Why the country’s security is in a shambles, and what to do about it
What you need to know:
- Knowing where the country has come from, the Bill of Rights was (and still is) a good idea. But it is an idea that is pretty utopian in a struggling democracy like ours.
- We have interfered with the intelligence establishment so much that it has been reduced to the level of being an advisory bystander.
In the past couple of months, the country has had to deal with a swarm of security challenges.
The knee-jerk reaction of the political class as well as citizens and netizens has been to play blame games. And while we are quick to apportion blame, we adopt the speed of a sloth to offer solutions.
We have become like the medieval kingdoms whose solutions was to put someone’s head under the guillotine.
If for every challenge the only way out is to pacify the public by offering them someone’s head on a platter, then it is unlikely that many people will remain with their heads intact because as a country, we face myriad challenges and many will be with us for years to come.
But for now let us keep our focus on the issue of national security. Our problems in this sector are structural, not individual.
When we adopted a new, progressive Constitution as well as a new political dispensation, we seem to have also adopted a laissez-faire attitude where anything goes.
Kenyans (and non-Kenyans) seem to have taken their newfound freedoms as a licence to engage in all manner of activities — especially of the illegal kind — knowing that once they wave a copy of the Bill of Rights in court, their rights are likely to be considered paramount despite the damage done.
We can’t blame the courts when they release on bond a suspect who is accused of planting a grenade that kills a dozen Kenyans because the Constitution says everyone is entitled to be released on bond, including mass murderers.
When a villager suspected of murder runs amok and kills a whole family after being released by a court, we cannot blame the courts for it because we wished it on ourselves when we appended our collective signatures to the new Constitution without amending the clause that entitles everyone to be released on bond regardless of the crimes they are likely to have committed.
"A SEAMLESS MACHINE"
Knowing where the country has come from, the Bill of Rights was (and still is) a good idea. But it is an idea that is pretty utopian in a struggling democracy like ours.
It is time Kenyans started a tough conversation about amending the Constitution to give courts teeth and flexibility.
If we don’t think along these lines, we shall be doing what people from my community call “fetching water with a sieve” and hoping to fill a container.
Now, away from the Bill of Rights, let us take a quick look at other aspects of the country’s supreme law and how they, too, have contributed to the emasculation of the institutions that hold together a nation state.
As we were trying to make good the mistakes of previous regimes, especially those committed by the main actors in national security, namely, the Special Branch (as the NIS was then known), the Kenya Police Force (as it then was) and the provincial administration, we threw out the baby with the bath water.
The previous system may have had its excesses, but it delivered on one key front: security.
This is because the security apparatus worked as a seamless machine with no “independent agents.”
The District Security Committee chaired by the District Commissioner made decisions on security priorities and the local police and intelligence bosses had to implement them to the letter without citing "operational independence."
Today, we have emasculated the former provincial administration to a point where it is unrecognisable. We have created legal structures that make the actors in national security, especially at the county level, feel they are autonomous.
And that is not all; we have interfered with the intelligence establishment so much that it has been reduced to the level of being an advisory bystander.
The same scalpel was used to cut down the police into a mere "service." Clearly, this is not how you secure a country facing innumerable challenges.
Until and unless we address structural issues through appropriate legislative action — not politicking and personalising issues — the country’s security will remain in jeopardy.
Mr Njoka is the Spokesman in the Ministry of Interior and Coordination of National Government. The views expressed here are his own.