NAIROBI, Kenya, Mar 31 – Police are always the first to be blamed in case of crime or even a terror attack, but are police entirely liable for all cases or should the public shoulder some responsibility for their own safety?
Capital FM News took a trip to the Eastleigh suburb where a blast occurred on Sunday just to see how much progress has been made in trying to foster the Nyumba Kumi initiative.
Our journey in the area started on 1st Avenue and as we proceed to our target place; something caught my eyes. A billboard erected by the National Police Service reads; “Huduma bora Ni haki yako (Good Service is your right), Help us protect you.”
As we demand good service from the police, do we help them maintain our own security?
Mama Abdi lives about 100 metres from where the suspected terrorist died in an explosion after an Improvised Explosive Device he was assembling went off.
She lived in the same apartment for 12 years, and only moved out a month ago.
We met her with friends who still live there shaken by Sunday’s incident; imagining what could have happened if their kids undergoing Islamic teaching had fallen victim.
“We live without caring who our neighbour is but we have been seeing the men who used to come to that room where the explosion was,” she said though cautiously.
“They used to say that the room was a library having Islamic books; no one else was allowed to enter there,” she revealed.
A lady identified as Nyambura who stays there arrived as I continued with my interview, and she asks: “You are not scared? I live here but I spent the night at my auntie’s place.”
“And imagine mama (the landlord) was to send them away but one of our neighbours requested that she allow them to stay saying they were of no harm,” Nyambura said.
The woman she was referring to is now helping police in their investigations.
From this conversation, a number of questions went through my mind; could there have been someone who knew there were illegal activities going on there?
The area is about two kilometres from the Pangani Police Station.
Fatuma Abdalla (not her real name) recalls a convert who went to Somalia for training by the Al-Shabaab militants and later came back to the country early last year.
The convert who after the training decided to denounce the faith later was killed she says “for allegedly selling out the group’s members to police.”
“They will get you once you denounce them no matter where you go; they are like Mungiki,” she explained. “He used to live in Majengo slums where many youths have joined the (terror) group. He was found in a barber shop and shot dead.”
She went ahead to explain that, “they use women to collect information because people will not suspect them.”
“They won’t dare leak information because either their sons or a family member will be killed.”
Sadly she added, “we know a lot of things but we cannot say, it’s like a just see and don’t tell policy.”
The Joseph Kaguthi-led Nyumba Kumi Committee is currently meeting County Security and Intelligence teams in all the 47 Counties in a bid to form guidelines in the formation of security clusters. They have currently covered 43 Counties.
One of the major stumbling blocks to the noble initiative is lack of trust for police by members of the public, but he says with the clusters, people will be willing to give information to one of their own.
Kaguthi who says the public must own up their security explains: “We are going to involve traditional methods of policing like in Taita-Taveta where we have Javungo, in Maasai Manyatta and also in other communities.”
“The problem with people is that they think we are going to bring police officers to man them. Policing refers to bringing order in all ways of doing their things; we want every citizen to take up the social, security and economic order of their area.”
This way, he says, people will freely share information without fear of intimidation either from the culprits or police officers.
“It’s now the duty of every citizen to see security as their role. Let those who want to remain behind stay there, they will suffer alone,” he cautioned.
Nairobi County Commander Benson Kibue agrees that a section of general public do help criminals in executing their evil plans.
“Sadly, a few do but majority have started trusting the police by giving them information,” he said.
Though optimistic that with Nyumba Kumi initiative things may change, he says the public need to do more than just observing things happen and later complain.
“Police are there to help you; let’s support them,” he appealed.
Under the Nyumba Kumi initiative, all villages (include estates) are required to restructure into 10 households under a clear leadership that will be responsible for security.
The Government has since directed that the concept be integrated into community policing to ensure that the current system of villages under an elder are restructured into 10 household units similar to a concept in other jurisdictions like Tanzania.
Other than the initiative, the main objective of the ongoing police vetting is to reclaim public confidence in the Police Service to enable the officers who are cleared during the vetting process work with pride, confidence and renewed energy.