Kenya’s Bane of In­se­cu­rity

Diplomat East Africa - - Diplomatic Licence -

The Achilles heel of the Pres­i­dent Uhuru Keny­atta gov­ern­ment is its ap­par­ent in­abil­ity to end the in­se­cu­rity cri­sis that has plagued it since it came to power in April last year. When not bat­tling the So­mali ter­ror mili­tia in Nairobi, Mom­basa and Garissa in Northen Kenya, it is fac­ing in­ter­clan war­fare or heav­ily armed cat­tle rustlers who use the se­cu­rity forces for tar­get prac­tice.

In Septem­ber last year, four ter­ror­ists from the Al Shabaab mili­tia took over the up-mar­ket West­gate Mall in Nairobi and held off both the po­lice and army Spe­cial Forces for four days. In their wake, they left 69 peo­ple dead, dozens in­jured and da­m­ages run­ning into bil­lions of shillings.

Tough talk from the pres­i­dent and his se­cu­rity chiefs only saw more at­tacks in Nairobi’s Eastleigh business dis­trict and in Mom­basa. In anger, the gov­ern­ment lashed out at the So­mali com­mu­nity in Nairobi, round­ing up thou­sands in dis­jointed swoops to a make-shift screen­ing camp at the Sa­fari­com Kasarani Sta­dium.

The po­lice were ac­cused of hu­man rights abuses and cor­rup­tion, which they ca­su­ally shrugged off as they con­tin­ued with their ex­tor­tion racket. But the heavy po­lice pres­ence in the city saw the ter­ror mili­tia seek other soft tar­gets, no­tably Mpeke­toni and the neigh­bour­ing dis­tricts in Lamu County, where they out ma­neu­vered and out gunned the se­cu­rity forces.

In week­long re­peated raids last June, they point­edly ig­nored threats by no less than the head of state, mak­ing mock­ery of the gov­ern­ment’s se­cu­rity as­ser­tion. They left about a hun­dred peo­ple dead and dis­placed hun­dreds.

In the back­ground, in­ter-clan war­fare in dis­tant Man­dera in North East­ern Kenya was claim­ing lives in the dozens with no mean­ing­ful in­ter­ven­tion from Nairobi. It would ap­pear that as long as it was civil­ians butcher­ing one another in far flung places, the gov­ern­ment couldn’t be both­ered.

But at­tacks in the cat­tle-rustling prone Rift Val­ley pit­ting the Turkana against the Sam­buru on the one hand and lately, the Pokot against the Turkana and Kalen­jin at Kapedo in Turkana, have left the gov­ern­ment badly ex­posed.

The feud­ing cat­tle thieves also seem to lust for the firearms in the hands of the po­lice and were not averse to killing about 30 of them. Pre­dictably, Keny­atta, his po­lice and mil­i­tary chiefs, David Ki­maiyo and Gen Julius Karangi re­spec­tively, and the Cab­i­net Sec­re­tary for In­ter­nal Se­cu­rity, Joseph ole Lenku turned up in dusty Kapedo.

Threats of a mil­i­tary crack­down and a 24-hour ul­ti­ma­tum to re­turn the stolen firearms and uni­forms have largely been ig­nored. But as the gov­ern­ment moved hun­dreds of sol­diers to the mostly law­less Turkana County, brazen at­tacks were made on a mil­i­tary bar­rack and an ad­min­is­tra­tion po­lice unit camp in Mom­basa.

As we went to press, nei­ther Keny­atta nor his be­sieged se­cu­rity chiefs have spo­ken on the in­se­cu­rity be­set­ting the coun­try. This raises the poignant ques­tion as to whether the Ju­bilee Al­liance gov­ern­ment has any strat­egy, much less ideas, to tackle in­se­cu­rity in the coun­try.

Short of ut­ter­ing threats and mil­i­taris­ing the se­cu­rity ser­vices, par­tic­u­larly the in­tel­li­gence, im­mi­gra­tion and the new look Na­tional Youth Ser­vice; the gov­ern­ment ap­pears to be suf­fer­ing a se­ri­ous deficit of ideas.

Or per­haps not; as some pun­dits have pos­tu­lated, it is per­haps a scheme to make the po­lice ap­pear over­whelmed so that the mil­i­tary can step in and tram­ple on civil lib­er­ties. It has hap­pened else­where in the con­ti­nent, so why not in Kenya.

That is an op­tion that is fraught with dan­ger; once you al­low the se­cu­rity sit­u­a­tion to de­te­ri­o­rate beyond a point of no re­turn, you risk be­com­ing a failed state.

The In­de­pen­dent Po­lice Over­sight Au­thor­ity (IPOA) has point­edly called for the over­haul of the se­cu­rity sys­tem over its failed lead­er­ship and in­com­pe­tence, but that is one ad­vice that is likely to be ig­nored.

What­ever the case, a gov­ern­ment that can­not pro­tect the life, prop­erty and lib­erty of its peo­ple has no business be­ing in power; that is the bot­tom line. Any­thing else is an af­fec­ta­tion

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