The United States was wary when President Kibaki, still smarting from the thrashing by ODM side, replaced one of the country’s best spy chiefs with a tribal weakling from Mt. Kenya just after the 2005 referendum in what it claimed was Kibaki’s ethnic kikuyu attempts to stay in power through and beyond 2017.
Gichangi was appointed after the government was defeated in the 2005 referendum. His appointment to the strategic national intelligence body was, according to the US, purely to ensure the Kikuyu remained in power at a time a formidable opposition had defeated a government machinery on a popular referendum vote and was raring to win the 2007 elections.
In a diplomatic cable by the US Embassy in Nairobi to Washington, the US warned the replacement of ret. Brigadier Wilson Boinett with an ‘untested Brigadier Gichangi selected through a process that reeks of tribal cronyism and the use of all instruments of power to stay in power through (and beyond) the 2007 elections is anything but reassuring’.
“President Kibaki’s January 16 removal of Â Brigadier (ret.) Boinett as head of Kenya’s National Â Intelligence Service (NSIS) removes the USG’s main ally in the counter-terror struggle and one of the few remaining true professionals at the highest level of the Kenyan Government. Boinett’s replacement by an untested Brigadier Gichangi — Â selected through a process that reeks of tribal cronyism and Â the use of all instruments of power to stay in power through Â (and beyond) the 2007 elections — is anything but reassuring,” reads the cable.
Of Bridgadier Wilson Boinett, whom the cable asserts was the ‘last remaining US ally in counterterrorism’ in Kenya’s security apparatues, the cable notes:
“Boinett transformed the NSIS from a domestic political Â tool into a modern professional intelligence service with an Â emphasis on external threats. A former aide-de-camp to Â President Moi and the last director of the Special Branch Â (NSIS’s predecessor, remembered darkly by most Kenyans mostly Â for running the Nyayo House political detention center during Â the years of one-party rule), Boinett survived not only the 1999 demise of Special Branch but also the 2002 end of the Moi regime. Recognizing that change was needed, Boinett’s leadership garnered the NSIS domestic and international Â respect for its relative apolitical nature and seriousness of Â purpose. Reorganized to provide internal, external and Â strategic intelligence to the President, NSIS proved to be Â the USG’s single-most effective Kenyan partner — bar none — in combating Al-Qaeda and related terrorist threats in Kenya”.
The cable continues,
“But, in the end, the die was cast for Boinett’s undoing at his birth: he was born into the wrong tribe. An ethnic Kalenjin like former President Moi, Boinett was distrusted from the start of the Kibaki administration by many of those Kikuyu tribesmen closest to President Kibaki. Boinett undoubtedly made matters worse by telling Kibaki and his advisors news they did not like to hear — that Kenya remains vulnerable to al-Qaeda attacks, that tribal conflicts were resurfacing in rural areas, that President Kibaki’s Banana team would lose November’s constitutional referendum, etc”.
Of course, Gichangi and company bungled both the 2007 elections and the 2013 elections. But, the west often say, ‘you can run, but you can’t hide’. Faced with the Al shabaab menace, a national intelligence service the US warned the country of having remains apathetic in the face of another precipice, not of ethnic mayhem, but terrorism.