Prisons chief in arrest drama after being fired

Thursday, November 18th, 2021 00:00 |
New Kenya Prisons Service Commissioner Brigadier (Rtd) John Kibaso Warioba speaks to the media at Magereza House minutes after he was sworn in by President Uhuru Kenyatta. Photo/PD/ ALEX MBURU

Former Commissioner General of Prisons Wycliffe Ogalo was dramatically arrested yesterday moments after he was sacked by President Uhuru Kenyatta following the Monday morning escape of three terror convicts from the Kamiti Maximum Prison.

He was arrested in his office at the Prisons headquarters, Magereza House together with two other senior officials by the Anti-Terrorism Police Unit (ATPU) detectives before being driven to the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) for grilling.

Duo arrested alongside Ogalo have been identified as the commandant of Kamiti Prisons Charles Mutembei and his deputy.

The arrest came just a few hours after the President met with top officials of the Interior ministry led by Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i over the escape that preliminary investigations show was an inside job.

Ogalo had just finished chairing a meeting in his office when he was arrested, bundled into a waiting police vehicle and driven away.

The former boss, who was clearly caught by surprise, could be heard asking where he was being taken.

Police later denied that Prison’s boss had been arrested. 

“The reporting appearing in the mainstream and social media that the former Kenya Prisons Service’s Commissioner General Wycliffe Ogalo has been arrested by police is not accurate. This is to clarify that Police only facilitated a smooth and seamless handover of office,” read the tweet on the National Police Service’s official twitter account.

However, Ogalo’s lawyer Assa Nyakundi maintained that his client had been arrested and driven to the DCI headquarters on Kiambu Road.

“I am from the DCI headquarters and I can tell you he was arrested and taken to the office of the man in charge of investigations, a Mr Gachomo, and was released without any charge. So anybody saying he was not arrested is an enemy of the truth. What they should be saying is that they did not have any reason to arrest him. They only told us that they have our numbers and that if they need us, they will call us,” he said.

Ogalo is a former long serving provincial administrator and has been in office for two years.

He succeeded Isaya Osugo, who is credited for reforms at the service. Sources said he had been a marked man in the two years while he was in office.

New commissioner

Nine warders at the Kamiti Maximum Prison are in police custody following the escape of three convicts who were serving jail terms for terror-related crimes.

The escapees are Musharraf Abdalla Akhulunga, aka Zarkarawi, Mohammed Ali Abikar and Joseph Juma Odhiambo, aka Yusuf. The DCI has placed Sh60 million bounty for their recapture.

They removed a stone in their cell wall and left a physically challenged cellmate before escaping. They then used ropes to climb over two walls.

Abikar was charged and convicted in 2019 over his links to Al-Shabaab and for abetting the Garissa University attack of April 2015 that left 148 people dead while Odhiambo was arrested in 2019 for trying to join the Somali terror group.

Akhulunga was arrested in 2012 over a foiled attack on Parliament and charged with possessing explosives, ammunition and firearms.

Earlier, President Uhuru Kenyatta appointed and immediately swore in Brigadier (Rtd) John Kibaso Warioba as the new Commissioner-General.

Warioba’s appointment brings to at least eleven, the number of officers from the Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) appointed to head State agencies.

“The appointment follows the briefing to the Head of State from the Ministry responsible for Correctional Services regarding the security breaches at the Kamiti Maximum Security Prison that led to the escape of three inmates,” State House spokesperson Kanze Dena said.

The briefing, Dena said, noted the compelling public interest in the matter and the need to entrench accountability in the ranks of the leadership of all security organs.

“There is a need to entrench accountability in the ranks of the leadership of security organs in honour of the many Kenyans who have lost their lives and the enormous sacrifices made by all Kenyans and particularly the security organs to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat terror networks,” she said.

As part of the State response to the security breaches in the Kamiti Maximum Security Prison, the President also directed Matiang’i and all security formations to take all actions necessary in pursuing the convicts. The President also directed the State Department of Correctional Services to take disciplinary action against all Prisons personnel who were on duty when the security breaches occurred, including redeployment or suspension.

The President also urged all Kenyans to be vigilant and volunteer any information that would lead to the tracing and arrest of the escapees.

Uhuru’s defence

“We all have a shared duty to defend and protect our freedoms and way of life that is at risk with the rising threats of terror within the region,” the President said.

Brig Warioba joins over a dozen former military colleagues who headed institutions like the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) and the National Intelligence Service(NIS)

President Kenyatta has in the past defended his decision to appoint military officers to government offices, arguing that they were efficient in delivery, management and administration.

“I am not militarising anything. But it is only a fool who would not use those who can perform to help him achieve his intended goals. I am using reliable Kenyan citizens to fulfil my agenda for this Republic. And the KDF are part of us and are also part of our citizens,” he said then.

In September, Uhuru transferred Maj Gen (Rtd) Gordon Kihalangwa to serve as Principal Secretary in the Energy docket. Kihalangwa previously served in State departments of Defence, Public Works and Immigration.

The President also appointed Airforce’s Maj Gen Mohamed Badi to head the Nairobi Metropolitan Services (NMS), among other senior officers.

Others are Gen (Rtd) Joseph Kibwana who is the chairperson of the Kenya Ports Authority (KPA), former Chief of Defence Forces General (Rtd) Samson Mwathethe who is the chairman of KenGen and Kenya Railways Corporation’s Maj Gen (Rtd) Pastor Omudho Awitta. Such prison escapes have been reported in the recent past.

On September 25, three inmates charged with murder escaped from Nanyuki Prisons in unclear circumstances. The three had been accused of murdering Lmalewan Lesondoreka on October 24, 2017 in Laikipia North sub-county.

Lereiyo Lekiale, Nangoye Lenawaso and Mareri Tetkor were among the six inmates who staged a daring escape from the prison. They were charged together with Lepunyaki Lekaaso, Lunyeris Lekupanae, Nkaaka Lepeta and Tubula Lelmojok.

The three escapees, all facing murder charges, escaped together with robbery with violence suspects identified as Francis Kamau Nduati, Patrick Fundi and James Sike.

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