Had the London riots been in Nairobi…

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BY BERNARD MOMANYI

Watching the sporadic looting and arson across London since last week has left me convinced that rebellion in the name of democracy is dangerous.

It poisons the masses and entrenches a deep rooted culture of impunity even in young boys and girls, who are often considered future leaders. What with hooded 10-year-olds torching shops and looting super stores on the high streets of London.

Images of adolescents in their hundreds tucking looted champagne and electronics under their jackets were ridiculous, if you take into account reports that some 16,000 police officers were on the streets quelling the riots.

These young boys and girls are part of demonstrators who were protesting the shooting to death of 29-year-old Mark Duggan.

It all started as a night-long peaceful vigil before it exploded into sporadic violence hijacked by mindless thugs who, as we have seen, could not be controlled by the police.

Picture this: Kenyan police have shot, either intentionally or otherwise a man in Buru Buru Nairobi. On the same night, youths gather in the estate for a night vigil and later start burning and stealing from supermarkets and shops in the estate.

The following day, the violence spreads to Westlands, Nairobi West and later Karen, Ngong and others before the under-18s stage similar lootings in Nakuru, Nyeri, Mombasa and Naivasha.

And as it happens, you see anti-riot police officers staging a cat and mouse game with the looters, pleading with them to return the loot.

This will be democracy taken to greater lengths, but thankfully not in Kenya.

The youths on the streets of Tottenham, Manchester, Birmingham and Liverpool were said to be exercising their democratic right of picketing to demand justice for Duggan who was gunned down by the police.

Kenya is not new to scenes of men shot dead by police under unexplained circumstances, yet we have never seen protests taken to greater lengths like witnessed in London where police are watching looters stage robberies on the streets in broad daylight.

If the London violence occurred in Kenya, western diplomats would tell Kibaki and Raila how they have failed in their mandate.  Police Commissioner Mathew Iteere would have been told to resign and travel bans issued from western capitals.

The core reason of having a police force in a country is to restore order by protecting lives and property of the people.

How are the police in London fulfilling this core objective by arming themselves with mere batons to deal with a mob that has clearly gone out of control?

Why were they looking at them as peaceful protesters when they could see them staging violent robberies and outright malicious damage to property?

How long should the various police squads wait to be “authorised” to act on the thugs who prowling the streets of British cities?

So if this violence occurred in Kenya, our police should’ve waited for Kibaki or Raila to convene a Cabinet meeting to resolve the use of water cannons and rubber bullets on looters when they have already emptied stores on Kenyatta Avenue, Moi Avenue and other surrounding areas, including in far flung towns of Nakuru and Nyeri?

If that is what democracy and human rights means, Nairobi and particularly shops in Eastlands would have been shells by now because similar shootings like the one that occurred in London is the order of the day here.

In fact, it is no longer news to say that a man or men either suspected or otherwise have been shot dead by police.

I am opposed to police violently dispersing protesters but if our police will be reduced to toothless dogs on the streets to the extent of watching gangsters run around with alcohol and electronics stolen from burning shops, then I support in totality our GSU whenever they pounce on rioters – as they are known to do – because it deters future acts.

Our youth must be made to understand from the onset that police officers have work to do and they are authorised to act. Whenever people think of joining others to burn and loot shops, they must be prepared for the consequences!

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