Return of dictatorial chiefs to erode freedoms

The reforms that Kenyans fought so hard for, culminating in the promulgation of the 2010 Constitution, risk being badly eroded. The most imminent danger is an attempt to bring back the feared imperial chief of the Daniel arap Moi era.

And it could get worse, as new Interior Cabinet Secretary Kithure Kindiki has just given a glimpse into what the Ruto administration could be up to.

The government plans to not only arm the administrators, but also attach at least five police officers to them. This is a chilling attempt to restore the autocratic pre-2010 constitutional setup where powerful chiefs lorded it over fellow Kenyans.

True, there is a worrying incidence of rising insecurity in various parts of the country, including the perennial bandit menace. How powerful chiefs will solve this problem is not clear.

Should the emphasis not, therefore, be on modernising and equipping the National Police Service (NPS) and other security agencies? It is shocking that CS Kindiki says that the chiefs are to be “enabled to enforce the law and articulate government policy”. Something does not add up here.

Why should police be deployed to chiefs’ camps and yet there are police stations in every part of the country? If they are not enough, then more should be built. The restructuring of the old provincial administration by creating counties was, among other things, meant to curb the excesses by chiefs.

Having powerful chiefs will create a new centre of power and interfere with the functions of the Inspector-General of Police.

The Constitution requires that any substantive changes in governance must involve public participation. Nothing of the sort has happened.

Judging from the precedent that has been set, should anyone go to court to challenge this move by CS Kindiki, it is likely to be thrown out. Under the 2010 Constitution, the National Police Service Act defines the command structure to the police and there is no provision for chiefs.

A new dictatorship by chiefs is not what Kenyans need. Chiefs should be equipped to deal with insecurity by working closely with the police and not being empowered to rival them. This new plan could create anarchy instead of enhancing security.


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