Major-General (rtd) Hussein Ali was a surprise appointee to head the Kenya Police in 2004, where his leadership mettle was tested to the limits by the Mungiki menace and post-election violence of 2008.
It is a curious case of two generals who were plucked from the military by President Mwai Kibaki and placed to head crucial security agencies, but now do not seem to be keen about the jobs that President Uhuru Kenyatta has offered them.
Major-General (rtd) Michael Gichangi was head of National Counter-Terrorism Centre when he was appointed to the civilian National Intelligence Service (NIS) and oversaw the tumultuous post-election violence and the equally challenging Kibaki succession. He was appointed to head the national intelligence in 2006 and his term was renewed in 2011 before he was edged out by President Kenyatta in 2014.
Both are trained pilots but their role in President Kibaki’s administration cannot be gainsaid.
Their similarities do not end there since they seem uninterested in the new jobs that President Kenyatta has given them.
In March 2016, President Kenyatta appointed Maj-Gen Ali to the NGO Coordination Board as chairman. He has never showed up and the meetings are chaired by vice-chairperson Mary Ndiba. Technically, he is still the chairman since his appointment has never been revoked. But, in reality, he has never showed up for work.
Maj-Gen Gichangi, similarly, was appointed to head the somewhat low key Private Security Regulatory Authority in October this year. He, too, didn’t show up for work.
Last week, the President replaced Mr Gichangi with Mr Amos Ntimama, son of the late Maa leader and former minister William Ntimama.
Government Spokesman Eric Kiraithe said the two generals were patriotic and their decisions on how they work are personal. “I would not want to be drawn into what are entirely personal decisions. What I know is that the two gentlemen are deeply patriotic and whenever their expertise is needed they readily respond,” he said.
Captain (rtd) Collins Wanderi said that in military doctrine, a general cannot openly defy the Commander-in-Chief but he can politely decline a job if it is not part of their passion and interest.
“Once a general retires or leaves active command the world over, they are given civilian jobs for three to six years where they still get the trappings and prestige they were used to while in active command as they adjust to civilian life,” he said. He called this the “fifth pillar” where a general is resettled to civilian life.
“A general who doesn’t get a civilian job may go into depression, thinking that the country doesn’t care about him,” he said.
He said it is also important to do a background check on what a general would like to do.
“Take Gen (rtd) Jeremiah Kianga at Kenya Railways; he is at home there, or General (rtd) Julius Karangi coming from the Airforce to the Kenya Airports Authority.
Now with Maj-Gen Gichangi, a man who held a sensitive brief on behalf of the Republic and Commander-in-Chief being given Private Security, or Maj-Gen Ali being made to handle NGOs with all the noise they make — that is throwing them under the bus,” he said.
He said the two have already experienced the fifth pillar, having left the military and taken up civilian jobs and therefore it is not a surprise that they are not interested in any other government job.
The two generals entered the government as cadets in 1977 for Maj-Gen Ali and 1975 for Maj-Gen Gichangi. They have been in government since then. But going by the latest developments, it is unlikely they will be making a comeback to government.
Sources close to the two men indicated that they may not have wanted to continue serving in government, especially in what are thought to be low-key postings in government.
When he left Kenya Police in 2009, Maj-Gen Ali was appointed postmaster general until May 2012, months after he was let off the hook at the International Criminal Court. At ICC, he faced grave charges of crimes against humanity alongside President Kenyatta and former head of civil service Francis Muthaura, arising from his role as commissioner of police during the post-election violence period.
Maj-Gen Gichangi left NIS in 2014 and has been enjoying retirement quietly.