Curtain has fallen on Gen. Joseph Kassaine Ole Nkaissery, second internal cabinet secretary under Kenya’s new constitutional order. His death, sudden and chilling, occurred last night, though the exact time may remain fuzzy for eternity, in keeping with Africa’s time tested tradition of ‘silence over death’.
Military man, politician, blusterous rabble-rouser, fearmonger at a time of peace; Gen. Nkaissery spent the last years of his life oscillating between the high demands of nationhood and the low expectations of Jubilee politics, the rigors of which took a heavy toll on the otherwise amiable man.
As a weekly Jubilee waxer, Gen. Nkaissery had the unfortunate penchant for getting everything wrong, and struggled, like the Jubilee regime he so valiantly served, to abide by the rule of law. Often, he didn’t. Many times, the courts had to intervene, to rein in him, or his officers.
Under him, Kenya detoured to extra-judicial lawlessness, which he seemed to support, particularly where the victims could be adequately branded as political misfits. He took over from a failure, Mr. Ole Lenku, and improved, but never innovated anything.
Perhaps, this was due in part because Gen. Nkaissery was a receding relic of a bygone, pathological era.
Yet it will be dishonest to claim that he never created this modern fledgling democratic Kenya. For the last tumultuous decade, Gen. Nkaissery sided largely with progressive forces in the Kenyan society, opposing one referendum and supporting another; and successfully lobbying his ethnic group – the Maasai – to follow him, of course, alongside other Maa leaders.
When he lived he had a boisterous laugh, and was generally an easy man. His statements were at best not taken seriously, as they contained no danger, even when he teetered towards dangerous, careless talk. Yet in his often bitter public spat with “enemies of the Jubilee regime”; a regime he served so loyally, one could notice a man struggling to gain broader acceptance from within.
As Interior cabinet secretary he sat at the apex of Kenya’s security machinery under President Uhuru, but so were many other men, some who wielded more power and influence than him, despite holding no formal authority. He was alone and lonely, an oddity that could have been suicidal.
Just recently, as word pilfered that a number of senior serving and former security officers – all coming from President Uhuru’s ethnic extraction – met clandestinely to strategise over the August election, Gen. Nkaissery is said to have been kept in the dark. He fumed, privately, but cooled in public.
In another life he was accused of killing cows and goats and sheep in a military operation he presided in the 1980s, to flash out bandits.
Yesterday, he joined a prayer rally at Uhuru Park, also attended by President Uhuru. He was alive, and full of life. He chatted animatedly, with among others Nairobi Governor Dr Evans Kidero. President Uhuru has revealed he later met him in the night.
He died, hours later.