Stop buying teargas, use cash to trace missing kin

Mwenda Mbijiwe

Residents of Sirimon village, Buuri West, Meru County demonstrate on July 7, 2021 along the Meru-Nanyuki road over the disappearance of former army officer Mwenda Mbijiwe. 

Photo credit: Charles Wanyoro | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • Reports of missing persons used to be taken seriously in Kenya.
  • The police would visit affected kin at the earliest opportunity and rope them into the search of their relatives.

I dedicate this space to families whose loved ones have disappeared in circumstances that even science cannot explain. One such family is that of Mwenda Mbijiwe.

Until his disappearance more than five weeks ago, Mr Mbijiwe was a common face in the media. Unlike some of his former colleagues who left the security services for a village life of running after troublesome goats and arguing with fall army worms, Mr Mbijiwe remained in active duty as a private consultant, offering practical wisdom on how to kick terrorists out like Polio.

The police have refused to quote his investigation file or allow their tracking maps to speak to the media. As a result of desperation, the family has split up into search parties, joining other Kenyans using personal resources to do police work – one making trips to open mortuary fridges, another visiting police stations looking for incognito detainees, and all their seeds have landed on rocky ground.

Reports of missing persons used to be taken seriously in Kenya. The police would visit affected kin at the earliest opportunity and rope them into the search of their relatives; and even if they failed, it wasn’t for lack of collaborative effort between law enforcement and the public. 

These days, the police are either sitting on many unresolved cases, or their priorities have refused to shake hands with the expectations of Kenyans. 

We would want to believe they aren’t been sleeping on the job; and if they are, it isn’t because of the upgrading of police infrastructure to make their stations comfortable and homely.

We cannot pride ourselves in protecting our borders from external threats when ordinary Kenyans can’t even travel around without fear of being picked like tea leaves and bundled into moving baskets never to be seen again.

We’ve been told security begins with us, but why spend billions on water cannons to spray pepper and kachumbari on protesters when the real threats live in our midst?

Disappeared without trace

Mr Mbijiwe is not alone. There’s a growing list of prominent personalities who’ve disappeared not only without a trace, but also without word from the government.

We are aware that protecting Kenyans is not one of President Uhuru Kenyatta’s Big Four legacy projects and it’d be too much to ask of him to speak on the rising cases of missing persons. 

But the President should be aware that if Kenyans keep disappearing, there will be no one to enrol for the Universal Health Coverage, and no one to occupy those affordable houses he is building for us.

We are aware the police are currently busy fighting Covid-19 with whips and batons, hence they might not be left with enough energy to fight kidnappers competing with Covid-19 for nationwide attention; but that cannot explain why the Inspector General of Police has refused to build a bridge between families of missing persons and information from government. 

As we ask the Ministry of Interior to revise the National Police Service training curriculum to include how the police can effectively whip pandemics without injuring ordinary Kenyans, there is need for the IG to address the nation on why there has been an increase in the number of kidnappings and disappearances. 

Mr Mbijiwe’s mother has been in the media, appealing to the police to help find his son. 

It’s a desperate cry from a powerless caregiver. You can see the pain in her face, hear the helplessness in her voice, and touch the emotional trauma in her mind. She’s currently vulnerable to panic attacks, and that’s not good to the health of someone who should be ageing gracefully. 

If a prominent security consultant can disappear for weeks, what is the probability of an ordinary Kenyan being found by the police without pressure from the President’s tap of warnings?

Mr Oguda writes on topical issues. [email protected]

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