Trainers from the General Service Unit were brought in on request from their training school in Embakasi to help pump skills and discipline into the new bunch of recruits and a new head of security from the same force was co-opted in to the Service to enhance professionalism .Wardens under the WCMD were a law unto themselves, for they controlled all budgets in parks and stations. They had knowledge on road building , bridge construction, camp setting and all that one would need to start, run and manage a protected area. The Park Warden was the procurement officer, the AIE sole holder and the accounting officer. They were jack of all trades. To say the truth , my main dream to be a game warden was given a new life in 1978 when I met a Mr Wanyama who was then the warden in charge of Samburu Game reserve , when i was working as a translator during a national population census exercises.The game wardens gave permits to government officers to kill wildlife during national celebrations and the administration police men in our team would shoot an impala or two when chiefs failed to give us goats to eat.
The new DDS ( Deputy Director Security ) had some cards hidden under his sleeve in that for the first time the security operational funds were to be managed by the new incoming company commanders. This was unheard of, and as expected the idea was met by great resistance by the untouchable park managers. 28 of us were recruited from Government departments and were dispatched for a six month platoon commanders course and an initial paramilitary training in Manyani. There were no housing facilities for the officer cadets at the training facility so we cleared bushes to give space for tents, and we sat under tree shades on stones in make shift classes for the entire training period. We took our meals under trees and we were mocked and given funny titles by the old guards who felt that their jobs were at risk.
We ended up staying in training, both in manyani and Magadi soda for seven months and when we finally received our postings to various field units dotted all over the country, we were polished, smart, well groomed and an envy of the service . 27 of us graduated but only 26 reported to the new stations after posting as one decided to abscond duty when he heard that he was being posted to Kiunga in Lamu District . I was sent to Lead the Mt Elgon company which had bases in Cholim, Kaberua, kasawai and Lobokat in south Turkana.
The Mt Elgon Park game warden showed his dislike of me the first day I reported and I shared this with Langata through our compulsory daily morning briefs on HF radios with the operation centre better known as "Oscar Charlie Hotel " (OCH ). I was relieved to learn that I was not alone and that almost all of our group were being pushed to the fences. Money for security operations were forcefully deducted from the park funds and handed over to us. Most of us had to carry this large sums of money in our cars which turned to be our offices due to the work load, and we were adviced by Langata to buy suit cases with combination locks where we kept the cash. We kept this briefcase at the luggage compartment behind the seats in the cabins of our vehicles.
I was the only one who knew the secret combination but my deputy had express orders to break the lock in case of the unthinkable, like if I happen to be at the end of a bandits fore sight . Most of us failed to proceed for the normal annual leaves for many years due to the work load, but to say the truth we never complained .I once got into a dilemma when my official vehicle required the routine maintainance service check, and i had bought all the spares as per the list provided by the workshop manager, but when I delivered them to him he advised me not to bring the vehicle for service until he finished repairing an old Izusu truck which was not in any immediate need. We had strict orders from Langata HQ to follow the vehicle maintenance schedule such that we could not use them if they were due for service.
I informed Nairobi of my predicament after a whole week of waiting and when they contacted the park warden he adamantly said that the servicing of the security vehicle was not an emergency hence it should wait for its turn. The DDS could not hear this and I was advised to take the car into Kitale Town and have it repaired in one of the private garages. Believe it or not, the same park warden wrote to Nairobi accusing me of taking the vehicle for Servicing at a Jua kali garage ( Local )while the park had a fully equipped workshop. After the altercation, the park manager was summoned to the HQ in Nairobi where he was reprimanded.We carted our expenditure funds in briefcases for years before we were eventually ordered to open bank accounts and park accountants became second signatories .
On one other occasion, one of the patrol land cruiser had an accident in the park during a mud slide and I was advised to take it to a panel beater in town but because I did not know the drills, I requested our intelligence officer who was conversant with the trade to help and I only came in during payment. But It eventually turned out that the payment receipts were inflated and an investigator was flown in from Nairobi. The officer concerned was grilled for days but when I was requested to explain my stand, I exonerated him from the allegations when I honestly said that I did not have a clue on what was going on and that the only thing that Mattered to me was that the vehicle was repaired and it was on patrol.
In-fighting within the security department did not play out in the open, but it existed all the same. There were two senior wardens under the DDS who were in charge of the WPU, ( wildlife protection unit ) and the CLIC, (intelligence) and both of these senior officers were from the nomadic tribes of the north. Our intelligence brothers collected information and in many cases they never bothered to sieve through them as they should, and they wrote long radio messages on poachers movement and gang sightings then they would disappear from the radar such that we could not get clarifications on issues they raised . They insisted that their work was to collect and disseminate information and that we had no business asking questions. We were foot soldiers whose sole duty was to track down poachers.
We tried to make our boss see through our concerns, and we urged him to instruct the intelligence people to give us intelligent reports and not information, but he would hear none of this , and this hurt us bad, because we knew where his heart was, and we also knew that he was once a foot soldier . But he was extensively protective towards the clic team and he had a soft spot for them. I was branded a rebel in the department because I asked questions, and I remember one time during a quarterly security meeting when it was said that I was encouraging rifts between the two sister units, yet all I was asking for was a little accountability from the others. I remember giving an example of looking for a coin in a water pond. I requested that we in the field only wanted to be given some extra directions as to what side of the pond to start with, how deep the pond was and maybe if we would need extra tools for the job.
The CLIC team always gave us a positive number on members of a gang, the types of guns they carried and sometimes the amount of ammunition held by each individual, but they have always refused to lead us or give us pinpoint information on bandit hide outs.The strained relationships were not exposed to the surface within the department due to the fear that the information could reach our boss but the truth is that at times we could not see eye to eye for months in the field apart from exchanging the radio messages written to OCH and copied to the field commanders. At times we could refuse to follow their leads, and we would take opposite directions, and in most instances we succeed on hits, but woo unto us if anything happened on the direction they gave. I later learned that the infighting was not localized to us alone at the service, but to every other security outfit including the GSU , and that encouraged us a little.
When I wrote the article on the Sarara Massacre, where eleven elephants were killed by poachers, I failed to mention the fact that I almost got sacked when I submitted the final report on the operation, highlighting what really happened, what we did wrong, and lessons learned. I drafted a situation report every evening giving relevant information on what we encountered during each day, state of the personnel, our intention the next day and what we expected others to do outside the " D " area.
I mentioned that we wanted intelligence teams to monitor all access roads in and out of the area including all the small villages that dotted the highway between Sere olipi and Marsabit. But all this requests were ignored and I pointed this out in my final submissions. This almost sent me home were it not for Dr Richard Leakey and some senior officers who had seen the report earlier. The final report was forwarded to the Director by my then senior warden in Meru National Park, a Mr Kilonzo who was less than six months old on the job and he was summoned to HQ to explain why he should not be sacked for forwarding a malicious report from a junior officer. He was advised to come and force me to write an apology letter for castigating a sister unit and that I was to be charged for being a bad boy.
As expected, I refused to apologize and was ordered to report to the big mans' office in twelve hours. I did just that and by the time I was marched into his office, word had spread that I was being sent home for standing up to the DDS. I was lucky though, for the Director knew what was happening and that he had intentionally forwarded the report to the team so that he could personally witness and confirm the White House injustices within the department. ( the security HQ was housed at a building we called the White House ). My reputation as a rebel was written all over me. I might have escaped the sacking , but that was due to the excellent work I did as a company commander and the fact that I was among the few who found pleasure being with the patrol teams in the fields rather than issuing orders from an office desk.
I remained the black sheep of the department and believe you me, the worst was still to come when I went flying against the wishes of the security team. After I obtained my PPL (private pilot license). The almighty God works in mysterious ways and as fate would have it, i was completely forgotten and made to wait for three years, until a man named Nehemiah Rotich came in as the Director of the service and when he heard my story, he instructed the Air wing to give me a plane, and I finally wore the wings.
In many instances I have reflected back on those early days and I have almost all the time concluded that we, the cadet officers were deployed at the right time to lead a very willing and disciplined ranger force. Most of our days were spent in the bush doing what we knew best and only went to the shopping centers and towns for little admins and supplies.
We were total strangers to towns, in fact we feared them to the point where we were always bunched together in small groups. But the local maids loved us, for we were generous on tips. We occasionally picked fights with other friendly forces, mostly the police who simply loathed our simple and carefree style. The police were used to seeing the old game department rangers whose sails were long deflated but not these vibrant, free spending , smartly dressed youths who spoke very little Kiswahili and nothing of English. How we loved picking fights with the police , and I remember one time when I took a full armed section into a police station to free two of my notorious trouble shooters from the cells.
We were young, we had good allowances and we wanted to dominate others. We were full of confidence and we believed that a little mischief was good for us all. The truth was we needed to release work pressure from the field routines , thus the mischief. We could only afford this errands for two days in a row before we trooped back to our niches in high spirits and would talk about them until the end of the month. We tried not to go to the same town for the next two months or more. We were a very contented lot and an envy to other security forces, but we instilled fear into the hearts of poachers and wildlife was safe in and out of the protected areas.