Sunday, 10 May 2015

The Rhetoric and Reality of Kenya’s Security.

Ever since our incursion into the failed state of Somalia we have fallen victims to a series of attacks orchestrated by the Al Shabaab sympathizers on our land. However, a closer look reveals that ever since the Jubilee administration came to power these attacks have become more intense with high levels of fatalities. Besides the Al Shabaab machinations, banditry has escalated and perhaps the recent bandit attacks are the deadliest in our nation’s history.

Last week, over 100 people were massacred in Nadome Valley on the border of Turkana and Baringo counties. This number of deaths is according to the intelligence reports. It is believed that over 400 heavily armed bandits surrounded 12 villages and began spraying bullets. The villages that were raided include Kalpat, Acham, Koghturo, Kangolio, Chepisia, Chongor, Lonangii, Loreng, Napuu, Sukut, Popon and Karuwon. All these villages are located in Silale ward of Tiaty sub-county in East Pokot, Baringo County. Turkana raiders attacked the Pokot and made away with 3000 cattle and sheep and goats totaling to about 1000 in number.

The nonplus thing was the inability of the security forces to react immediately to the bloody happenstance. As a matter of fact, it took close to 3 days for the security forces to gain access to the valley of death. Partly, though, this can be attributed to the very poor infrastructure that exists in this particular place. To me, the inability of the security officers to quickly react is because of high levels of incompetence within the team, corruption and the government failure to provide enough modern equipments and facilities to combat such criminal activities. I mention incompetence because the police and the General Service Unit (GSU) camps are within a radius of 35km from the place of attack and they FAILED absolutely to react even within 48hours. The past and present governments should take the blame because the security officers operate under not-so-good conditions. Is it difficult to procure modern equipment and facilities albeit the high costs associated with them? In any case, security of the nation ranks the highest priority among any sane government in the world.

Last year in the infamous Kapedo Massacre, 21 police officers lost their lives after being ambushed by some Pokot raiders. This prompted our dear President Uhuru Kenyatta to tour the region and certainly talked tough by issuing ultimatums to the individuals in possession of illegal firearms. Some surrendered their firearms but I am pretty sure the majority didn’t. Soon, the embers of the much hyped disarmament exercise died and then life was back to normalcy. A visit by the president to Nadome was anticipated but it is yet to take place.

It sounds illogical and insensible for Kenya to be battling banditry and cattle rustling nearly 52 years after attaining independence. These cases of cattle rustling and banditry normally happen in the regions that have been economically marginalized over time. Such places have been perceived to be of little economic importance in the country especially due to their unproductiveness in terms of agriculture. Could this be the main reason why the successive governments have never advanced a comprehensive agenda for these areas in quest for a permanent solution? Certainly and relatively yes.

We’ve got lessons to learn from Uganda on how President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni firmly dealt with the Karamoja region which also experienced similar challenges of cattle rustling and banditry. The Ministry of Karamoja was carved out under which several programmes and initiatives have been implemented including the Karamoja Livelihood Improvent Programme and the Karamoja Integrated Disarmament and Development Programme. Under the Grand Coalition government, a ministry for the arid and semi-arid areas was created but no tangible achievements were witnessed.

Apart from the socio-economic hardships, some of the political leaders from this region are alleged to be inciting their communities. Is there any need really to utter sentiments that lead to loss of lives? The Directorate of Criminal Investigations ought to carry out thorough investigations to establish the conduct of these political leaders. The challenge lies in the prosecution of these politicians if found guilty.

On a general scale, the Jubilee administration is really struggling to fix the security situation. Since its ascension to power many people have died and many more wounded in the wake of terrorist and banditry attacks. Let’s revisit some of the deadliest attacks since the Jubilee coalition formed the government. In last week’s attack around 100 people or more were slaughtered and shot. On April 2nd this year, 148 people including 143 students lost their lives when the Al Shabaab launched an attack on Garissa University College. Late last year in Mandera there were two attacks which claimed the lives of 64 Kenyans. In June 2014 we also had attacks in Mpeketoni where 68 deaths were recorded. Also note that last year we had 21 police officers massacred in Kapedo. On 23rd September, 2013 we had a terrorist attack at the Westgate Shopping Mall where 67 people died.

Following the Mandera carnage, the then Cabinet Secretary in charge of Interior and Coordination of National Government Joseph Lenku and the Inspector General of the National Police Service David Kimaiyo were shown the door. They were replaced by their tribesmen Joseph Nkaissery and Joseph Boinett in the respective capacities and positions. Mr. Lenku came across as grossly incompetent due to the drama he elicited during press conferences. Then came the tough son of Kajiado who talks in a manner likely to intimidate journalists to prevent them from asking many questions during his press briefings. My opinion is that it does not matter who takes charge of the security docket to deal with insecurity. We must take the fundamentals into account for us to effectively restore security in the affected areas.

The said fundamentals that we are to consider according to me are mainly three and these largely centre on the modus operandi of the security forces. Firstly, the police recruitment exercise entails the use of archaic means, methods and ways that were instituted and used by the colonialists to recruit policemen in the colonial period. Secondly, the police recruitment exercise is usually shrouded with a lot of corruption. Due to corruption, we end up recruiting Kenyans who join the police service just to draw salaries from the tax payers and such people lack the zeal to protect the citizenry. Do such recruits who join the police force as a result of corruption ever have the imagination of one day engaging in a battle? At the time of being recruited the majority usually foresee how much money they will be earning at the end of the month. Being a police personnel is a calling and this cannot be disputed. Thirdly, we should have a paradigm shift in the training programmes of the police with emphasis on intelligence and the use of sophisticated equipments to combat crime. To add to the above necessities, we should allow those who have attained high grades and also university graduates in criminology and related courses to join the police. Normally when we have recruitment this category of persons is usually turned away creating an impression that the police force is an avenue and a reservation for academic failures.

This should be a challenge bearing in mind that the Al Shabaab is recruiting university graduates as we recently saw in the Garissa University College attack where a law graduate was among the master-minds. Perhaps this was just a microcosm of the situation as there could be many more graduates operating with this terrorist group. I believe that successful execution and implementation of the fundamentals will definitely change the way the police and the entire security system works and operates. Otherwise we shall forever wail, whine and cry due to the current system that is in place; where bandits and the Al Shabaab overpower the police officers. In fact, one of my former parish priests Gabriel Dolan jokingly said that the government should consider deploying the Kenya Defence Forces officers to Nadome to deal with cattle rustlers and bandits and take the bandits to fight Al Shabaab in Somalia as they seem to be so effective. Therefore, to conclude, the government top honchos should stop talking too much and let their actions towards containing insecurity make noise for them.

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