Police Recruits

New recruits during a past passing out parade at the National Police College Main Campus in Kiganjo, Nyeri County.

| File | Nation Media Group

A better police will build Kenya

The way we manage some aspects of our lives perhaps reflects how the country is managed; for those Kenyans in the streets are the same ones ending up behind big desks making policies that impact all of us.

Take, for instance, the peculiar thing that most pedestrians, especially, office workers, do during and after the rainy season in Nairobi. They stop by shoe-shiners and get their shoes polished and then resume walking in the mud-filled pavements. I observe this weird phenomenon mostly when in one of those rusty tetanus-inflicting matatus plying the Wakulima/Muthurwa market route which, in my opinion, are a health hazard and unroadworthy and should be kept off the road.

Anyhow, back to shoe-shining. One place not to bother shining your shoes during the rainy season, therefore, is in and around Wakulima, most of Eastlands and even the CBD. It’s either too dusty or muddy for that.

The other peculiar thing Kenyans do is lie in front of other passengers while in matatus. They would rather say they are stuck in traffic than tell the truth that they had only just left Ngong for a meeting with a friend that should have happened three hours before on Tom Mboya Street. The truth would have freed the friend to, hopefully, engage in other productive ways than wait for a liar in eternity.

And what can I say about government emails and texts? Most officials don’t think it is their duty to respond to the public. This is a habit that starts mtaani with mteja phone behaviour. A Kenyan would rather switch off the phone than reply, especially if they owe you money. The mteja person, who then ends up as a government officer or politician later, carries the trait to his desk. Answering emails and texts is not a language he or she knows.

MPs and other politicians, with all the money thrown at them via the budgetary allocation system, will have the money for new mansions and fuel guzzlers and other personal use but never a budget for a communication system with the voters. The Access to Information Act, 2016 provides that “Every citizen has the right of access to information held by: a) the State; and b) another person and where that information is required for the exercise or protection of any right or fundamental freedom”.

The Act then brings me to the issue of delayed certificates of conduct, which is required of Kenyans. The responsibility of issuing this certificate lies with the police. As peculiarity goes, this is an exercise that should never have been given to a National Police Service that a chequered history. Giving such a huge responsibility to the corrupt police is putting the lives of Kenyans on hold.

We need to get the country moving forward by getting people to work and engage in economic activities as quickly as possible. The hue and cry of delayed certificates of good conduct points to a system that is beleaguered by the typical bribery culture.

If sexual violence victims, who include children, are struggling to get P3 forms from the police to help in prosecution of sexual violence cases, it is foolhardy to think a certificate of good conduct will be given that easily by the police without a bribe.

Good conduct

Delays in issuance of certificates of good conduct slow down individuals' professional and personal progress and hampers social mobility. The impact on the economy of not speeding up job applications cannot be over-emphasized. The conduct of the police now calls for the issuance of the certificate of good conduct be undertaken by another body that has integrity or cancelled for everyone unless required in sensitive areas of work or for those wishing to work with children and vulnerable adults. Even then, they must be issued within a given time frame.

Other workers should be allowed to provide references during job or university applications as it has always been the case. Our poor record-keeping does not lend itself to an effective and fair manner of processing certificates of good conduct. Those from marginalised and far-flung parts of the country will always be disadvantaged.

We are not yet there on issuance of certificates of good conduct. We are trying to walk before we can crawl by adopting systems from the developed countries. We must lay the groundwork first by making sure that we create an equal society where everyone has the ability and capability to access government services before forcing policies on Kenyans carte blanche.

Let us start by establishing a strong and well-remunerated police who are able to serve Kenyans better. A leopard never changes its spots and the more responsibilities we give a corrupt police department, the more Kenyans are going to suffer.

Nation-building begins with the basics of building from the bottom up—in the true sense of the phrase. This is not me endorsing ruling party UDA’s slogan but offering my opinion that, hopefully, is the preferable option for many Kenyans—that of building a better police first to build a better Kenya.

Ms Guyo is a legal researcher. [email protected]. @kdiguyo