As George Kinoti knelt deep in prayer after taking his Holy Communion on a warm January afternoon this year, his life was on the throes of a dramatic turn. He was attending his regular Friday lunch-time Mass, and the church in the Karen suburb of Nairobi was full.
Before leaving his office he had told Inspector-General of Police Joseph Boinnet that he was dashing out for Mass and would be back soon.
“I didn’t have a hint that within hours I would be appointed the Director of Criminal Investigations,” Mr Kinoti tells me inside his office.
The first thing you notice upon entering his office is the crucifix on the desk and the rosary hanging on a knob on the door of his wooden wall-to-wall cabinet. There are fruits on the table, tea, coffee, water, and various mementos around the thriftily furnished office, but nothing to suggest that this is one of the most-feared offices in Kenya today. That is for a reason.
Ever since he walked into the Kiambu Road headquarters of the Directorate of Criminal Investigations on January 8, 2018 to become the country’s top detective, Mr Kinoti’s no-nonsense approach to his duties has been epic. He has a history of taking winding and dangerous trails across the country, and has been shot for that; not once, but twice.
A cyst at the back of his head is one of the reminders of the day he once met his would-be-assassins, who cracked part of his skull with a bullet, leaving him for dead in Homa Bay.
“I thought I would die,” he says.
The second attempt on his life was when he was investigating the brutal attack on novelist Ngugi wa Thiong’o and his wife Njeeri shortly after the US-based writer arrived in the country in August 2004 after 22 years in self-exile.
He was deep in the Prof Thiong’o investigations when he was sprayed with bullets by a murderous gang that left him in a coma. Those who saw him at the Armed Forces Memorial Hospital in Nairobi thought he wouldn’t survive. But he did, albeit with plates on his legs.
“I had been threatened because of that case and I raised the matter during the trial. But, somehow, even the media ignored the issue,” he says.
For his second stint at the Kiambu Road address — he had served there for 12 years earlier — his major challenge was how to reform an institution that had become synonymous with crime, corruption, and general lack of morale.
“Being a CID officer was no longer honourable and people were leaving the unit in droves,” he says. “The morale was very low.”
To his bewilderment, the DCI compound looked like a junk yard, with overgrown grass and abandoned, rotting, and wrecked cars dotting the parking bays.
But it was the Flying Squad that shocked him. For years, the quick response unit had styled itself as the panacea for all crime and was believed to be the answer to organised crime. It wasn’t, and Mr Kinoti didn’t waste time dealing with the unit.
“I realised that the Flying Squad was the source of the problem and I had to dismantle it,” he says. He not only recalled and disarmed the 500 or so officers in the field, but also ordered all of them back to the headquarters.
“They were extortionists and some were collaborating with criminals,” he explains, but the rot within the police, under which the DCI operates, was far much deeper and dangerous than the criminal Flying Squad officers in the field.
In Kiambu, for instance, Mr Kinoti found that a police armoury was being used to rent firearms to criminals. He arrested a senior sergeant who was behind the scandal and recovered all the guns rented out to criminals.
But some Flying Squad members tried to rescue one of the officers he had arrested in connection with the gun renting scandal by corrupting his charge sheet.
“They charged him with a flimsy matter in order to secure his freedom. I had to arrest and charge him personally,” says Mr Kinoti.
When he dismantled the Flying Squad, everyone thought that the level of crime in the country would surge. But, to everyone’s surprise, the highway robberies from Mombasa to Busia stopped overnight.
The unit had been established in 1995 following an increase in carjackings and armed robberies in Nairobi, and at first consisted of a few officers based in Parklands, Nairobi. It was later expanded, with a headquarters next to Pangani Police Station in Nairobi and a base in Makuyu, Murang’a.
The emergence of smaller independent units all over the country sent the squad down the road to disaster as the dreaded officers went rogue and starting extorting bribes from civilians and crime suspects.
They were also blamed by human rights groups for increased extrajudicial killings of suspects.
Mr Kinoti had previously led the dreaded Kanga Squad, an elite police unit that had been formed to specifically fight hardcore criminals like carjackers, bank robbers and murder hit squads.
At the time it was disbanded in 2006, it was being blamed for the raid at the Standard Group in May that year, when armed and hooded police officers burnt newspapers at the publication’s printing plant and disabled computers at its publishing offices.
But Mr Kinoti says Kanga was not involved in the raid. “The entire unit had only 10 people. There was no way we could have raided those two places with such a small number.”
Before he joined the Kanga Squad as its leader, Mr Kinoti was the personal assistant to the then Director of CID Joseph Kamau. That, he says, was a boring job, and so he requested Mr Kamau to send him to the field.
At the time he had risen through the ranks to become Superintendent of Police (SP), and he was at first allowed to have a small team of six and two vehicles.
“We roamed the entire country hunting down criminals,” he remembers.
The Kanga Squad taught him a vital lesson: “It is not the number of cops that counts, but their skill, experience, dedication, motivation and discipline.”
It was that dedication that had once taken him up to the Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda to pursue some hard-core criminals. He had also chased some thugs up to Tabora in Tanzania, where his car overturned.
“When I served in Migori, everyone knew my maxim: ‘You never steal in Migori and live,’” he says.
It is the Migori experience that hardened Mr Kinoti, placing him on the path to stardom and greatness. Years later, on December 12, 2018, he was awarded the Chief of the Order of the Burning Spear (CBS) First Class national honours.
“It was the first time I had been honoured,” he says.
Public officers above 58 years and with pre-existing conditions told to work from home: The Standard
Head of Public Service Joseph Kinyua. [File, Standard]
In a document from Head of Public Service, Joseph Kinyua new measure have been outlined to curb the bulging spread of covid-19. Public officers with underlying health conditions and those who are over 58 years -a group that experts have classified as most vulnerable to the virus will be required to execute their duties from home.
However, the new rule excluded personnel in the security sector and other critical and essential services.
“All State and public officers with pre-existing medical conditions and/or aged 58 years and above serving in CSG5 (job group ‘S’) and below or their equivalents should forthwith work from home,” read the document,” read the document.
To ensure that those working from home deliver, the Public Service directs that there be clear assignments and targets tasked for the period designated and a clear reporting line to monitor and review work done.
SEE ALSO: Thinking inside the cardboard box for post-lockdown work stations
Others measures outlined in the document include the provision of personal protective equipment to staff, provision of sanitizers and access to washing facilities fitted with soap and water, temperature checks for all staff and clients entering public offices regular fumigation of office premises and vehicles and minimizing of visitors except by prior appointments.
Officers who contract the virus and come back to work after quarantine or isolation period will be required to follow specific directives such as obtaining clearance from the isolation facility certified by the designated persons indicating that the public officer is free and safe from Covid-19. The officer will also be required to stay away from duty station for a period of seven days after the date of medical certification.
“The period a public officer spends in quarantine or isolation due to Covid-19, shall be treated as sick leave and shall be subject to the Provisions of the Human Resource Policy and procedures Manual for the Public Service(May,2016),” read the document.
The service has also made discrimination and stigmatization an offence and has guaranteed those affected with the virus to receive adequate access to mental health and psychosocial supported offered by the government.
The new directives targeting the Public Services come at a time when Kenyans have increasingly shown lack of strict observance of the issued guidelines even as the number of positive Covid-19 cases skyrocket to 13,771 and leaving 238 dead as of today.
SEE ALSO: Working from home could be blessing in disguise for persons with disabilities
Principal Secretaries/ Accounting Officers will be personally responsible for effective enforcement and compliance of the current guidelines and any future directives issued to mitigate the spread of Covid-19.
Uhuru convenes summit to review rising Covid-19 cases: The Standard
President Uhuru Kenyatta (pictured) will on Friday, July 24, meet governors following the ballooning Covid-19 infections in recent days.
The session will among other things review the efficacy of the containment measures in place and review the impact of the phased easing of the restrictions, State House said in a statement.
This story is being updated.
SEE ALSO: Sakaja resigns from Covid-19 Senate committee, in court tomorrow
Drastic life changes affecting mental health
Kenya has been ranked 6th among African countries with the highest cases of depression, this has triggered anxiety by the World Health Organization (WHO), with 1.9 million people suffering from a form of mental conditions such as depression, substance abuse.
Globally, one in four people is affected by mental or neurological disorders at some point in their lives, this is according to the WHO.
Currently, around 450 million people suffer from such conditions, placing mental disorders among the leading causes of ill-health and disability worldwide.
The pandemic has also been known to cause significant distress, mostly affecting the state of one’s mental well-being.
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With the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic attributed to the novel Coronavirus disease, millions have been affected globally with over 14 million infections and half a million deaths as to date. This has brought about uncertainty coupled with difficult situations, including job loss and the risk of contracting the deadly virus.
In Kenya the first Coronavirus case was reported in Nairobi by the Ministry of Health on the 12th March 2020. It was not until the government put in place precautionary measures including a curfew and lockdown (the latter having being lifted) due to an increase in the number of infections that people began feeling its effect both economically and socially.
A study by Dr. Habil Otanga, a Lecturer at the University of Nairobi, Department of Psychology says that such measures can in turn lead to surge in mental related illnesses including depression, feelings of confusion, anger and fear, and even substance abuse. It also brings with it a sense of boredom, loneliness, anger, isolation and frustration. In the post-quarantine/isolation period, loss of employment due to the depressed economy and the stigma around the disease are also likely to lead to mental health problems.
The Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) states that at least 300,000 Kenyans have lost their jobs due to the Coronavirus pandemic between the period of January and March this year.
KNBC noted that the number of employed Kenyans plunged to 17.8 million as of March from 18.1 million people as compared to last year in December. The Report states that the unemployment rate in Kenya stands at 13.7 per cent as of March this year while it stood 12.4 per cent in December 2019.
Mama T (not her real name) is among millions of Kenyans who have been affected by containment measures put in place to curb the spread of the virus, either by losing their source of income or having to work under tough guidelines put in place by the MOH.
As young mother and an event organizer, she has found it hard to explain to her children why they cannot go to school or socialize freely with their peers as before.
“Sometimes it gets difficult as they do not understand what is happening due to their age, this at times becomes hard on me as they often think I am punishing them,”
Her contract was put on hold as no event or public gatherings can take place due to the pandemic. This has brought other challenges along with it, as she has to find means of fending for her family expenditures that including rent and food.
“I often wake up in the middle of the night with worries about my next move as the pandemic does not exhibit any signs of easing up,” she says. She adds that she has been forced to sort for manual jobs to keep her family afloat.
Ms. Mary Wahome, a Counseling Psychologist and Programs Director at ‘The Reason to Hope,’ in Karen, Nairobi says that such kind of drastic life changes have an adverse effect on one’s mental status including their family members and if not addressed early can lead to depression among other issues.
“We have had cases of people indulging in substance abuse to deal with the uncertainty and stress brought about by the pandemic, this in turn leads to dependence and also domestic abuse,”
Sam Njoroge , a waiter at a local hotel in Kiambu, has found himself indulging in substance abuse due to challenges he is facing after the hotel he was working in was closed down as it has not yet met the standards required by the MOH to open.
“My day starts at 6am where I go to a local pub, here I can get a drink for as little as Sh30, It makes me suppress the frustration I feel.” he says.
Sam is among the many who have found themselves in the same predicament and resulted to substance abuse finding ways to beat strict measures put in place by the government on the sale of alcohol so as to cope.
Mary says, situations like Sam’s are dangerous and if not addressed early can lead to serious complications, including addiction and dependency, violent behavior and also early death due to health complications.
She has, however, lauded the government for encouraging mental wellness and also launching the Psychological First Aid (PFA) guide in the wake of the virus putting emphasis on the three action principal of look, listen and link. “When we follow this it will be easy to identify an individual in distress and also offer assistance”.
Mary has urged anyone feeling the weight of the virus taking a toll on them not to hesitate but look for someone to talk to.
“You should not only seek help from a specialist but also talk to a friend, let them know what you are undergoing and how you feel, this will help ease their emotional stress and also find ways of dealing with the situation they are facing,” She added
Mary continued to stress on the need to perform frequent body exercises as a form of stress relief, reading and also taking advantage of this unfortunate COVID-19 period to engage in hobbies and talent development.
“Let people take this as an opportunity to kip fit, get in touch with one’s inner self and also engage in reading that would help expand their knowledge.