From shepherd boy to a security expert
Coming from a conflict-prone-area of Mandera county, and going through great lengths to get an education, John Lemerele, feels at home promoting peace and training people on security matters.
Irene Githinji @gitshee
“Iaspired to become a lawyer… you know when growing up, you always have dreams.
After secondary school, I took the leap of faith and travelled to Nairobi from Mandera to achieve this dream.
But though it was unattainable at that moment, I’m satisfied with the path I followed,” begins John Lemerele, a certified security expert.
Born and bred in Marsabit 38 years ago, Lemerele joined school at the age of seven at a local Catholic primary school.
He scored 471 marks out of 700 in his Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) exam in 1997.
Given the challenges and dynamics of the environment in Marsabit, he performed well by all standards and expected to be admitted in a provincial school.But that did not happen because of marginalisation.
“My desire was to go to Meru School or maybe Kangaru High School, Embu. Nonetheless, I went to a district school in Marsabit, which had performed dismally the previous years and it was discouraging,” recounts Lemerele.
And so, instead of registering for his Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) exams where he was schooling in Mandera, he travelled to Meru and spoke to a local priest to assist him get to Meru School. But he didn’t succeed.
An expensive dream
Lemerele settled for Siakago Boys High School and was forced to go back to Form Three. Here, he was recognised for his leadership skills.
“I would give talks in school despite being shy. That introduced me to the art of public speaking.
Even though at the time I was not fluent in English, I would somehow pass the message.
My passion in writing also began in secondary school and I would write a lot of imaginary stories,” he recounts.
Lemerele scored a B minus in his KCSE in 2002. After secondary school, he went back to Mandera where he volunteered as untrained teacher at a local primary school, and sometimes took to shepherding livestock.
After an year, Lemerele decided to live his dream of becoming a lawyer and travelled to Nairobi. Since he had not achieved the cut-off points to join university, he had to find his way.
His friends from the village who were studying at the University of Nairobi advised him to apply.
He was accepted, but when he saw the fee structure, he was shattered. He could not afford it given his humble background.
Someone advised him to check Kenyatta University (KU), but the fee was still high.
When reality hit him that he could not afford a law degree, he settled for Bachelor of Arts.
He, however, studied for an year and dropped out of university for lack of fees.
In 2006, he decided to seek employment, to support himself. Looking at what was available for someone with only O-levels, he decided to join the disciplined forces.
“I could relate with Kenya Police. Given the challenges I had seen growing up, such as conflict in the region,” he says.
He went through training and could script on crime and prevention whenever he had the chance to.
Contrary to beliefs by many Kenyans, Lemerele says police are professionals —it is just a few elements who mess the force.
Awareness through writing
“You know the negative perception people out here have on police, if you go to Kiganjo Police College, it is different—things are professional and the training there is intense.
Recruits are taught about law, human rights liberal studies and fieldwork,” he says.
He was appointed a squad leader and led 52 recruits throughout the nine months of training .
After graduating from Kiganjo, he went back to Kenyatta University to study Bachelor of Security Management and Policing.
He began his career within law enforcement, before joining corporate security, managing security for multinational financial institutions in Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Mozambique and South Sudan.
His passion for writing saw him pen his recent book NOTE: The Secret Technique to Situation Awareness. He started writingit in March this year and published last month.
It advises Kenyans to practise situation and self-awareness, knowing own environment, being prepared to take action and most importantly, realising that no one is immune to danger.
Lemerele is also a Certified Protection Professional (CPP), a gold standard for security management professional issued by American Society Industrial Security (ASIS).
The standard gives individuals the authority to be a security expert. To get the CPP title, one has to learn seven security domains, which look at different areas such as management principles, investigations and crisis management.
“CPP is the highest certification and is globally recognised,” he explains. He has also written a handbook on CPP, which is largely about training security professionals on how they can achieve the designation.
Though he did not experience conflict first hand, growing up in a feuding region, he heard of constant raids, fight for resources and sometimes the element of politics was at play.
“It did not occur to me that I would be a solution at some point. I joined the police force because of socio-economic issues, but then again I realised when you get an opportunity, utilise experience gained for the betterment of the society.
That is why as a security expert, I endeavour to promote peace, making pro-bono awareness presentations to schools, religious and community-based organisations and government institutions,” he says.