Wednesday, July 13, 2016

An occupying army

We see the police and we are automatically apprehensive. It matters not that many of us are blameless of any malevolent act or intent, if we see uniformed police we run quickly in our minds over all our acts upto that moment and mentally tally up the contents of our pockets, wallets and Mpesa accounts. None of us is immune, save for the men and women with the political, social and financial heft to command the obedience of the police. We have all been on the other end of the attentions of the police and those experiences are not the stuff of legend but the boring wallpaper of otherwise unremarkable lives.

No less than the Ghai Commission and the Committee of Experts agreed that something had to be done because both the Kenya Police Force and the Administration Police Force had become laws unto themselves, seemingly answerable only to their Commander-in-Chief and to no one else. For most of Kenya's history the police forces, including specialised units such as the General Service Unit, the Special Branch (the forerunner of the National Intelligence Service), the Anti-Stock Theft Unit, the Flying Squad, the Criminal Investigation Department (now renamed the Directorate of Criminal Investigations) and mysterious ones such as the Kwe Kwe Squad were the iron fist in the Commander-in-Chief's iron glove, used to smash all opposition to the Commander-in-Chief's remit, imagined and real, to smithereens. Often it is hard-suffering Kenyans with no interest in political power who were the victims of police abuse of power.

When the Committee of Experts attempted to tackle policing (and national security) in the harmonised draft constitution in 2009/2010, the securocracy, from the presidency on down, did everything in its considerable power to water down the proposals that had been endorsed by many Kenyans through years of agitation and discussion. Reading through Chapter Fourteen of the Constitution, it is clear to me that all public mention of "police reforms" is the height of hypocrisy; the Constitution does nothing to reform the police as it existed before August 2010 beyond the changing of names. It is only after you read carefully the functions and objects of the National Police Service in Article 244 of the Constitution that it becomes plain that reforms were never on the cards for the police forces of Kenya. The glaring absence of "public safety" from the mandate of the police forces should have been a very big clue.

Thus it should not have come as a surprise that policemen continue to murder Kenyans with impunity or that the entire securocracy is not interested in justice for the victims of the police; the police are not founded or trained with their principal mandate being the safety of the people or private property. Their mandate, as part of the national security infrastructure, is the "protection against internal and external threats to Kenya's territorial integrity and sovereignty;" the rest of the highfalutin words in Article 238 are neither psychologically nor philosophically inculcated in the securocracy. Kenya's territorial integrity and sovereignty, as much as it shocks to say it, is not what it means; it is the safety and perpetuation of the presidency against all risks. All. Even imaginary ones. The safety of the people or their property is an afterthought, if it is thought of at all.

Kenya is not Israel or the United States or Pakistan; save for the restful peoples of the former Northern Frontier and of the North Rift, many Kenyans and foreigners do not have an axe to grind with the Government of Kenya or the peoples of Kenya. For this reason Kenya does not need an armed national police army. It never has. An armed police army is not a tool of public safety but that of an occupying army. An armed police army is a very public praetorian guard for the protection of the presidency at all costs. This is at the heart of the unending cases of police abuse of power and use of excessive or deadly force against the civilian population. It is the only explanation for the senseless murder of the Mavoko Three and the foot-dragging in the investigation of the case. Unless we know the problem we will never solve it.

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