Nyumba Kumi initiative could be the magic bullet in Covid-19 war

Inspector-General of Police Hillary Mutyambai (left) and Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang'i inspect a checkpoint in Tala, Machakos County, on May 1, 2020 as the nation intensifies efforts to curb coronavirus spread. PHOPTO | EVANS COURTESY

What you need to know:

  • It has worked well for China in curbing the spread of the virus through limited (and often closely monitored) movement from the affected to safe neighbourhoods.
  • Nyumba Kumi has also proven effective in restricting the movement of individuals from high-risk counties to the affected ones.

No event has caught the imagination and attention of the world in peacetime since World War II as the Covid-19 pandemic.

It is hardly surprising that many world leaders have likened the fight against the coronavirus to a declaration of war on an adversarial military force. In an attempt at reducing the impact of the virus, countries have deployed a panoply of tactics.

Kenya’s response to the pandemic has been incremental — from social distancing and dusk-to-dawn curfew to partial lockdown or movement restrictions into and out of “high-risk” counties.

But one cog of the anti-coronavirus wheel that has immense potential to curtail the spread of the virus is the Nyumba Kumi Initiative (loosely, 10 households concept).

Introduced by a presidential order gazetted in 2013, largely to anchor community policing at the household level, Nyumba Kumi aims at safe and sustainable neighbourhoods.

It is premised on the realisation and recognition that the human security challenges of the 21st Century are complex, and solving them requires a paradigm shift that takes cognisant of the fact that citizens are key players in national security. This view is reinforced in the mantra of building “a people-centred” National Police Service.

COLLABORATIVE APPROACH

The global human health crisis presents a timely opportunity to expand the Nyumba Kumi concept to offer a solution to a non-traditional security threat.

And this is particularly achievable because of the synergy that comes with creative partnerships between the State and non-state actors.

Formation of issue-oriented coalitions is both necessary and timely in the governments’ quest for a durable solution to the coronavirus threat.

Nyumba Kumi is thus a strategy in this regard. It can help to tackle the insecurity-related challenges at all levels of the society — households, institutions, estates and even the markets.

The need for the citizens to join hands with the authorities in a bid to sustainably address the problems collectively is a relatively novel concept that appeals to the democratic policing philosophy.

The synergy between the police and the communities produces the much-needed energy, creativity and understanding, all necessary ingredients for community policing.

Nyumba Kumi has been instrumental in augmenting government led-efforts in intelligence gathering, thus offering a more efficient and effective way to deal with the challenge of insecurity at the lowest unit of governance.

Its emphasis on a collaborative approach that puts citizens at the centre of the security processes has greatly helped to allay concerns of accountability by the government.

SURVEILLING MOVEMENT

This strategy has its roots in the agora, the ancient Greece meeting place for political and judicial deliberation and centre for commerce, spiritual, artistic and athletics activities.

Free men directly participated in the affairs of the city-states, such as judicial and security deliberations as jurors. So, how best can this measure help in the war on Covid-19?

China, the first country to have a go at the virus, has curbed it using the community welfare approach. This system is virtually similar to Nyumba Kumi at the structural level.

It has worked well for China in curbing the spread of the virus through limited (and often closely monitored) movement from the affected to safe neighbourhoods.

Nyumba Kumi has also proven effective in restricting the movement of individuals from high-risk counties to the affected ones.

A good example is how authorities in Taita-Taveta County upscaled monitoring and surveillance to curtail the spread of coronavirus from the neighbouring Mombasa, Kilifi and Kwale.

This example shows that the Nyumba Kumi concept has been successfully used outside the security domain.

The promise of Nyumba Kumi as a vital weapon in the war against Covid-19 is immense.

Mr Mugwang’a is a communication consultant and former crime/security reporter. [email protected]

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