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Monday, July 7, 2008

The spy chief and the Grand Regency saga

As the Grand Regency saga rages, one name that keeps popping up is that of the director of NSIS, Maj-Gen. Michael Gichangi. The question we are asking is: what the hell has he got to do with Central Bank? The problem is that NSIS is shrouded in unnecessary secrecy and it's vital roles are virtually unknown. And Gichangi is deeply involved in the "sale" of the hotel...

The report of the Cabinet sub-committee on the Grand Regency saga has a curious entry on the list of its findings. It reads: “...the Director-General of the National Security Intelligence Service was the first person to introduce to the Central Bank the possibility of a settlement and sale of the Grand Regency Hotel and that the Director-General indicated to the Governor of the Central Bank that a Mr Bernard Kalove, Advocate, together with Wetang’ula, Adan, Makokha & Company Advocates representing Kamlesh Pattni would contact him to discuss the matter.”

The first question that jumps to mind is what Maj-Gen Michael Gichangi, the NSIS boss, would be doing engaging in CBK activities. It is assumed the NSIS concentrates in the dark arts of spying and security surveillance. Even more curious is that the NSIS director would be playing match-maker between CBK and Mr Kalove, Mr Pattni’s long-time lawyer.

Outside his weekly media briefings, Government Spokesman Alfred Mutua rarely volunteers story leads. So it was a bit of a surprise when on Friday afternoon he called newsrooms somewhat urgently with regard to the reference to Maj-Gen Gichangi in the cabinet sub-commitee report. Out of all the actors mentioned in the Grand Regency saga, Dr Mutua’s interest seemed to be limited specifically to Maj-Gen Gichangi.

In itself, it was a hint that something must have infuriated his masters; maybe the dragging in of the hallowed Intelligence boss into the whole Grand Regency mess? According to Dr Mutua, the NSIS’s mandate extends not only to security and political issues, but to social and economic ones as well. “The Director-General talks to 10 or 15 Permanent Secretaries and ministers and heads of department to advise them on issues affecting their departments. He also issues five to 10 top-secret letters to different heads of department and to some ministers concerning issues that have arisen in their ministries,” he offered. Reportedly the NSIS follows up on foreign entities wishing to do business in Kenya and does its own due diligence checks. (“We don’t want the country getting entangled in business with the likes of Osama bin Laden,” added Dr Mutua). Presumably Maj-Gen Gichangi’s contact with CBK was routine. For his sake, let's hope it is.

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