Last Sunday, the Sunday Nation carried a fascinating article based on an interview with a retired NSIS operative.
The questions posed by that article remain mostly unanswered. The main one is how could the country slip into such serious tribal clashes with no advance warning from the country’s intelligence services? And even more recently, how could the Mungiki move in and take over the entire country for almost a week, virtually bringing business to a standstill in some areas.
Surely, is it not true that our intelligence services (reputed to be the best in the region) were sleeping on the job? Why else have we gotten ourselves into such a mess since last December with no advance warning of any sort as events after event continue to unfold? The implication here would be that the country’s national security could be at risk if our intelligence services are so sloppy and incompetent.
Actually the answer to that question is a little more complex than it may appear at first sight.
The most important point to take careful note of is the fact that there is a huge difference between gathering intelligence information and processing it. Incidentally processing information is given a lot of emphasis by British security and this is one of the reasons why that country’s intelligence services are considered to be among the best in the world.
Indeed as information technology has taken over our lives, what many who gather information have quickly found out is that it is easy to be overwhelmed with too much information or information overflow which makes processing even more challenging and a nightmare in many cases.
There are those who strongly believe that the biggest weakness we seem to have with our local intelligence community at the moment has a lot more to do with the processing of the information rather than the gathering. Competent processing is usually linked much more to experience rather than just training and also deep knowledge of the country. However many times it boils down to gut feeling which again is developed over time. It is common knowledge that the NSIS is still a very new outfit with very well educated but inexperienced hands running the show.
However my personal view is that the problem is not so much with the country’s intelligence units as it is with those who need to make decisions. While information can be gathered and submitted and maybe even correctly processed, decisions as to what needs to be done is mostly left to politicians and bureaucrats with political interests to look after.
For example NSIS information in the run up to the general elections last year, predicted a near-landslide victory for the
But maybe the biggest judgment call last December emerged from the fact the person heading the intelligence unit had their better judgment clouded because of their tribe. Michael Gichangi hails from the house of Mumbi and it is abundantly clear that he completely underestimated the possible reaction of the vast majority of Kenyans to a stolen election like many of his kinsmen did. If truth be told many Kikuyus still do nt understand what the problem is and lean heavily on the assumption that the whole violence was heavily financed by somebody. Because of that misjudgment there are over 4,000 Kenyans who are no longer with us today and have gone to meet their maker. In my raw notes this week I discuss what Gichangi is said to have advised the president to do to ward off a possible court injunction over the stolen elections from ODM.
Even more recently police commissioner Maj Gen Hussein Ali received intelligence reports indicating that Mungiki were planning to go on the rampage. Ali totally rubbished that report based on the vicious bloodletting that went on last year to purge the proscribed group. He was wrong of course and that is why the police were taken completely by surprise.
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