For the past few weeks, civilians in Mandera, Bungoma, and Busia regions have been treated to terror unleashed by killer gangs and militia groups.
Urban crime levels particularly in Nairobi appear to be sustained by the day. Saturday’s overnight standoff pitting police against hardened, heavily-armed thugs in Nairobi’s densely populated Githurai that left six police officers injured as they pursued and killed a suspected terrorist and his wife, is testimony to the severity of the nightmare at hand.
In Wajir, the execution of a lone police officer by attackers in a taxi was chilling and in Mandera, where out of the eight killed by militiamen in Rhamu village, three were women, shows they are no longer discriminating on gender and are taking their terror to non-combatants alike.
Severity of this matter is that these crimes were unleashed despite heavy police deployment and a contingent of Kenya Defence Forces being on the ground and called for swift response from President Uhuru Kenyatta.
In order to urgently deal with surging crime levels the president’s closed-door meeting with all 47 County Commissioners to discuss among other issues rising rate of crime in the country and that bringing together all police commanders was a firm direction from the highest office that insecurity will no longer be given the traditional cursory treatment.
When he met all Provincial Police Officers, Provincial Criminal Investigations Officers and formation commanders from both services at State House, the president ordered them to ensure crime is contained.
This came hot on the heels of the president’s commitment of Sh4 billion annually for the purchase of security equipment. Commendably, the president even sought answers from the police over the crime upsurge.
Further, he indicated his administration will not be shaken and will firmly deal with criminals.
Unfortunately, criminals live in our midst and regardless of how much police do, community policing programmes will be inevitable to turning the tide against crime.
It’s worrying that the killer gangs strike two or three days consecutively without police having a clue of what is bubbling underneath or making any arrests. For instance, the April 25 and 26 invasion of Kikwechi Village in Bungoma and Mukwa village in Bumula that saw nine people were hacked to death and 58 others injured using crude weapons raised eyebrows and saw security services scrambling to find a foothold on the situation.
Four others were massacred and seventeen others badly wounded using machetes on April 21 and April 30 in Otmong village, Chakoli Division in Teso South District as well as Kwangomor in Busia County.
These scenes are reminiscent to the devastating Tana Delta violence where dozens including children were killed. These were not in isolation as Nairobi saw armed gangs terrorise motorists, targeting civilians and police alike in broad daylight.
It is no longer secret that proper co-ordination between line security agencies including intelligence gathering units, the Criminal Intelligence Unit and National Intelligence Service and the police is desirable to stamp out criminality.
Conspiracy of silence
In the past, differences between these agencies and partial withholding of information availed to either force has been blamed for damages that could have otherwise been thwarted. The firm decision taken by the president to decisively deal with crime will anchor this country on a pedestal of economic prosperity.
Inspector General of Police David Kimaiyo must revamp and cultivate police-public confidence for it is unrealistic that unknown outsiders ca effortlessly co-ordinate house-to-house attacks without the aid of criminal elements amongst them.
The top police leadership must take charge to fully cultivate better confidence levels between civilians and the police force for smoother flow of information.
Practically, such a working relationship with credible confidence levels is not achievable if key parties are suspicious of each other.
Police have been accused of laxity and harassment, and counter accusation that locals deliberately conceal the truth. Nationwide, there is a conspiracy of silence whenever crime is committed and locals clam up and refuse to volunteer information to point out the bad apples living among them.
Subsequently, ‘convenient’, quick-fix solutions that are preferred rather than addressing the underlying factors should be re-examined. Transferring officers from an area and forcible extraction of information are not the only viable options.
However, it is also prudent to adequately facilitate police with modern weapons and equipment to empower swift response and improved mobility to emergencies.
Stability and economic prosperity is premised on the level of investor assurance of watertight security levels. That is why the President’s personal intervention is welcome and reassuring, but more needs to be done to bring the public into the fight against runaway crime.
The writer is the TNA Director of Communications and Secretary of Arts and Entertainment.