By State House Communication Directors
On 26th November, 2014 at the University of Nairobi, the President made very strong and clear observations on certain issues that have taxed the nation’s mind in the recent past. One of them was on national (in)security situation and the other, gender-based violence.
These observations have been taken out of context, distorted and hyped by angry, emotional commentators in order to intensify alarm and distress. As a result, the President’s observations have attracted hostility which, in our view and all things considered, is wholly unwarranted.
The melodramatic and alarmist drive to blur and distort every issue for selfish gain has not helped matters. Hearing some leaders, opinion leaders and activists, one would think Kenya was Afghanistan. Neither have public officers who released dubious information to the public.
The Government has done incredibly well in investing additional billions of shillings to improve security in Kenya.
Recruitment has been expanded and will be sustained to drive the police-citizen ratio to acceptable standards. This is accompanied by revised training curriculum to accommodate our dispensation and emerging challenges to law and order. Over 2,700 additional police vehicles have been paid for, to improve police mobility and response time. Complementary technologies have also been acquired to improve police work. For the first time, Government has invested in a comprehensive police insurance plan for every serving police officer. Government is delivering its pledge on security, and there have been notable improvements in the maintenance of law and order. Crime statistics has registered the positive impact of these interventions. We expect the quality of police service to improve rapidly and consistently.
That said, it is true that our security situation is unsatisfactory. Crime and insecurity are truly distressing phenomena that can rarely receive cool and rational treatment when many are apprehensive of their safety. Our fear, in the main, is not that we live under perpetual threat from terrorists, bandits and other violent criminals. Our fear is our security services are incapable or unwilling to protect us.
This is a layered and intense fear that understandably makes people unable to detach themselves sufficiently to understand the complex context of our security situation. Our insecurity has a complicated international dimension that has little to do with us as a people or country. Just as we are an international hub for diplomacy, trade and investment, our geo-strategic advantage also places us at the crossroads of drug trafficking, wildlife poaching, money laundering and, yes, terrorism. All these feed into our domestic security malaise.
This is not to say that we do not have a domestic factor in the entire sad situation. Institutional issues in the security sector, especially the police service, have compounded our vulnerability. In particular, emerging structural and operational deficiencies have worsened the unpredictability and inefficiency of our police services. The legal framework under the new constitutional dispensation seems to have worsened, not improved, the situation.
Finally, our susceptibility to criminal attacks is multiplied by dint of an endemic affliction of the police service: corruption. Graft in the police services is so thoroughgoing that year after year, they rank as the most corrupt institution in Kenya. A security official who routinely accepts a bribe to excuse traffic infractions and get crooks off the hook will most certainly accept a bigger bribe to allow uninspected cargo to pass through check points.
This is where we come in as citizens and the public. Bribery, like drug trafficking, has the dealer, and the addict. If the police are addicted to bribes, the public are its enablers and suppliers. Indeed, the notoriety of the police service in the graft sweepstakes speaks to our collective morality as a nation: where are the bribes coming from? The police, for certain, do not bribe themselves!
To further drive this point, let us consider two other situations, which have not elicited the level of collective condemnation characteristic of societies where integrity is universal. First is the current furore over the stripping and vicious sexual violation of women. This brutal act was committed by a crowd of men. They did not convene deliberately for purposes of committing the offence.
In a manner of speaking, their consensus was spontaneous and concrete. This is the perfect random sample: a crowd of strangers all thinking it is okay and fun to violate women in broad daylight. That any number of men anywhere probably harbour the same reprehensible intent at any given time is a sorry indictment of our collective morality. That there were messages of approval for these acts and condemnation of the victims from both men and women is further demonstration of this infamy.
Secondly, far away from street idlers, educated members of the middle class formed a public Twitter group to share tips on evading the policing of drunken driving. @AlcoBlowWatch is dedicated to sharing information between motorists on how to drive while intoxicated without encountering law enforcement. If law and policing is intended for our safety, why do respectable citizens go to such trouble to devise evasion strategies? Who is the enemy here? Is it the law or the drunk drivers?
Without a doubt, security is not doing enough. The President was abundantly clear on this. At the same time, Government cannot police every individual, every household, every metre of road and every inch of Kenyan space. It is our duty, individually and collectively, to render ourselves policeable by adopting conduct that promotes, and not undermines, our collective safety. Corruption is dangerous. Violent behaviour towards women under whatever pretext is dangerous.
@AlcoBlowWatch is dangerous. Failing to report incidents when we witness them is dangerous. All these are functions of our individual and collective integrity. It is a challenge we cannot evade.