Poor payment, treatment and discrimination of private security workers, having experienced firsthand of its worse, made me come out of my comfort and use my intelligence, ideas and solutions to form private security workers’ union that will spearhead and fight for workers’ rights.”
Being a man of his words and determination, full of experience in the private security sector, Bro. Isaac GM Andabwa, the CEO and founder of the Kenya National Private security workers Union (KNPSWU), believes that the private security sector plays a big role in both the native and global security.
Over the time, the son of a Paramount who was crowned by Nabongo Mumias’ brother; has overcome the dark world of hierarchy, fierce power, cartel hurdles and test of life to form a very strong and promising Union that has given the private security officers a new hope of life after serving as a security guard just like any other professions, unlike in the past where anytime they were subjected to humiliation, discrimination and poor payment without any reference.
KNPSWU has gained solid authority, trust and civilization to the Kenya private security sector that has seen it become affiliated to COTU (K) and Uni-Global Union to cement its power, hence giving workers more bargaining strength to speak for their rights, conditions of work and privileges.
Since its inception, the Union has achieved tremendous ground and triumphs including contracting more than 100 workers, aiding at different union offices, across the country. The Union has set proper structures and facilitation that has enabled it register up to 200,000 active members out of possible 500,000 registered private security officers in the country.
Besides, through collective bargaining (CBA), the union has addressed the workers most challenges with their employers like improved working hours, over time payment, sick leave, annual leave, due process of hiring and termination of workers contracts, discrimination, insurance covers among other good terms and conditions of engagement, whose fruits will be felt as time goes and CBAs gets more effective, and progressive.
Nevertheless, the private security union boss says the journey of compelling employers to sign CBAs has not been easy bearing in mind that different employers have distinctive financial strengths and muscles, conditions, clients and preferences used to employ his members. “Achieving hundred percent CBA is not easy, and cannot be achieved overnight, but I assure you, we are heading in the right direction considering where we started from up to now. We just need persistence, patience and steady improving strategies.”
Insecurity and emerging tactics being used by modern terrorists, has created exigent need to debate and instrument laws that will allow private security officers to be fortified with progressive tools of work, instead of using the renown “Rungu” and “metal detector gadgets” that will never enable them to confront any vulnerability or extremist(s) afore receiving back up from other security forces.
In most of time, for example in the case of Dusit2, private security officers (guards) were the first people to be confronted by the terrorists. I believe if these officers were well equipped with advanced tools of work, they could have clogged the extremists from entering the premises or even killed them before they caused severe destruction. Equipping guards is not a security menace but beneficial to the country to heighten security. In some developed nations, security guards are highly trained just like police and highly respected as well prepared to tackle any threat that comes across. This is what we want to see in Kenya,” Mr. Isaac advocates.
CEO Africa heaved a misuse fear factor of the artilleries if granted, but the Union boss insisted that through their regulator’s office; manned by Former NGO Coordination board chairman and now the Director General of Private Security Regulatory Authority, Mr. Fazul Muhammed, they will set up procedures and circumstance in which a guard can be given a rifle among other precautions. Therefore, they is no need to raise alarm.
However, the proposal has not gone unchallenged, it is fronting opposition from some quarters who thinks the move is pro-reactive than a solution making which might not be the veracious solution to insecurity. Only time will tell which way the government will take concerning kitting the private security captains.
Many people may think the vibrant Trade Unionist is a fresh guy in the private security sector and leadership; nevertheless, Mr. Andabwa worked as a guard since he cleared his secondary education in Kakamega high school.
Before then, his early childhood headship began in school where he was head boy and Christian Union chairman both in Mukumu primary boarding school and Kakamega High school. In 1998, Captain Isaac joined US embassy private security team, after thorough training as well completing his secondary education.
His fate began when Mr. Enock SK. Cheserek, who by then was the assistant senior commissioner of police at Recce squad, endorsed him to work either with GSU or as a private US Embassy security guard after recognizing his devotion at work. He chose to work with US embassy because of good payment and working environment compared to the GSU.
During his service at the embassy, he cultured and gained a lot of capability both work wise and lifestyle that completely transformed his life as well how he grasps and button security matters.
Also throughout this stretch, he witnessed many police officers vacating the Government service and join private security service at the embassy, because the US embassy was paying better at the time; about Sh. 10,400 basic salary compared to Government GSU officers who used to get about Sh. 3,600 basic salary per month without any allowances.
The same year, terrorists bombed American Embassy in Kenya where most lives were lost as well injuries witnessed. After the bomb blast dark day, the embassy saw there was dire need to train and improve its security personnel as well equip them enough to easily tackle any security threats.
Bro. Andabwa was among the propitious few bright private security guards that were chosen and trained by the US Security experts as an “SDT” specialist focused on detecting terror activities, disarming, detecting suspicious activities and objects, safety measures among other intensive security training that later has helped him so much in understanding security, its vulnerability, expectations as well finding solutions.
In 1999, Mr. Andabwa felt that his vast experience in the security sector and leadership ability, will go to waste if he will not do something to improve lives of private security officers who at the time were famously known as “watchmen”, something he felt was not only foul but job inequity that was meant to weaken security officers as lesser beings and useless; yet they were guarding and protecting very valuable goods, services and people who neither appreciated their job or did indiscriminately.
Same year, the Kenyan Guards’ Union secretary General post was contested. The post attracted 12 contestants of which most of the leadership contestants were drawn from other business sectors who knew nothing or very little about guards and their welfare. Bro. Isaac was among the contestants and luckily he was elected unopposed twice during the election by delegates, while still working with KK Security at the US Embassy.
Conversely, over time, greed and corruption saw the guards suffering swell with no one to hear or fight for them. This devil appetite saw internal leadership wrangles as well guard’s trust to the union tremendously decreasing hence creating space to exploit the guards, leaving them at their God’s mercy.
Being one of the affected guards, Mr. Isaac decided to mobilize guards in the year 2006, against mistreatment and exploitation by the greed leadership which proved to be just money minting organization with no will to support and stand by the guards to better their lives.
Upon registration of the new Kenya National Private Security Workers Union (KNPSWU) for the private security officers, he was given temporary registration certificate that was strongly opposed both by the sector’s players and some few impunity beneficiaries in the government who did not like the idea that proved a big threat to their career and Union. By the time of registration, the company registrar Mr. William Langat was on leave and as soon as he resumed, he immediately revoked the certificate awarded earlier.
Luckily, good connections from the former President Kibaki’s daughter, Miss. Judy Kibaki’s intervention through the top most senior labour registrar, saw them awarded the certificate once again in 2007. This was his happiest moments that only lasted shortly.
In 2008, KK Security, the company that contracted him as security guard, expelled him from his job that was the only source of income under the ground that he was using the position to campaign and do politics instead of concentrating to his job.
Things got more harder and hot when same year, he was arrested under allegation that he stole money from the guards kitty, but according to him, this was a move to warn him by ensuring that he will not contest for the union leadership. He is grateful to God he was able to overcome all the hurdles and made it out stronger.
For the entire time after he was sacked, he remained jobless until he was able to secure a temporary job where he was paid Sh. 300 per month. A salary that was not able to sustain his family considering the city life where everything talks by money.
In 2010, Bro. Isaac saw the light of the day after hard work, pain and determination not to succumb to pressure, but give the best combat for a better tomorrow. He took over the leadership and immediately embarked in making tremendous changes in the Union including disbanding a one-region branch based in Nyanza and replaced with new branches based across the country to ensure services are brought to the people on the ground unlike before.
This saw the Union gain more strength, support and trust from the members who are the private security officers. Also the same year, the union was affiliated to the country’s giant workers’ movement, COTU (K). Mr. Andabwa strongly believes it is because of Mr. Francis L. Atwoli intervention to harmonize and offer leadership that has highly paid to his success in the union as well smooth transition of private security guard’s better terms of work unlike in the ancient times.
Since then, the rest is history. Over time, the Union is gaining ground across the country, fulfilling its agenda and mission to ensure private security officers gain more respect, justice, fair payment, treatment, over time payment, fair hearing ( in case of misconduct at work), insurance covers, leave and sick-leave among others.
At the moment, they have already recruited over 200,000 members out of possible 500,000 security guards in the country. In addition, they are planning to come up with Kenya Private Security Training college where any person interested in security jobs, can join, get trained and equipped with security skills then awarded a certificate when they graduate; that he or she can use to be recruited as a private security officer across the globe.
This training will include rifle handling, safety at work, workers job rights, job ethics, savings and empowerment among others. The caliber of training will be something similar to Police College in Kiganjo according to the KNPSWU boss, with a Government accredited curriculum.
The Union has actively participated in agitating for reforms in the private security sector. Through active partnership with like minded stake holders, the Union lobbied for the enactment of the Private Security Regulations Act of 2016.
The process was rigorous but ultimately H.E The President Uhuru Kenyatta accented to the act. The act also saw its success, light and big support from various leaders like Hon. Senator Johnson Sakaja, Hon. Ayub Savula, Governor Wilberforce Ottichilo of Vihiga and many others.
The Act establishes the Private Security Regulatory Authority, which will focus on offering regulations to the private security industry in Kenya. The unionist believes that the Authority will ensure sanity is restored in the murky private security industry.
The organization has already signed quite a number of CBAs with different employers to mention a few: wells Fargo, 911, SGA, Radar Security, Bob Morgan (BM), G4s among others, while others; discussion and process of signing the CBAs is ongoing.
He concludes that the battle ahead is still huge in ensuring the Act is fully followed. Appreciatively, he believes all the private security workers in Kenya have reached their preferred “canaan”. He clinches his fist as a solidarity signal of the trade unionists, with the words “Pamoja Twasimama” signifying unity among all private security officers in Kenya.
His father, the late chief John Andabwa Shihemi was crowned by Nabongo’s brother (Mulama) because at the time of coronation, Nabongo was unwell. During chief Shihemi rein, he donated a land, about 2 acres to be used as administration office located in Izulu centre/market. As an honour and respect, he was given Gunny foe (Kanga) by Mulama. In return, Chief Andabwa gave out a cow as acceptance of his new position and gratitude.
Mr. Isaac is a devoted Christian and married with several children. Currently he is pursuing degree in criminology at the St. Paul’s University to upsurge his expertise and knowledge in matters security.