Why Raila Odinga needs more security

With political campaigns set to officially commence towards the end of this month after chaotic party primaries, the security of aspirants will be vital as the clock ticks towards the August 8 General Election.

The messy nominations across the country were a clear indication why security is crucial in the run-up to an election. A slight breach of security cannot only raise credibility questions, but also lead to violence.

But with the police already overwhelmed by other duties, the security of the aspirants may not be a priority.

Nonetheless, security of one of the aspirants cannot be taken for granted, that of Raila Amollo Odinga. He is no ordinary aspirant, since the opposition doyen, retired Prime Minister and now a presidential candidate for the fourth time, attracts loathe and admiration in equal measure. His safety is therefore important as he is no doubt exposed to risk.

The former PM will be competing against the incumbent, Uhuru Kenyatta in a contest billed as a two-horse race. The stakes are so high since it is Raila’s last stab at the presidency, while Uhuru will not want to carry the ignominy of a one-term president.

By virtue of his position as President of the Republic of Kenya, Uhuru enjoys an elaborate security detail. This is not the same case for Raila, whose security was drastically scaled down after he ceased being Prime Minister in March, 2013.

From a security detail of 60 bodyguards, a lead car and two escort cars, Raila currently has 12 bodyguards and a lead car at his disposal, an insider revealed that the former PM is nowadays accompanied by at least four or five bodyguards. His homes are also guarded by police officers.

According to the insider, “Raila’s security needs to be enhanced now that he is a presidential candidate.”

The president and his deputy, William Ruto, have at least 200 and 45 security guards respectively. Just like Uhuru and Ruto, Raila and his running mate Kalonzo Musyoka, will be on the campaign trail soliciting for votes. Their security must be alert at all times. Unfortunately the two opposition leaders remain exposed, as they are as not as tightly guarded as the incumbents. Interior Principal Secretary Karanja Kibicho said all presidential candidates will enjoy state security once the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) declares them as such.

“There are no candidates yet. Everybody is an aspirant. Once IEBC declares presidential candidates, we shall give all of them adequate security,” stated the PS. Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) chairman John Mbadi claims the government has deliberately denied Raila adequate security as outlined in the Retirement Benefits (Deputy President and Designated State Officers) Act.

“That (provision of security) should be made available, but the government has deliberately decided to misbehave. According to the Act, he should have proper security detail by virtue of being a retired Prime Minister. The law is very clear, but some people don’t want to enforce it,” says Mbadi, adding, that, “He is the NASA candidate and therefore, the government has a responsibility, particularly the Inspector General of Police, to assign him extra security because if anything compromises his safety, the outcome will not be good for this county. The IG has powers to give Raila extra security.”

The IG, Joseph Boinnet, did not respond to phone calls and text message on the matter.

In Kenya, political parties are driven by personalities rather than ideologies. As such any harm on the persons of Uhuru or Raila can trigger an outbreak of violence, fuelled by suspicion and mistrust.

“The misuse of one bullet can lead to the burning of the entire nation,” a retired senior officer who did not wish to be named, cryptically quipped. The officer is of the view that Raila’s security should be boosted to appease his ever unsettled and sceptical supporters.

Between him and Uhuru, it is Raila who is more vulnerable due to the skeleton security around him. “Raila has a large following in the country and should anything happen to him now, your guess about the aftermath is as good as mine,” stated George Musamali, a director with Executive Protection Services Limited.

According to Cyprian Nyamwamu, a governance, leadership and policy analyst, a credible and peaceful election can only be guaranteed if the police and other security agencies offer effective, unbiased and impartial services.

“There is a need to identify, train and deploy peace monitors and ambassadors to monitor hate speech, gangs, militias and the conduct of security agencies,” advise Nyamwamu.