THE ZERO SUM WAR

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BY DAVID WANJALA

President Uhuru Kenyatta, his Deputy William Ruto and the entire Jubilee Government including its MPs believe that the Security Laws (Amendment) Act 2014 is the panacea to the runway insecurity and terror currently rocking the country. 

While addressing the nation during the 51st Jamhuri Day celebrations on December 12, just after the Jubilee coalition rallied its numerical strength in the National Assembly and pushed the controversial Security Laws (Amendment) Bill 2014 through the Second Reading despite the Opposition’s spirited fight, the President sought to justify why he is in full support of the new security laws. 

“We have come to the conclusion that our laws are not adequate enough to meet the new security challenges and the solution is that Kenya must enhance its ability to detect, eliminate security threats and also possess forensic capacity to prosecute terrorists,” he said.

The same was echoed by the overenthusiastic Presidential Strategic Communications Unit (PSCU) that seems to be on a warpath against anybody opposed to the new laws.

“The Government will not be deterred in its commitment to protect Kenyans from terrorism, banditry and crime. It is one thing to shout freedom like Raila and his cohort in civil society, the difficult part, requiring resolve, stamina and courage, is protecting freedom. Our constitutional order is threatened by terrorists and their collaborators, many of whom speak the language of civil rights and vehemently. The Jubilee Alliance is protecting our freedom from terrorists, bandits, gangsters and criminals,” said PSCU. 

Reacting to A summary of human rights audits in the Security Laws (Amendment) Bill 2014, a press statement published in the local dailies on December 15 2014 by a consortium of Non-Governmental Organisations, the Ministry of Interior was as scathing as it was vehement.

“These are unusual times and the Government cannot confront terrorism with old tactics. This is why we have proposed a package of strong measures to ensure national security, win this war and safeguard our hard-won freedoms. The Government will NEVER waver in its mandate to protect its people from terrorists, gangsters and bandits,” wrote Dr Monica Juma, Principal Secretary Ministry of Interior and Co-ordination of National Government.

It is a stanza the Jubilee Government, its mandarins, politicians and sympathizers have chosen to hum in their quest to coerce the nation to succumb to the leadership’s desire to emasculate civil liberties in a choreographed match towards a strong-arm rule. 

The bombshell was to come on December 18 when the Government cordoned off Parliament buildings with heavily armed police officers and the Jubilee Coalition MPs in the National Assembly braved every maneuver by the Opposition, flouting the House’s Standing Orders to pass the Bill in the most shocking session of the August House. That having been cleared, the President took the earliest opportunity and signed the Bill, described by law experts as unconstitutional, draconian and regressive, into law the following morning. 

Much of the amendments to the Bill that has since been passed into an Act of Parliament are reactionary and are hitting at the wrong target, the public. Amendments gagging the media for example against publishing pictures from the scene of terror come from the embarrassment government suffered when they lost the propaganda war to the media, mainstream and social, in the Westgate siege terror. Government’s propaganda machine comprising Minister for Interior, Mr Ole Lenku, Inspector General of National Police Service David Kimaiyo (both since sacked) and Chief of Defense Forces(KDF) General Julius Karangi lost miserably with the media reporting live every bit of what was going on at the scene of terror. Leaked CCTV footage was to further dash government’s desire to hide from Kenyans the looting that went on in the mall for the four days that the KDF were in charge. 

It does not help that a few cosmetic changes were later effected in some of the contentious sections following pressure from Kenyans before forcing the Bill through the Third Reading. The resolve and urgency by the Jubilee Government, as shown in the National Assembly on December 18, 2014 smacks of a motive more than fighting terror and ensuring security for the country.

What is annoying and indeed confounding is that the government is skirting around the real issues that contribute to increased insecurity in the country. One may be forgiven to think that there is a way in which someone is benefitting from the scenario. Or, as Macharia Gaitho of the Nation Media Group aptly put it, negligence in tackling insecurity may be intentional to justify passing of this draconian law.

The secret in solving the riddle of insecurity is not in taking away the security of tenure from the Inspector general of Police and his or her two deputies and that of the director of National Intelligence Service (NIS) so that they serve at the mercy and whims of the President. No. We have been there before; it did not work in the country’s favour. Neither is it in gagging the media nor withdrawing civil liberties. It lies in the stalled reforms in the National Police Service in particular, and in the entire security sector.

It is consensus among security and law experts that all is not well in the police Service. The rot, fomenting over many years of neglect and compounded by the complexities of governance transition from centralized to decentralized system has bubbled to the fore, the results of which we are all reeling with despair.

The new Constitution in an effort to humanize the otherwise brutal police force created two new police institutions; the National Police Service Commission(NPSC) and a civilian oversight; the National Police Oversight Authority (IPOA). It also prescribed many other reforms aimed at increasing efficiency and enhancing police welfare but apart from changing of names of police ranks, creating new ranks and abolishing some, much of the intended police reforms have been ignored, leaving the police to go on with business as usual with rampant corruption, poor welfare for serving officers and flawed recruitment procedures and training reigning supreme.

For over 80 years the institution of Kenya Police operated purely as a creation of the colonial system. The entire Kenya Police law that was repealed by the National Police Service Act was directly from the Indian Police Service Act, a system the British colonial empire used. This system’s main purpose was to subjugate the local natives and protect the white ruling elite and its property. It had nothing to do with service to the people. Neither did it care much for its lower cadre officers who were natives. The independence government, by design, inherited the institution of police as it was.

It is for the foregoing that the framers of Articles 246 and 248 (2) (j) of the Constitution endeavored to establish an institution of police whose core anchorage is on the people, not the state. To want to withdraw the independence of the National Police Service (NPS) by way of removing security of tenure of the Inspector General (IG) and the two Deputy Inspectors-General is shocking. The failures to deliver on the mandate of the office of the IG were David Kimaiyo’s (the sacked IG) and his two deputies, not due to the fact that their offices have security of tenure.

Transparent vetting of all police cadres as part of the NPSC’s mandate was messed up by vested interests. It would have been followed by issuance of new service identity cards and mandatory training with tailor-made programmes developed to suit wider needs of society. Lastly, there would have been an overhaul, after successful vetting process, of terms of service for officers.

The achievement of this ambitious and well-intentioned reform agenda for the police service was lost in the din of superiority wrangles pitting the outgoing IG against the NPSC chair Johnstone Kavuludi, of course with the big hand of the Executive lurking in the background, controlling the chase board to ensure the NPS does not unchain itself from the manacles of Executive control.

Consequently, not withstanding other factors, there are serious issues in the police service that have resulted in its inability to adequately execute its mandate with the resultant increased insecurity. There are, for instance, grim structural issues in the Service relating to command control. 

In an interview published elsewhere in this Issue, non other than chair of Independent Police Oversight Authority (IPOA) Mr Macharia Njeru attests to the fact that there is no clarity as to who is in control in the NPS especially at the county level.

Mr Macharia also confirms that the various formations of the NPS including the Kenya Police, Administration Police and the Criminal Investigations Department are working at cross-purpose hugely contributing to the ineffectiveness of the Service.

Other factors seriously bedeviling the NPS as outlined by IPOA include lack of proper management or leadership of the Service as a corporate body, misuse of available meager budgetary and human resource and poor deployment strategies that have seen the police deployed on none core police duties like providing guard services to buildings, VIPs and cash on transit. It is for these failures in the KPS that KDF are increasingly taking on internal security duties, something that is only common with failed states. 

In essence, fixing the mess in the police service alone will solve half the problems of insecurity including the terror menace and common crime. Our borders are porous to infiltration by Al shabaab militants due to police corruption. The other half merely needs political leadership and more so good will. 

Failure, for example, to execute a constitutional mandate should be met with a decisive action. It should not take the President over a year despite the hue and cry to sack his cabinet secretary who is clearly underperforming especially in a critical docket like that of Interior and Coordination of National Government or Inspector General of Police. To purport to say that his hands are tied, for instance, on firing the IG due to the security of tenure tied to that office is to take Kenyans for a ride. Too, when the President promises a commission of inquiry into a security related matter like the mess in the security operation at the Westgate Mall siege, he should live up to it so that the long arm of the law catches up with the culprits.

 

Fix the mess in the National Police Service to win the war on terror and tame the runway insecurity. It is as simple as that. To claim it requires more draconian powers to the Executive, especially one headed by a President with a gleeful penchant for military regalia, is chilling.

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