Thursday, December 20, 2018

The final ossuary

One, apparently, can hire police officers for private bodyguard work and such. This is apparently a legitimate part of their duties as uniformed officers of the law. It says so right there in section 104 of the National Police Service Act, 2011, with the caveat that it has to be for the protection of the public good or public interest. The public interest, as we have discovered in recent months, is quite a fungible thing, with what Okiya Omtata does being the most solid definition of it and everything that mawaziri do being the softest definition, if that be it, of the the thing.

What I didn't know until I was well into adulting was that there is a second, secret service that police officers offered: the hire of firearms issued to individual police officers or armories in police stations. Handcuffs too, it seems, are hired out for private use. But this isn't about police officers and wayward firearms. this is about the utterly asinine decision to issue private security companies with firearms licenses so that their personnel can bear firearms while on duty. 

I don't mean that it is not a good idea to arm watchmen with guns; it probably is, given the number of police guns being used against them whenever the premises they guard are robbed by armed robbers. What I mean is that given Kenya's political history, it is surprising that no one has raised the issue of militias now being converted into private security companies with the object of lawfully acquiring firearms. Since 1992 when even mawaziri were caught transporting everything from simis to bows and arrows to volatile political hotspots, we have known that powerful politicians, keen on retaining their political power, have armed youthful Kenyans with what wazungu derisively refer to as "crude weapons". These youthful Kenyans have often been mobilised in militias, which are activated during especially fraught elections, and deployed to intimidate political rivals if not outright engage in rapine, pillaging and murder. 2017 and 2018 have witnessed their fair share of political violence at the hands of these kinds of militia.

So, for a usually paranoid ministry such as Interior and Co-ordination of National Government, I am shocked that it has not put its foot down and declared that the likes of G4S are not getting guns. Period! The late Nkaissery said "no". The late Michuki said "no". The mercurial Murungaru said "no". Even the laissez faire Ole Lenku said "no". What has changed after a decade and a half that it is now OK to allow private security companies to acquire and keep firearms in large numbers? Has no one considered that it a small hop, step and jump before Kenya's ethnic-cleansing-minded politicians will clean up the image of their militias, apply for (and obtain) registration as private security companies and then apply (and obtain) gun permits? What were once tribal gangs will become legitimate mini-armies. It will not end well. The next round of political blood-letting will not just be bloodier; it will be deadlier. The seeds of civil war that were planted in 2007/2008 will definitely bloom with tragic consequences.

The only people who will come out ahead of this thing will do so because they are the only ones who have ever done well out of these sorts of things. The ordinary Kenyan, Wanjiku, in addition to everything else she has to worry over, will now be forced to contend with roving gangs of (mostly) young men who are armed to the teeth and whose moral compasses have been turned away from True North by the magnetic silky-smooth tongues of pied political pipers. If we are not careful, and we seem not be, the abyss we stared into in 2008 won't stare back, but it shall be the final ossuary of our nation's youths' remains.

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

How low have we sunk?

I have never killed anyone. I have never murdered anyone either. (Yes, there is a world of a difference between the two.) I have contemplated the murder of many, many people, dreaming of excruciating ways to prolong their suffering before the coup de grâce. But I have never seriously considered myself capable of murder. Even though my ego is healthy enough to pretend that I would kill in defence of loved ones or myself, I also don't ever wish to be placed in such a situation because I may very well wuss out. As a result of all this, I am not sure I would want to know and be friends with a killer or a murderer.
A few months ago, a young woman was murdered in cold blood. The cause of her murder remains unknown. This not-knowing has led to speculation about whom she knew, how she knew them and who among them was involved in her murder. A man was arrested on the suspicion that he had murdered this young woman. He had been seen with her on the material night. He was known to spend a lot of time with her. He was also famous (or infamous, depending on whom you ask) for the tall stories associated with him: that he was a former mercenary in Afghanistan; that he owned and used numerous firearms; and the like.

This man's account of the night the young woman was murdered implicated his fiancée and her neighbour in the murder of the young woman, on account of an alleged botched robbery (in which he was the victim) that left him nursing a gruesome gunshot wound ad raised more questions than answers. The man, his fiancée and her neighbour (the man was living with his fiancée at the time of the murder, him being unemployed and without any known fixed address) were all arrested, though the neighbour was released when he demonstrated that he had nothing to do with the affairs of the couple.

Both the man and his fiancée were arraigned before a murder court and charged with the murder of that young woman. Neither had shown much remorse during the investigation into the murder, a case that was covered extensively with Kenya's tabloids of record (as well as of the gutter variety). The bail hearings attracted every glory-whore of a defence lawyer worth his salt as well as recently-unemployed government officials with dubious antecedents. Even amid all the hoopla, the couple remained visibly (to my eye, anyway) remorseless. In the four months since the remains of the slain woman were discovered, the couple at the heart of the case have not even once expressed shame or remorse for the death. Not once.

Their friends have come to their rescue on numerous occasions. The woman's employer has gone on record to affirm their faith in her character, even after witnessing the inconsistencies in her story on the night that the murder took place. Despite his financially straitened circumstances, the man continues to enjoy the services of very expensive defence lawyers raising the interesting question as to whom the bill of costs will be sent.
In typical Kenyan fashion, we have forgotten about the murder and are now caught up in the drama surrounding the tabloidised lives of this couple. We are reminded of their humanity as they canoodle in front of cameras while appearing before murder judges. We are asked to empathise with them for the suffering they are undergoing - psychological and physical - as a result of the unfair way they are being treated because of their mere connection with the murder. In the Christmas spirit, a whisper campaign has been initiated to remind us that they are young and have long, bright futures, if only we could show a bit of Jesus-like mercy. Indeed, someone has already raised the bar to a typically high Kenyan standard: the woman has all it takes to make an excellent woman parliamentarian, county notwithstanding.

As this particular murder trial wends its way to a verdict, it is time we reflected on whether our humanity has finally been debased enough that alleged murderers have become the stuff of real life telenovela romances to which we shall pay undivided, lustful attention. We have sunk so very low. How low, I cannot tell. Can you?

As by law established

The members of my profession, the ones with a pompous sense of importance, tend to use phrases whose value has diminished greatly since the ...