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.

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