BY CYRUS KAMAU
The security situation prevailing in Kenya is not palatable. What is even more appalling is the ability of law enforcement agencies to tackle a seemingly sophisticated crime ring that has gripped the nation.
We have double tragedy as the citizens of this country; facing an economic crunch and having to deal with criminals running amok.
What happens when law abiding citizens feel harassed by law enforcers and on the other hand, have to contend with gun totting criminals who are out to maim and destroy innocent lives? It is like citizens have become sandwiches, if they are not being toasted, they are being consumed.
I posit that it is time Kenya’s security agencies adapted to the goings on of the 21st century. A mere presence on the streets in the blue uniform is not sufficient to deter urbane crime.
As I perused through the 2009 budget, there was not much to write home about in terms of funds allocated to the ill-equipped police force. Do our police understand cyber or mobi crime? Do we have any special forces that can hack, track and decipher information that threatens the lives of peace loving Kenyans? There has to be a strategic paradigm shift in strategy to combine force, presence and in-depth information collation.
My question is, what investments do the police have to make to combat rising crime? We as citizens have done the basics of enclosing ourselves behind high perimeter fences that make estates look like mini prisons or Guantanamo Bay for that matter. This is in addition to a horde of security guards who are made to look ineffectual when the terror squads strike.
It is common sense that the money spent in ensuring one’s security is enormous and runs into billions. Maslow was right to say that security is a basic need for mankind and my challenge to Kibaki’s administration is that this is a prerequisite for our citizens.
I believe that to overcome this challenge, the approach will be a three-tier approach touching on the Police, Judiciary and the Citizenry.
Regional instability coupled with rising demand for guns in Kenya has created a boom in illegal arms trade. This calls for a new strategy which, to my mind, is simple really – everyone caught with an unlicensed firearm should be court marshaled, with a capital sentence.
This formula worked in Rwanda and it can work here. The police force needs to undergo a total overhaul to create high level crime fighters who can gather and interpret coded data.
Perhaps another radical shift in police strategy would be to introduce a program where high school graduates go through a mandatory two-year service in the police or the military. With this measure, the problem of few trained law enforcement officers will be eliminated as the ‘reservists’ would be used in community policing to ensure security is provided at all levels.
Overhauling the Judiciary would also provide strict deadlines for criminal cases to be completed. This will act as a deterrent but I believe that the citizens have to make a choice of what kind of a country they want and this is reflected in the leaders we choose, the sacrifice we make and the push for what we want in an economy.
I believe the government is made for the people and by the people. It is obvious that for one to abandon crime, there has to be an alternative and this is the role of the sitting government to ensure that opportunities for employment and other related industries are opened for young people to inspire hope in these persons.
The government has to change its tactics on crime. It is affecting our economy and a lasting change has to be provided to counter the surge in kidnappings, ransom, robbery and extortion. This must come to an end!
But if the ones trained to combat this vice are failing, why not engage civilians? They too can help.
(Cyrus Kamau is the General Manager, Capital Group Limited)