Be vigilant during the transition

William Ruto and Uhuru Kenyatta.

President William Ruto holds a sword received from former Commander in Chief of the Kenya Defence Forces Uhuru Kenyatta at Moi International Sports Centre, Kasarani, on September 13, 2022.


Photo credit: Sila Kiplagat | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • New administrations come with a level of vulnerability—especially to crime, as new people take over and security processes are temporarily disrupted. 
  • In 2013, before the government properly settled, Al-Shabaab took advantage and waged a vicious campaign of terror.
  • Kenyans will, obviously, have noticed the increase in crime, especially petty crime, and the slackened policing on the roads; there are fewer officers and less efficiency in the management of traffic.

New administrations come with a level of vulnerability—especially to crime, as new people take over and security processes are temporarily disrupted. 

In 2013, before the government properly settled, Al-Shabaab took advantage and waged a vicious campaign of terror with explosions in the heart of Nairobi and the drastic massacre at Westgate Mall.

The mishandling of the rescue and the looting by security forces will forever live in infamy.

Then-Internal Security Minister Joseph ole Lenku and his mattresses theory earned a place in the annals of history.

The travel advisory by the American Embassy this week warning their citizens of increased risk in Turkana, Nairobi, Kilifi and the counties bordering Somalia is, probably, in anticipation of that spike in insecurity as the new administration settles in and more firmly takes to the saddle.

Kenyans will, obviously, have noticed the increase in crime, especially petty crime, and the slackened policing on the roads; there are fewer officers and less efficiency in the management of traffic.

President William Ruto appears confident and assured at the helm.

Having been in government for decades and served as Deputy President, he should have little trouble settling in and taking charge of affairs.

However, his deputy Rigathi Gachagua is fast gaining a reputation for shooting from the general region of the hip and mastery of the non sequitur. 

National security

There is a great risk of the army of adherents below the President, in the exuberance of victory and heady excitement at the first taste of power, antagonising the security establishment they need to keep the country secure during the transition.

If the Jubilee administration had any success, especially after the rocky start, it was in national security.

After the initial disasters, they learnt to coordinate security agencies and effectively respond to crime and insecurity.

There was a blunt determination to clamp down on terrorism and the results can be seen.

During that period, there was an investment in weapons and equipment, including drones and satellite technology, which appears to have paid off.

Special tactical units in the police were trained and deployed all over the country. 

Oftentimes, there is a police angle to crime: The wash-wash brigade, prostitution rings and kidnap artists prosper if they have police protection.

The previous regime had succeeded in disrupting the flow of corruption money from crime up the chain of command into the government. And that helped a great deal.

Rather than spend too much time revisiting dead issues and blame-gaming, build on the security foundation in place and quickly move the system forward.

The fact that the Kenya Kwanza government and its predecessor are adversarial has not helped matters; it is like Republicans taking over from the Democrats but, unfortunately, without the institutional depth of the Americans.

There is a case for writing a better transition manual and establishing stronger handover mechanisms which ensure stability and security even as governments change.

* * *

More than three million people in the country are at risk of starvation after the failure of three rain seasons.

We have been here before, one would have thought that by now we will have established systems to store and distribute emergency food. 

I am not much of a farmer. But like all Africans my age, I’m a small-scale farmer.

Last season, I grew maize for the very first time and made every mistake conceivable.

First, because I farmed in a place where the rains are poor, I planted somewhat late and I delayed other farm processes like weeding and so on.

But the rains were good and the maize did well. For beans and other legumes, I planted too early.

They are susceptible to very heavy rains and should be planted midway through the season. I lost the entire crop.

At harvest, my store was not ready. I lost a lot of produce to poor storage and pests. It was my intention to store my maize for more than a season.

But pests and very good prices and the arguments of my neighbours convinced me to sell most of it.

Our best crop is pigeon peas—mbaazi in Kiswahili, a crop from the gods.

The traditional crop is heavenly to eat and contains carbohydrates and proteins in almost equal measure. It is resilient and survives with barely any rain and on poor, sandy soil.

My first crop of peas was another disaster; the crop was luxuriant but the seed pods were attacked by pests.

Still, I had a harvest which I also intended to store for a while. Everyone else sold theirs and the value went up so much that I was warned of the risk of breakage into the store. 

Again, I reluctantly sold.

Even with climate changes and high costs, we can grow a lot of food in marginal areas, enough to feed ourselves and our neighbours. Forget about the government. 

In the old days, everyone grew some food for themselves and for sale. Why can’t we do a bit of that now?

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