National security can be described as the ability of a country to protect and defend its citizens against internal and external threats.
Article 238 of our Constitution defines national security as “the protection against internal and external threats to Kenya’s territorial integrity and sovereignty, its people, their rights, freedoms, property, peace, stability and prosperity, and other national interests.”
The Constitution also sets out certain principles to govern the national security of Kenya, key among them, rule of law, democracy, human rights and fundamental freedoms. In performing their functions, and recruiting personnel, the national security organs shall also respect the diverse culture of the communities within Kenya.
The national security organs’ primary objective is to promote and guarantee national security in accordance with the principles outlined in Article 238 of the Constitution. The Constitution however subjects the national security organs to civilian authority. Article 239 (6) states that Parliament shall enact legislation to provide for the functions, organisation and administration of the national security organs.
The current security situation in the country was one of the main concerns voiced by Kenyans to the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) Taskforce when it went around the country collecting views.
Apart from violent crimes, terrorism, unsolved murders, cybercrimes, runaway theft and proliferation of sub-standard goods, Kenyans were increasingly concerned about land fraud and conflicts over water, pasture and other natural resources.
Natural hazards and disasters also constitute a major threat owing largely to security implications of climate change. According to UNEP, the international community is increasingly recognizing that climate change will stress the economic, social and political systems of countries thus fuelling upheaval and conflict.
We live in a security environment that is dynamic and characterized by emerging threats requiring unique and timely responses to avert loss of human life and property. Clearly, there is need for a comprehensive strategy to anchor the national response to the evolving nature of the security challenges confronting our people.
BBI proposes the formulation of the Kenya National Policy Guide on National Security and Safety as one of the ways to address security issues bedeviling Kenyans.
The proposed National Policy Guide on Security and Safety has five objectives. First, is to align policymaking in every government ministry, department and agency with the national security strategy. Security is therefore viewed as not the exclusive domain of the ministries of interior and defence but to be cascaded to every level of government to ensure a one-government approach to security.
Second, the proposed policy aims to provide effective protection of private property. Rampant cases of land fraud, identity theft and forceful dispossession of property, coupled with prevalence of cattle rustling, banditry and high incidence of thuggery, highlight the need for a robust national security response.
No investor will put their money where security of private property is not guaranteed. Persistent threats to property ownership undermines the country’s quest to be a leading investment destination and regional business hub. To this end, Land grabbing cartels should be decisively tackled whilst digitization of titles at the land registries through the Electronic Land Management System should also be accelerated.
The policy will also help in addressing emerging threats to private property like cybercrime and online financial fraud. The war on counterfeits and sub-standard goods also needs to be entrenched into our national safety agenda so as to protect the health and safety of Kenyans while curbing theft of intellectual property.
Third, the policy will provide effective ways of mitigating harm to Kenyans arising from human and natural disasters. Kenya has made significant strides in modernizing its national disaster response framework. The most common natural hazards leading to disasters in Kenya are floods, drought, wild fires, landslides, lightning, thunderstorms and strong winds.
Actions taken to minimize the risk to life and property due to such hazards is a vital component of disaster preparedness and response. In addition, protecting communities especially in disaster prone areas ought to be a core feature of our national safety policy. Improved security must go hand-in-glove with a comprehensive disaster mitigation strategy.
Fourth, to protect and preserve our environment, natural resources and biological diversity. This is important considering persistent threats to our natural environment due to human activities like illegal logging, charcoal trade and wildlife poaching.
This has resulted in depletion of our forests and water resources further exacerbating the harsh impact of recurrent drought in many parts of the country. Also, Kenya has been cited as a hub of illegal wildlife trade such as poaching of elephants for ivory, a major transnational crime and threat to the country’s tourism sector. Protecting our natural resources benefits present and future generations and is aligned with the international sustainable development agenda.
The guiding principles of the national policy on security will include upholding civilian control over security organs; ensuring lasting peace between Kenya and her neighbors; safeguarding the dignity of citizens; prevention of conflict; ensuring a permanent state of preparedness; and clear lines of accountability and authority for all national security and safety organs.
From the foregoing, it is evident that the proposed Kenya National Policy Guide on National Security and Safety will overhaul our national security architecture, and augment existing strategies and policies to make the country more secure and safer for individuals, families, businesses and communities.
I understand some of the measures envisioned in the proposed Policy on National Security and Safety are already underway as part of ongoing administrative and security sector reforms. These include various initiatives to enhance the security infrastructure to ensure a synchronized operational communications platform linking the various law enforcement agencies to ensure coordinated response to crime and disasters.
Lack of proper coordination among the various security agencies has in the past been blamed for major lapses leading to loss of lives.
There is also the recent decision to bring all civilian aircraft owned by the government under the command of the Air Force. This will not only ensure efficient use of air transport assets but also timely responses to fires, floods and other natural calamities especially in remote areas.
All said, BBI seeks to modernize our national security framework to make it more effective and efficient in dealing with both human and natural threats in a constantly evolving environment where new threats are lurking everywhere.
Mr. Murumba is the Managing Director, Impulso Kenya Limited and a governance consultant. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org