Police chiefs who were relieved of their duties by President Uhuru Kenyatta were caught unawares and only learnt of the development after Head of State made the announcement on live TV.
The Nation learnt that Joel Kitili, who was Deputy Inspector General (Kenya Police) was at the Kenya Police College in Kiganjo, Nyeri County, and heard the news on his official car’s radio.
Mr Samuel Arachi, who commanded the Administration Police received the information from his aides because he had spent the day with police inspectors in a remote outpost near Kilimambogo Hills where there is no mobile network coverage.
He learnt of the changes much later after he got hold of his cell phone.
And Mr Ndegwa Muhoro, who was in charge of the Directorate of Criminal Investigations, was at the time in hospital, undergoing a medical checkup.
He received the news from his aides after he left the hospital room.
It’s normal for police bosses to leave phones with their aides when they do not wish to receive calls.
The police chiefs were replaced by Mr Edward Mbugua (Kenya Police), Mr Noor Gabow (Administration Police) and Mr George Kinoti (DCI).
President Kenyatta appointed them on acting capacities.
The National Police Service Commission, as dictated by the law, is set to conduct interviews and recommend qualified candidates to the President.
NPSC chairman Johnston Kavuludi said: “The process is ongoing and we are receiving applications. We have three officers who are acting and we need to fill the positions substantively. The law says the commission must, within 14 days, recommend qualified officers to the President, and that is what we are doing. We are optimistic we shall meet the deadline.”
Interested officers have until Monday, to submit their applications.
However, the NPSC move appears just a mere formality, judging by the way similar appointments were made in the past.
Besides, when the President chose the three to assume office in acting capacities, he said the decision was arrived at in consultation with the Commission.
On learning of the presidential directive, the officers vacated offices silently and, days after, handed over to the new appointees.
It was a smooth change over, unlike in 2015 when Mr Kitili took over from Ms Grace Kaindi.
At the time, officers arriving at Kenya police headquarters at Vigilance House before dawn got a rude shock when they found the area sealed, under the command of a “General Staffing Officer.”
There were unusual instructions: That no access was allowed through the VIP entrance, even for senior officers. Cars, whether official or personal, were also not allowed in.
This way, Mr Kitili was able to assume office in the absence of Ms Kaindi who had vowed to stay put, regardless of being sent home by the President.
After the presidential announcement on January 5, personal aides of the top cops were left in an awkward position of informing their unaware bosses that they had been sent home.
“This is government. Like death, it does not announce when it divorces you,” one of the police bosses told his aides after receiving the news.
“The implications of the major shakeup demoting the former Deputy Inspector Generals from all the three divisions was immense.
It was a statement that (President) Kenyatta was ready to bring down cartels, laxity, mediocrity and indiscipline that had found its way into the disciplined service,” a senior Government source said.
The source added: “That is the government. When your day comes, you will not know. No notice, no psychological preparedness, no nothing. I think this perhaps prevents unnecessary lobbying to keep jobs if rumours leak that one is about to lose their jobs.”
The purge was only known to President Kenyatta and National Intelligence Service Director General Philip Kameru who was at State house when the president made the announcement.
Insiders say top of President Kenyatta’s legacy agenda is security reforms, perhaps explaining why he brought in former Nakuru Governor Kinuthia Mbugua and Wanyama, the two veteran security officers to work at State House. Insiders says the president is keen to instil discipline in the civil service and the police sector.