Kibaki Must Act Tough On Security
A germane question being asked is why there is a discrepancy between promises and realities on security. My response would be twofold. Firstly, political leaders entrench their own idiosyncratic security policy preferences; and secondly organizational behavior and bureaucratic systems resist change.
What is needed is a comprehensive people centred security strategy beyond the operation systems. The shift has to be made from a focus on state security— where the entire security machinery is galvanized when ‘leaders’ are visiting places and disappear immediately they leave— to one which focuses on the indivisibility of physical and material security of a person.
A recent example is the travel alert issued by a foreign diplomatic mission warning its citizens of possible terror attacks with precise details on the targeted region and apparent cut-off dates. The local police and senior civil servants proceed to issue a denial reprimanding the mission for ‘economic sabotage.’ Within 48 hours the attack actually happens claiming innocent Kenyans’ lives. This is the pattern in the country that is taking the level of insecurity to an all-time high and intolerable level.
The reactionary response is frustrating. It has become a systematic and evasive approach deployed while promising never coming stern action. In most of the situations, like the recent Garissa incidents, security agencies go to the extent of admitting —emotionlessly — having had prior ‘scanty’ intelligence. What follows is the haphazard rounding-up of many helpless Kenyans in the name of ‘operations’, which are synonymous with violation of those very lives that ought to have been protected.
Why are we still deep in reactive policising when everyone else has moved to detection and prevention of crimes?
We need to be candid on this matter if we expect meaningful change. First, nobody disputes the selflessness of Kenya Defence Forces across the border. Kenya’s engagement in Somalia was provoked and they had a duty to protect Kenyan citizens. This was a political decision that warranted thorough dialogue and concrete home security policy upfront.
We must separate internal security failures from the external action of Kenyan soldiers. The increasing terror attacks are a domestic failure of homeland security systems that even KDF imminent success across the borders won’t ameliorate. Kenya is not the only country in Somalia. We have Uganda, Burundi, Ethiopia and Sierra Leone amongst many other foreign covert intelligence missions in Somalia.
So why is Kenya the only country where these attacks are happening? Why is the police leadership entrenched in systemic denial of the obvious? Is it not a question of old fashioned security mentality and leadership determined to maintain the status quo despite inevitable need for fundamental reforms?
Why is Kibaki quiet? Is the President really unaware of the possible destabilising effects of systemic insecurity? Is he unaware of the ‘mind games’ the police are playing with this important national security concern by denying the magnitude of insecurity? Surely, you cannot have country facing nearly weekly attacks of similar nature, react the same way, and then expect miracles to restore normalcy!
To put it forthrightly, the President must get out and stop relying on his subordinates most of whom are more concerned with preserving their positions and not reforming the national security agencies. No President delegates national security and expect results. The President must begin to realise that the security sector reforms anticipated under the Constitution were not meant to be half-measures.
It is hardly a basic question of insufficient resources. Like the neglected public transport that has been wantonly allowed to claim innocent lives in familiar fashion, internal security needs urgent change as it is significant to the country’s progress. Just like it’s pretentious to expect Kenya to achieve middle-level status on this outdated ‘privatised’ public transport, so is insecurity that eats our social fabric. Yet for some unique reason, the President is non-committal on reforming the security sector.
Instead of inclusive and transparent appointment of the National Police Service Commission to spearhead the sector’s reforms, the county is treated to a fraud. The consequence is that of all targeted sectors, police reforms are lagging behind. Its leadership continue to deny existing insecurity threat and continue to make promises never-coming action.
Reforming the police will inevitably extend to reforming the Directorate of Public Prosecutions to make it independent and effective in prosecuting culpable suspects. The DPP’s office has, for some unique reasons, been consistently complaining of insufficient resources while spending millions in solidarity with the Attorney General on undertaking futile foreign trips and appointing inconsequential committees disguised as attempts at local prosecutions of the International Criminal Court accused persons.
As insecurity escalates, President Kibaki must be more decisive. He must take responsibility for inaction. The many excuses hinged on KDF’s operations in Somalia won’t work.Surely the KDF can’t be expected to spearhead operations abroad and protect refugees in Daadab and civilians at home! Unless he deals with the elephant of lacklustre policising and frustrations of reforms, the President can be sure he will be handing over country in tatters to whoever becomes the next President.
Ndung'u Wainaina is the Executive Director, International Centre for Policy and Conflict (email@example.com)