BY MACHEL WAIKENDA
Is the Kenya Police Service becoming one of the riskiest jobs to undertake in Kenya today? Hardly have we exorcised the ghosts of the Baragoi massacre than 21 others die under a hail of cowardly bullets in the lawless expanse between Baringo/Turkana counties.
Understandably, President Uhuru Kenyatta is furious with the loss of lives of the law enforcers, not just because he is Commander-In-Chief, but firstly, because it backpedals the vision he has expressed of development.
Secondly, it has come too soon after other police officers lost their lives from a lightning raid in Lamu, terrorists made a mockery of the efficiency and effectiveness of the rapid response units and that secessionists down at the coast seem unmoved by any efforts at re-integration.
President Kenyatta was categorical that the bandits of Kapedo will be brought swiftly to book and that his administration will not sit idle as excuses are bandied about inadequate water supplies and pasture fuelling generations-old conflicts between communities in a region that is largely inhabited by heavily impoverished nomadic herders.
There are also murmurs about the possible presence of oil under the soil in the area. But what will the massacre of police officers escorting examination papers do to further any single community’s claim to any natural resource? None whatsoever!
That the Kenya Defence Forces have been unleashed on the bloodthirsty marauders is not without precedent, legally and politically.
Under exceptional circumstances, the armed forces can be deployed to eliminate or bring to heel an insurgency that has proved versatile and moves freely between international borders.
And this is, perhaps, the time for President Kenyatta to make that crucial phone call to his Ugandan and Ethiopian counterparts to seal their sides of the common border so that the killers do not slink into their territories.
Retired President Moi issued a hot-pursuit order deep into Somalia to recover guns that had been stolen from a Kenyan police station; Presidents George Bush determined that the drugs trade and criminal gangs in South and Central America had become a clear and present danger to the American way of life and issued a presidential fiat to rein-in the criminals.
His son and now former president G.W. bush considered Iraq part of an Axis of Evil and ordered the start of a long war to protect the US and her allies’ interests.
Daily, Israel dispatches planes and tanks into the restive Gaza to avenge any Israeli death, much like the way former President Mwai Kibaki dispatched the KDF to seek out and destroy the Al Shabaab bases inside Somalia.
President Kenyatta’s Kapedo edict is no different.
Regardless of the outcome of KDF’s engagement, hard questions abound: Why do we still have swathes of the country where children can only go to school under the watchful eye of armed police reservists? Who are the leaders inciting their people into evicting neighbours in anticipation of rich pickings from perceived future oil extraction revenues?
Who are the main backers of the secessionist movement at the coast, wielding so much power that they can “assure” attackers that although the tactic failed Prophet Kinjekitile Ngwale’s warriors in 1905 against the German occupiers, their modern-day maji-maji-sprayed bare chests can repel bullets? What balderdash is this?
What are the county and national governments doing to stem the all-too-familiar raids and score settling between rival communities? Was there cohesion between the regular and Administration Police commands in Kapedo? Obviously, this was lacking in Westgate, Lamu and Baragoi.
Is there merit to the Independent Police Oversight Authority’s call to have the security docket overhauled and cattle rustling be declared a capital offence and national disaster since it has made parts of the country no-go zones?
The law is clear that the functions of the police include the maintenance of law and order, preservation and protection of life and property. The police are also charged with prevention and detection of crime, apprehension of offenders and enforcement of all laws and regulations under their mandate.
Members of the public who are attacking police officers should know it is a criminal offence for which they must be punished. For enhanced security in the country, respect should be developed to enhance partnership between public and police.
Attacks on police officers anywhere in the world is not acceptable because it is a sign of a nation that is slowly sliding into disorder leaving its citizenry at the mercy of criminals.
While we are all looking to government to handle reforms in the police force, it is the duty of every citizen to ensure that their work is made comfortable. Working with the police is not only a duty but also a great sign of patriotism.
(The writer is a political and communications consultant. Twitter @MachelWaikenda)