President should act fast to secure Kenya
By David Wanjala
Three things have contributed to President Uhuru Kenyatta’s failure to contain the spiraling insecurity in the country.
First is the inertia by the security apparatus to act in the face of heightened criminal activities. In the end, terror gangs have been emboldened. They reign supreme all over the country. It is as if the Constitution has been suspended.
Then there is the President’s inability to rein in his snoozing top officers in key agencies, including the Kenya National Police Service (KNPS), Criminal Investigation Department (CID), National Intelligence Service (NIS) and the Kenya Defense Forces (KDF).
Heads of these divisions, together with the cabinet secretaries for Internal Security, Defence and Foreign Affairs, and the Attorney General and Head of Public Service form the National Security Advisory Council, which is chaired by none other than the Head of State. Deputy President is also a member.
The business-as-usual attitude is an indictment on President Kenyatta’s resolve, as Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces, to provide leadership.
The net effect is the increased laxity among the security agencies to act. The impact is catastrophic, as witnessed during the raid on Westgate, sporadic bomb and grenade attacks in Nairobi’s Eastleigh estate and parts of Mombasa city and the recent mayhem in Mpeketoni, Lamu County that left over 60 Kenyans dead in its wake.
Thirdly, the Presidency seems to be captive of tribal, party and political interests that appear to influence decision-making in his office.
Many a times, the President has come out as one at pains to act. For instance, in February, while launching an inter-security agency Rapid Results Initiative (RRI) at the Kenyatta International Conference Centre, the President surprised many when he admitted to the existence of endemic graft at his own office.
In his last Madaraka Day celebrations speech, he seemed to be open to unconditional national dialogue called by Opposition leaders, only to change tune a few days later after meeting his side of MPs. His Deputy, William Ruto, a principal in the President’s ruling Jubilee Coalition, had been opposed to the talks from the onset.
During his State of the Nation address on June 17, President Kenyatta blamed the two attacks in Mpeketoni, Lamu on politics and ethnicity. The President said evidence showed that local political networks were involved in the planning and execution of the heinous crime, ruling out the Al Shabaab link.
He also conceded that prior Intelligence on the Mpeketoni attack was availed to the security officers on the ground but they did not act accordingly. Errors of omission of this magnitude on the part of those charged with the responsibility of securing the country, is unforgivable. Indeed, the President shared his anger with Kenyans in his speech.
“This negligence and abdication of duty and responsibility is unacceptable… Every officer who abdicates his or her professional standards or engages in corruption, or neglects his duty casts his lots with terrorists, rapists, robbers, murderers and other criminals because they condone crime through their slack or complicit conduct.”
What is appalling, however, is the President’s response to this costly failure on the part of the police. “Accordingly, all concerned officers have been suspended and will be charged immediately in a court of law. Any other officer that will be found to have failed will face similar fate,” the President spelled out. Obviously, the small fish was the target.
The President seems to lack the will to act decisively. Inspector General David Kimaiyo should have long resigned. Security lapses and resultant goofs are innumerable.
There is however, no precedent in independent Kenya’s history where public servants took responsibility over failures on the part of their offices. Where the President comes out clear, like he did with the Mpeketoni attacks, to concede colossal failures of the police, the sacking of the man in charge of the police service is the least one would expect of the President.
That is the only way you bring sanity back to an institution that has been ravaged by decades of incompetency. It is only when everyone in the rank and file of the police service knows that inaction or acting contrary to the law has dire consequences that responsibilities will be taken with the necessary seriousness.
In the meantime, platoons of security personnel have been ferried to Mpeketoni and its surroundings. A few suspects will be rounded up but hardly will there be any convictions. Government is assisting the victims to bury their dead.
If there will be as much luck for the people of Mpeketoni as a formation of a judicial inquiry, its findings may never leave the shelves where the President will place them after pompous reception. An inquiry by a parliamentary committee is even more disastrous, always hell bent on covering the truth and absolving security agencies. You do not need to be reminded of Asman Kamama, Baringo East MP’s Committee of National Security probe on Westgate.
A few months later, we will hear nothing of Mpeketoni as top security officers, and indeed the entire leadership will be praying to God no more attacks take place. The security of the Nation is at the mercy of the Almighty. It is a script we now know too well.
The personal pain these attacks cause on their victims is unimaginable. Children are orphaned at a time they need their breadwinners the most. Maimed survivors live with permanent scars that will forever remind them of their ordeal. Lifetime investments are reduced to ashes over night. It is horrifying.
It is, however, the image of Kenya in the eyes of the international community that should worry the Jubilee government leadership the most.
The effects of insecurity on Kenya’s economy should worry even Kindiki Kithure, the Senate Majority leader and his counterpart in the National Assembly, Adan Duale who seem to honestly believe that all is well.
Already Kenya is losing, gradually but steadily, its long held stature as the oasis of peace in the Sub Saharan Africa. Sources intimate that some countries are toying with the idea of relocating their diplomatic missions elsewhere, because nairobi is perceived insecure. It would be disastrous if it ever came to pass.
President Kenyatta needs to move with speed to arrest the situation. Among the things the President should do to get on top of Kenya’s security situation is to stop dealing with his top security men as though they were golfing buddies.
The starting point should be to sack his Interior Ministry Cabinet Secretary, Joseph Ole Lenku and the Inspector General of Police, David Kimaiyo. He needs to send a strong message that failure to take up responsibilities seriously has dire consequences.
Police reforms, as envisaged in the new Constitution 2010, stalled. Any processes, apart from change of name from force to service, that have transpired since the promulgation of the new Constitution in the name of police reforms are a sham. The worst of them all was the police vetting.
No wonder it is business as usual in the force. Morale of junior officers is at its lowest and corruption is rampant. The President has to go back to the drawing board, with stakeholders including the civil society, and come up with ways to rescue the intended reforms.
The President should implement judicial inquiry reports on insecurity, starting with the one on Tana River killings that was handed over to him in April 2013. Some recommendations in these reports are key to improving Kenya’s security.
Even though national security remains the prerogative of the National Government, there should be structured liaison between the National and County governments on matters of security.
Above all, the buck stops with the President. He needs to move with speed to reassert himself as the Commander-in-Chief. It does not help much when he comes out to lament. He has the requisite instruments to ensure Kenya is secure. Heaping blame on politicians and perceived tribal animosity will not secure Kenya.
The writer is Associate Editor, Nairobi Law Monthly Magazine