Tuesday, July 14, 2020

The tumbrils are gonna come

If there's a lesson to be taken about the progress of fully raising the promises of the Constitution it is the lesson imparted by the active resistance to the promise of devolution. Sabotage began early and in earnest. What Michuki and his acolytes couldn't accomplish by force, they accomplished by subterfuge. The first cohort of governors, some good, many not, were first taken through the wringer that the Public Finance Management Act, 2012, has become. The Public Audi Act, 2015, merely reinforced those early anti-devolution instincts. The late Mr Michuki's dream of a centralised, all-powerful, unaccountable policing infrastructure remains untroubled with the devolutionists among us. Policing is set to remain the anti-people weapon it is for the foreseeable future and if Mr Matiang'i shows any promise, it is that he will live up to, and surpass, Mr Michuki's policing zealotry in every respect.

It was terrible idea to include "national security organs" in the Constitution. It ensured that their inflated sense of importance would never dissipate. You can see it in the swagger of defence forces personnel as they strut down Nairobi streets laying cabro pavements and smacking planning officials upside the head. You can see it in the arrogant and unrepentant declaration by police spokesgremlins that the police have no obligation to be kind whenever they encounter uppity Kenyans out of bounds during curfews. You can see it in the self-satisfied sneer of the mandarins of the security ministry whenever they declaim with overweening confidence about how they have "kept Kenyans safe" from untold potential horrors by unseen monsters.

On Saba Saba at 30, a few brave Kenyans decided to remind their fellowman that policing is not the cocoon-ish service that is portrayed by those Dr David Ndii describes as "Upper Deck Kenyans".  Exercising their Article 37 right to peaceable assembly and demonstrate (obviously playing fast and loose with the anti-covid-19 guidelines), they brought their case to their fellowman on the streets of our nation's Capital. The police whom they attempted to demonstrate against were having none of it. In typical fashion, teargas was lobbed liberally, and human rights defenders found themselves in handcuffs and cooling their heels in badly ventilated police cells - where they were definitely at risk of contracting the covid-19 virus. That none were charged with the commission of any offences is a stark reminder of why so long as policing remains a weapon to be wielded by the State against its people, Kenyans will never know peace or prosperity.

The USA model of a militaristic police, a shoot-first policy and an overwhelming-force mindset does not work. We know it doesn't work. The powers-that-be know that it doesn't work. No one is suggesting that a softly-softly approach to policing will persuade panga-wileding robbers to rethink their violent criminal ways. Against them, a G3 in the arms of a trained police officer is preferred. But we know that reforms, true reforms, means disarming the vast bulk of the 100 thousand odd police officers, and devolving them to county level, to fall under the jurisdiction of county governments. The same is true of the policing oversight authorities - it is not tenable for policing in its current form to carry on any longer.

Policing received wisdom is, in my opinion, deeply flawed. It prioritises the preservation of the State, as personified by the President, at the expense of the welfare and safety of the people. Policing assets and resources are allocated with a view to not just pacifying the people, but separating them from members of their executive and legislative chambers. And when the people grow restless, the unwritten but widely enforced policy is "shoot first, shoot fast and, maybe, worry about questions later". No matter how hard or how long this state of affairs prevails, sooner or later, there will be tumbrils on the streets, and baskets beneath the guillotines will be filled with the heads of those who refuse to heed the lessons of history.

No comments: