History, when finally written, will absolve the last spy master of President Daniel Arap Moi as the shining security star of a dimly lit night.
Brigadier Wilson Boinett, not once, but twice, ensured two fundamental changes happened in the Kenyan political scene without which the shape, character and history of our country may probably not have been what it is now.
It is 2002 and the Narc government has won – or appears to have won – the general election. Moi is reluctant to cede over power. Kivuitu is delaying the results. The opposition has no control of the country’s security apparatus and two men ‘stand their ground’.
One is the Chief of the General Staff Daudi Tonje. The other is head of the National Security Intelligence Service, NSIS, Brig. Wilson Boinett.
While Tonje kept the army inside the barracks, Boinett, an ethnic Kalenjin, ensured a regime Â – the NARC regime – which would clearly remove the influence, prestige and power from his own people, ascended to power.
Both men, to date, towers the memory of ‘good military leaders’, of an era just before mindless ethnic nepotism, set in, again. Of course, one can argue that Boinett, like Moi, was a kalenjin, yet it is what they did while serving that puts them ahead of their latter day peers. Infact, they remain peerless!
For instance, Gen Tonje, appointed in 1996, ‘ended corruption’ in the Armed Forces procurement. Then he institutionalised the culture of ‘retirement’, setting open rules of service in the forces which would allow for upward mobility based on experience and merit, rather than patronage.
For Boinett, his main feather is that he professionalised intelligence gathering and created an NSIS that could secure the country from real national security threats. Twice, he let the civilians shape the democratic processes of their country, openly telling Moi to hand over power in 2002 and three years later, refusing to rig the referendum vote in favour of the banana side.
After the 2005 vote, as Kibaki and Mt. Kenya henchmen fired all and sundry, beginning with the sacking of the then opposition leaders Raila Odinga, Kalonzo Musyoka and others, in the security apparatus, quiet changes were being orchestrated. Brigadier Wilson Boinett would eventually be shown the door, paving way for the worst spy chief in post-KANU era, Brigadier Michael Gichangi.
First forward to now, shy of a decade after the two men left the military, the country’s defence and military structures are in an ethnic abyss, patronised by a military culture that ought to have resigned into the dark dungeons of history. Operation Linda Nchi is a disaster heaped in propaganda and mainstream media PR.
Political power is no longer about civilians. The heavy military presence, and national intelligence service interference with elections, both in 2007 and 2013, as alleged by the opposition and electoral observers, is becoming the mainstay of the country’s political future.
The more institutions change, the more so much remain unchanged. That’s because institutions are about the individuals.
For Tonje and Boinett, they refused to be captives of a parochial and selfish ethnic elite. If they bid for Moi, at least, they knew when the sell-by-date had arrived.
Respected at home and abroad, Brigadier Boinett, after being axed in January 2006, Â was fondly chronicled by America’s intelligence service as the lastÂ United States “main ally in the counter-terror struggle and one of the few remaining true Â professionals at the highest level of the Kenyan Government”. They would reward his contributions, honouring him with an entry into the International Fellows Hall of Fame:, Class of 1991.
While leaving the country’s spy agency, Boinett gave a speech titledÂ “Five Â Attributes of Great Consequence” for the managing and
sustaining a robust intelligence service:
ONE: The government should continuously invest in Â “the character of their gatekeepers and its watchdogs.”
TWO: The NSIS Director General “should have direct and unfettered access to the Head of State and Government. In order to earn trust, he has to do things right and the right thing without Â fear, favor or ill will. In so doing, he must be efficient, loyal and balanced.”
THREE: “All men and women of the Â service must direct all their time and energy towards Â promoting and projecting that which only serves and informs Â the national interest.
FOUR: “The Service should operate Â within the law.”
FIVE: “The Intelligence Service is a Â national insurance for counter-intelligence. Yet a balance has to be struck between the national security interests and international threats and challenges. Information-sharing with other nation states has been the practice from time immemorial. These partnerships will need to be maintained, Â taking into consideration mutual respect, national interests, international law and the nature of power and its influence in a globalized environment.”
What a loss sometimes politics can bring to a society!