Following the recent killing of suspects in Eastleigh (Nairobi) by law enforcement officers, a number of things come up that need a sober national debate.
The chilling narrations by members of the public on their brutal encounter with criminals, tales from families of security officers who have been murdered by thugs and voices from human rights defenders, point to the need to find a balance between the rule of law and protection of the rights of law enforcement officers.
Outside the frustrations by the law enforcement officers and the lobbyists, we must as a country make a decision on how to deal with issue of criminal gangs, law enforcement and the due process in handling the issues. Why are the law enforcement officers and criminals killing each other? Could it be that the intelligence services and the judicial system have cracked and suspects and law enforcement offers are rogue?
The youth must be told that crime does not pay while officers be reminded of their professional obligation when handling criminals. Where is the National Crime Research Centre in this and how far is the forensic laboratory? We need data to inform this discussion.
Just as we are doing with the war on terrorism, drugs and other national challenges; we need a multi-agency and sectoral approach to the war on armed robberies and possession of illegal guns in the country.
Out of the estimated 100 million small arms and light weapons in Africa, Kenya is home to about 650,000 illegal small arms. Because they are easily available, cheap, easy to carry and use, they are the arms of choice to all categories of criminals especially for cattle rustlers, carjackers, terrorists, pirates and other criminal gangs.
Non-State actors and academicians need to join hands with the State to deal with these matters of extra-judicial killings, killing of law enforcement agents by criminals and the possibility of setting up special courts do deal with armed gangs, just like they have done with illegal drugs.
With such insecurity in the country, it’s hard to develop as a country. A number of buildings in some of the mentioned estates are not occupied while businesses are relocating from places including Eastleigh. Officers live in fear of being killed by criminals, and thus it’s a life of who gets the other first: a very dangerous state of affairs. Our officers need bullet proof vests and serious support from the intelligence and judicial sector in the war on crime in the country and while at it must ensure they operate within the confines of the law.
The use of force is guided by the UN protocols and the Force Standing Orders, thus they should ensure they are guided, including self-protection when their lives are threatened.
Kenya has ratified the Nairobi Protocol for the Prevention, Control and Reduction of Small Arms and Light Weapons and also hosts the Regional Centre on Small Arms (RECSA), an intergovernmental entity, which coordinates and oversees the implementation of the Nairobi Protocol.
Through the Kenya National Focal Point on Small Arms and Light Weapons, an inter-agency body that coordinates all actions on small arms, a National Action Plan for Arms Control and Management (NAP).
As acknowledged in the NAP, addressing the issue of small arms is the central element in tackling the major threats to Kenya’s security, including extra-judicial killings and killing of law enforcement officers.
The high incidences of armed violence of many kinds, the strong link of fear of and insecurity, along with the resulting public focus on security issues which is putting a lot pressure on security officers, need to be a strong rallying point for both the government and civil society to take action against the proliferation of illicit small arms and light weapons jointly.
The multi-sectoral approach must ensure that we enhance efforts, especially the government to address the factors sustaining and contributing to insecurity, through a range of initiatives from security sector reforms, including respect to rule of law, conflict management, to national development.