By FRED MUKINDA firstname.lastname@example.org
Posted Saturday, January 14 2012 at 22:30
Posted Saturday, January 14 2012 at 22:30
If the alleged gun drama at a Nairobi shopping mall involving Deputy Chief Justice Nancy Baraza goes to court, as recommended by investigators, her driver Eric Omondi could also find himself in the dock.
Mr Omondi, a police constable deployed to the Judiciary, is the one allowed to carry a gun for her protection in line with procedures adopted by the police force.
He also risks suspension if he were to be charged. Within the force, guarding a VIP is considered one of the few prestigious assignments available for junior officers.
The job comes with special allowances on top of the monthly salary, making it one of the most sought after deployments in the police.
But as the Sunday Nation found out, VIP bodyguards have to cope with with unpleasant experiences on a daily basis.
A number of officers who spoke on condition of anonymity said the job could either be enjoyable or frustrating, depending on the character of the VIP.
An officer assigned to guard an MP from Western Kenya cited incidents when he has had to receive blows and kicks aimed at the legislator during frequent bar fights.
The incidents have, however, never deteriorated to the point where guns were drawn. Another MP, his bodyguards told the Sunday Nation, is known for his casanova habits and uses police guards assigned to him to accomplish his mischievous missions.
Guards around him are seen pestering women pointed out to them by the MP at entertainment joints. The guards would then sneak the women to private villas where their boss would be waiting.
Using policemen for roles outside their defined duties is not permitted and can result to the VIPs being reprimanded and the guards withdrawn.
“Officers on any assignment know what is expected of them. So when they encounter problems they know where to report.
“For instance, those assigned through Parliament are under the station commander at Parliament Police Station.
“Those seconded directly to MPs from various stations still remain under the command of the respective OCSs (station commanders),” said police spokesman Eric Kiraithe.
A former Nairobi MP had his bodyguard withdrawn for several weeks while he was serving in Parliament.
The decision was taken because each time a police guard was attached to him, the officer reportedly complained of frustration and requested redeployment.
If the MP was not involved in chaotic demonstrations then he would be confronting equally unruly supporters of a rival politician, the officers said.
Besides politicians, senior government officials and parastatal chiefs are guarded by police officers.
“The VIP as well as the officer attached to him should understand the assignment is for security purposes.
“The VIPs should understand that the officers are not deployed to become personal assistants, messengers or cooks. This could easily compromise security,” said Mr Kiraithe.
A senior police officer conversant with deployment said that members of the Judiciary are highly rated when assessing how they treat officers assigned to them.
Unlike politicians who insist on making their own choices, the Chief Justice relies on the police commissioner to appoint who he wishes for attachment to judges as drivers and bodyguards.
Another officer said that police on escort duties often find themselves in limbo because they have two masters in the form of their police supervisors and the VIP.
The VIPs are required to give written feedback on the conduct of their guards and positive notes can earn an officer a promotion.
In June, Kilome MP John Harun Mwau claimed in Parliament that his life was in danger and a week later, at around 10.15 p.m. on June 23, his guards reported that gunmen had fired at the legislator’s car as they rode in it in the city centre.Other incidents have exposed curious relationships between VIPs and their guards.
Police commissioner Mathew Iteere ordered investigations and the findings were shocking.
In recommendations to Director of Public Prosecutions Keriako Tobiko, the police chief said the MP’s guards did not tell the truth about the shooting and should be prosecuted in court with giving false information.
Police bodyguards have also complained of long working hours.
Many times politicians hold meetings late into the night, and their guards have to keep vigil and can only retire for the day once their bosses are safely in their homes.
Getting home late in the night for some guards can be tricky especially when the VIP is riding on a government vehicle.
Procedures dictate that government vehicles should be parked at the nearest police station or chief’s camp at the end of the day.
It means that after dropping the VIP, the guards drive to the station, surrender the car and have to use other means to get home.
Another common complaint is about some spouses of VIPs who drag their guards into their marital problems.
An officer told of how the wife of an MP from central Kenya often sought answers from the guard whenever he drove his boss home.
And on instructions of the MP, the guard is supposed to always make up stories about meetings in Parliament whenever such questions arise.
Another guard who spoke to the Sunday Nation singled out a Cabinet minister from central Kenya and an MP from Rift Valley for praise, saying their bodyguards are envied by every officer in VIP service because of the way they treat them.
The politicians are said to ensure each bodyguard gets at least Sh 2,000 after work every day. They also allow their guards to use their personal cars to get home whenever the day’s work ends late into the night.
A tale is also told of a Nairobi political activist who enjoys the services of armed police guards. He throws them off his track at will.
He would then sneak out and leave in a different car and the guards would only realise it after receiving a telephone call informing them that their boss has been spotted at another entertainment spot.For instance, his guards would drop him to a five-star hotel at the city centre and wait at the parking yard while he meets acquaintances in one of the restaurants inside.
When it comes to the security of the VIP, procedures demand that the bodyguard should even take measures detested by his boss as long as safety is ensured.
But some officers taking such steps would usually backfire because the VIP would in response write to the police bosses describing an officer as “incompetent and indisciplined”.
Such feedback would cost an officer the much needed promotion. Mr Kiraithe said that the government offers “VIP induction courses” to Kenyans who have newly acquired VIP status.
“Such courses are important because they get to understand why they have police guards and what they should expect.
“For instance, it’s not the duty of the security officer to carry shopping bags yet he is supposed to accompany the VIP during such errands,” he said.