Tuesday, November 04, 2014

Same shit, different year.

Two years ago forty two police were ambushed and massacred at Baragoi. Matthew Iteere, the Commissioner of Police, promised that those who had tested the waters would discover that the waters of the security services' resolve were deep. This past week 21 police were ambushed and massacred at Kapedo. Inspector-General David Mwole Kimaiyo has promised that no stone will be left unturned to bring the perpetrators of the ambush before court to face charges. In both cases, the police lost firearms and ammunition. In both cases the President ordered the return of the weapons and the identification of the perpetrators. In both cases, the Commissioner of Police and Inspector-General, and the President were ignored. In both cases reinforcements were called in from the Kenya Defence Forces.

Some wild-eyed and excited reporters are wondering why the police do not have armoured personnel carriers. There was a particularly excitable character from the Royal Media stable who wondered why the police did not receive "extensive counterinsurgency training" in places such as Israel, England or Germany. The Independent Policing Oversight Authority weighed in with an unseemly hysterically strident demand for the resignation of Davide Mwole Kimaiyo and his two deputies. Meanwhile, most Kenyans were obsessed with the perverse cult-like antics of a psychopathic faith-healing godman with a penchant for feeling up his victims on TV. The civil society industry, as is their wont when police are getting massacred, maintained a very loud and very studious silence.

Ambassador Dr Monica Juma, the Principal Secretary in the Ministry of the Interior and Co-ordination of National Government,was on air on Sunday to assure Kenyans that all was well, that the Nyumba Kumi gambit was a valuable tool in addressing security-related challenges, that security was a shared responsibility between the people and their government, and that the security services had foiled many, many attacks against the people. What is notable is that Dr Juma sounds and seems way more intelligent than the hapless Mutea Iringo; thank God we do not have to suffer through his inarticulate and unpersuasive explanations about national security affairs. But despite Dr Juma's polished and nuanced case for the State, she is still selling something that many Kenyans are not buying. Not when rather combative elements such as Nelson Marwa attempt to come across as caricatures of cartoon characters such as John Rambo or Jack Bauer.

We have been here before. The official securocracy reaction has not changed. The outcome, similarly, will not change. Our focus on the security of the State, rather than the safety of the people, guarantees that Baragoi and Kapedo will recur. The principal difference is that now they will recur in an age where information control is no longer possible. There are more people with more access to more tools of communication than at any time in the past decade. And they all have a taste for the freedom that comes with the ability to communicate with their peers, and their leaders, at any time on any matter and that affects their lives.

A public safety policy should shift focus from keeping the likes of Asman Kamama safe at the expense of the good people of Tiaty. This would include shifting policing resources from "protecting" elected representatives from harm, to patrolling villages and markets. It would mean paving or repairing tarmacked roads, building and maintaining murrum roads where there were none, building and maintaining sewers and surface drains, erecting and maintaining street lights, clearing bushes and stagnant water bodies, lighting up all public buildings including churches, mosques, temples, gurudwaras, schools and health centres, clearly identifying and marking police stations and posts including by posting the names of all officers in charge and their contact information, and rebuilding and maintaining social amenities such as social halls, public parks and public sports facilities. Shift the focus from "leaders" to the people by providing facilities that make their lives bearable and they will partner with the State in programmes such as Nyumba Kumi to identify those who would threaten their bearable lives. Maintain focus on "security" and all you will get is resistance and grumbling which will blow up, time and again, in events such as Baragoi and Kapedo.

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