• Tuesday, 25 June 2024
THE STATESMAN INSIDER: Why did President Ruto abolish DCI's Special Service Unit?

THE STATESMAN INSIDER: Why did President Ruto abolish DCI's Special Service Unit?

According to sources, the Special Service Unit (SSU) was disbanded as a result of an investigation report into the disappearance of two Indian nationals and their local taxi driver.

On Thursday morning, Mr Amin Mohamed, the new Director of Criminal Investigations, presented the report to President William Ruto at State House.

The report suggested disbanding the unit to allow investigations to be completed before the file is forwarded to the Director of Public Prosecutions.

President Ruto stated yesterday that this was one of the changes that would be implemented as the new administration seeks to overhaul the country's security management.

"I was the one who ordered the disbandment of the Special Service Unit, which was carrying out extrajudicial killings." We have a strategy in place to secure the country and avoid the shame of Kenyans being killed [by police and their bodies dumped] in the Yala River, among other things. "We are going to change this country for the better," said President Ruto at a thanksgiving service in Kericho.

Yala River has been in the news in the last year due to the discovery of dozens of bodies there.

Police are suspected of being involved in the deaths, and human rights activists have called for an investigation.

Bring them to court.
The two Indians, Mohammed Zaid Kidwai and Zulfiqar Ahmen Khan, are said to have arrived in the country in April to join President Ruto's ICT campaign team, but they went missing on July 25 after being abducted outside Ole Sereni Hotel with their taxi driver, Mr Nicodemus Mwania.

Their families blamed state agents for their disappearance after CCTV footage showed their car being stopped and the three being taken away by armed men, leaving the taxi behind.

The families obtained orders requiring security agencies to produce them in court through lawyer Ahmednasir Abdullahi, but this did not occur on August 5, when the case came up for mention.

Acting Inspector-General of Police Noor Gabow directed the Internal Affairs Unit (IAU) to take over the investigation and submit a report within 21 days on September 15, 2018.

Last week, before Mr Amin was asked to present the findings to the President, the unit arrested several detectives and intelligence officers, interrogated them, and released them.

On Saturday night, it was announced that Mr Amin had directed the unit's disbandment and reassignment.

 

"With immediate effect, the DCI Special Service Unit (SSU) has been disbanded. Mr. Noor Gabow, the AG Inspector General, issued the directive. All officers from the defunct unit have been summoned to DCI headquarters for further instructions. The Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) tweeted, "This comes as the National Police Service prepares for reorganization under the new administration."

The news comes just three years after the former Special Crimes Prevention Unit was reduced in size to form the SSU, a leaner team, in December 2019.

Headquarters for the Sting Squad
At the same time, the Flying Squad was disbanded, and in its place, a smaller unit dubbed Sting Squad Headquarters (SSH) was formed, comprised of about 50 elite officers, to carry out its duties.

The units were tasked with dealing with high-profile crimes like armed robberies, kidnappings, and car theft in Nairobi and surrounding counties, but their mandate would occasionally extend beyond Nairobi.

They were required to work closely with other security agencies to improve crime deterrence and intelligence sharing, and to be on call seven days a week to respond to critical crime emergencies.

The unit had a string of successes, including the arrest of infamous Sim swap fraudsters operating in Nairobi's central business district, terror suspects in joint operations with the Anti-Terror Police Unit (ATPU), including an espionage case in Wundanyi, Taita Taveta County, in October 2020, and the recovery of firearms from criminal gangs operating in Nairobi under a 2020 operation dubbed "No Guns for Gangs."

They are also credited with identifying the prime suspect in the murder of Jennifer Itumbi, a veteran Machakos journalist and National Lands Commission official who went missing on March 12 last year and was discovered dead three days later in Ngong Forest.

Some members of the unit, however, went rogue, and three of them — constables William Mutua, Henry Maitai, and Jonathan Sankale — were involved in an armed robbery in Matuu in July 2020.

They raided a shady gas refilling business and extorted Sh370,000 from the owners. After being disarmed, the officers were charged in court.

In another case, the unit's commander and three officers were recommended for disciplinary action after an investigation by the IAU found them guilty of abusing their authority to detain a woman at Capitol Hill Police Station without justification.

It was claimed that a senior member of the doctors' union used unit officers to settle scores with his girlfriend, whom they summoned all the way from Mombasa to appear before them.

She was arrested and held without charge for one day. She later filed a complaint with the IAU and DCI headquarters.

The unit was also allegedly involved in the arrest of politicians for ignoring police summonses, including former Kakamega Senator Cleophas Malala, Christopher Lang'at, and Steve Lelegwe.

The dissolution of the unit elicited a variety of reactions. While some believe it is a good thing, others believe it is a requirement for the formation of another elite unit tasked with combating serious crimes in Kenya.

"I'm hoping that the new DCI boss, as a former director of the Internal Affairs Unit, can finally put an end to the use of hit squads." The DCI has a large number of officers who can and have done real police work to investigate crimes. The dissolution of SSU is a positive step. "It is still early days," said veteran investigative journalist John Allan Namu.

"Amnesty Kenya welcomes the dissolution of the DCI SSU." The National Police Service must also audit SSU activities and publicly respond to allegations of responsibility for enforced disappearances and extrajudicial killings of numerous suspects," the human rights organization stated on Twitter.

 

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