Kenya’s Bane of Insecurity
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