Politicising security act of folly

Former President Uhuru Kenyatta's motorcade

Former President Uhuru Kenyatta's motorcade on Uhuru Highway on February 11, 2020.

Photo credit: Evans Habil | Nation Media Group

We have witnessed a petty and needless brouhaha over former President Uhuru Kenyatta’s security detail being scaled down.

It is the height of foolishness for the sycophants around Mr Kenyatta to be making so much noise over a non-issue. They must be living in a fool’s paradise if they expect that, after relinquishing office, he would retain the same level of security he did as the President.

In any case, the entitlements for a retired president—from security officers to pension and allowances, transport, housing, medical insurance and office space, as well as cooks, gardeners, personal assistants, household staff and others dogsbodies—are set by law. Nobody has demonstrated a single instance where that law has been breached.

Besides, Mr Kenyatta has not complained; so, one must wonder why fellows who have no direct stake in his creature comforts should be so invested in matters that might be beneath his pride and dignity to broach.

But there are surrounding issues that badly expose the Ruto administration. One is the timing. What Inspector-General of Police Japhet Koome justifies as normal rationalisation of the former president’s security arrangements come bang in the middle of increasingly open acrimony between the man and his successor.

President William Ruto had just accused his predecessor, without providing any evidence, of sponsoring the protests organised by opposition chief Raila Odinga, who continues to contest the outcome of the 2022 presidential election. He has spearheaded a campaign depicting Mr Kenyatta as a tax cheat and looter of public property, and effectively vowed to investigate his regime and recover any ill-gotten gains.

The usual rabble of President Ruto’s hired mouthpieces on social media and political platforms have been unleashed to wage war on Mr Kenyatta with scurrilous accusations accompanied by threats to seize his fabulous wealth and strip him of retirement benefits and privileges. That was the immediate mob rhetoric preceding reduction of Mr Kenyatta’s security detail, hence it became impossible not to put two and two together.

Nobody can dispute that, on relinquishing the presidency, one must cope with reduced security. However, it must be clear at all times that decisions on the number of police officers assigned to a former president is not motivated by petty politics. And that is where the Ruto government seems to be failing in a big way, because too many important policy and operational decisions seem be dictated by vendetta, malice and settling of political scores.

Admittedly, there are plenty of things that went wrong under President Kenyatta’s watch, but they must not be used as excuses for the Ruto government’s failures. In any case, Dr Ruto was President Kenyatta’s disloyal Deputy President for two entire terms and, hence, must share direct responsibility for the Jubilee regime’s mess.

Any time President Ruto deploys his platform and social media mercenaries to go on the assault against the Kenyatta administration, he is indirectly pointing the finger at himself.

Then there is this whole business of selective amnesia about righting the wrongs of previous regimes, going back to Jomo Kenyatta and Daniel arap Moi. By all means, let the Kenyattas and Mois, if so proven, be held culpable for all their crimes against the people of Kenya. Let them be made to account for tax evasion, land grabbing, theft of public property and all other acts of grand corruption that form the foundation stones for wealth beyond imagination. And let them be made to surrender all wealth deemed to be proceeds of crime.

Justice, however, cannot be selective. Everybody else, including those in the present government, who has profited from theft of public property and other crimes against the common good must similarly surrender all gains from such criminal enterprises. The sword of justice must be blind to all political affiliations and, definitely, cannot be entrusted to a bunch of excitable fellows only out to curry favour with their paymasters by making the loudest illiterate noises.

In the meantime, the whole nonsense about Mr Kenyatta’s security detail raises fundamental questions that we ought to address. Bandits reign across large swathes of rural Kenya and criminals hold sway in urban areas, where the police are outmanned and outgunned. Security chiefs don fancy uniforms and make impotent noises as the citizens are condemned to precarious existence under armed criminals.

This is as an unhealthy proportion of police officers, up to 30 per cent at one count,  who are assigned to guard a tiny, tiny elite of top politicians and government bureaucrats who live in fear of their own shadows. That is where the real crime is.

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