Intelligence: Rely On The Irregulars


June 13, 2016: Kenya has been dealing with Islamic terrorists based in Somalia for over a decade and one of the problems they had on the Somali border was obtaining timely and reliable intelligence on what was going on in the largely rural area. The Kenyans living along the Somali border were largely ethnic Somalis and tended to trust Somalis from either side of the border rather than non-Somalis (over 90 percent of Kenyans) who dominated the police force and military. But as the Somali Islamic terrorists (mainly a group called al Shabaab) became a threat to everyone on both sides of the border Kenyan police realized they now had a more useful source of information along the border.

This was the Home Guard (Kenya Police Reserve). These were part time policemen whose pay averages about $90 a month and who, in rural areas, are often the only police. Armed only with elderly (but still deadly) bolt action rifles and often in civilian clothes (uniforms are saved for formal occasions) the retired police, civil servants or friend of a local politician or tribal leader, the Home Guard would not only patrol rural areas on an irregular (and unpredictable for bandits, especially cattle rustlers) basis but also gather gossip and observations from locals along the way. Kenyan police found that the Home Guard in border areas, especially where al Shabaab raiders were active, took their job seriously and were increasingly providing the most useful intelligence on what the Islamic terrorists were doing or likely to do.

Because of this usefulness Kenya has added about 700 more Home Guards so far in 2016, mostly along the Somali border. There is also more pressure on older Home Guard members to quit because they are not able to patrol as often or as far as they used to and many younger men are waiting for a chance to serve. Efforts to get the many political appointees out of the Home Guard is even more difficult. These fellows often just collect the monthly pay and rarely, if ever, show up for duty. This corrupt practice got so bad in the urban Home Guard units that most were disbanded by 2004. Many rural Home Guards were also crippled by corruption but enough rural Home Guards took their jobs seriously that the force is being expanded, with the understanding that new hires will occur in the least corrupt units. One form of corruption that is left alone is the tradition of the assigning tribal or clan quotas for Home Guard jobs in rural areas. This usually works out as the Home Guards are literally protecting their own tribes or clans out there and the illegal quotas actually limits the even more corrupt practice of giving out government jobs to political supporters who expect to get paid but not work. The police want rural Home Guards to patrol regularly and report what they see.




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