kbps, and the then telecom Kenya Posts & Telecommunications (KPTC) monopoly declared internet services as being illegal. At the time, KPTC was connecting about 10,000 users to the phone network, and with 77,000 potential customers waiting, they envisioned a 5% tele-density in Kenya by the year 2015. The tele-density in 2015 turned out to be 88% thanks to rapid changes that came after fibre cables and the cheaper mobile phones emerged.
One story is a narration of how, as a peace agreement was being signed in February 2008 to end the post-election violence in Kenya, the ICT Ministry managed to secure a guarantee to enable the laying of the TEAMS fibre cable that ultimately changed the face of ICT in Kenya. This came after the ministry had stepped back from another long-discussed bureaucratic cable project – one called EASSY. This was one of the examples of government officials circumventing red tape for a good outcome. Another was the roll out of M-Pesa which is also cited here, ahead of regulations and thanks to some individuals in government giving it their cautious blessing. Not all of them turned out well, and one case cited is of officials at the Postal Corporation sabotaging a land deal that would have led to the establishment in Nairobi of the headquarters of a multinational telecommunications organization.
There are many other stories that show issues of privatization, race, the lack of vision & finance, tech startups, the need for skills to scale, and the disconnect between local capital & the tech sector. It also shows the disconnect of ICT with both formal banking and also with the agricultural sector, two crucial links yet to be adequately bridged in Kenya.
Thanks to the Ford Foundation, the books is available free of charge and a freebook download can be obtained.
I came across some old books this weekend; One was a collection of speeches by former Central Bank Governor, Philip Ndegwa, and the other was a collection of contributions made by MP JM Kariuki in parliament.
The Central Bank devaluing of Kenya’s shilling is not a bad thing, and the economic impact of this is widely misunderstood.
Commercial banks should be innovative and do more for rural Kenya; not just mop up their deposits, which they then only lend to businesses in urban areas.
Kenya’s population will double every 17 years if the current population growth rate remains at 4% a year (a speech he gave at a population conference in Nairobi).
There is a shortage of land for housing, and the government should take back all urban land that remains undeveloped for over two (2) years.
Why do government officers remove fences inside (colonial) farms that the government is buying to restore people? After this is done, the new owners will still have to go back and install new fences. Farms should be bought with the fence divisions intact.
While Kenya’s coin currency has the face of President Kenyatta, they should also inscribe his name around the sides so that future generations will know who the president was.