Police Reforms in Kenya Are a Priority
I am compelled to write this article by the opinion of the former President Daniel Moi a few days ago while celebrating yet another of his birthday at Kabarak University, in Nakuru. Moi opines that police reforms should be put on hold until elections are over. His fears are founded on grounds that elaborate reforms would require time for the new structures to function smoothly and that the current police system is well versed with issues affecting the country more so at a time when we are approaching the general elections.
I find these observations very interesting considering the timing and the fact that they are being conveyed by a former president. Having said that, I fully agree with him on the need to allocate ample time to prosecute these reforms but find preposterous the claim that police as constituted today should be spared reforms to serve Kenyans in the coming elections. To me, his latter point would have made sense if he proposed deferral of the election date to accommodate police reforms. I understand talk of election date deferral is a contentious issue, a controversy of grand scale, but that has got nothing to do with the benefit that can accrue from a well-orchestrated plan to implement police reforms.
In understanding the justification for police reforms, people must understand the dynamics in the security sector which is affected by the economic factors (expansion or shrinkage), population growth, technological advancement, and other social trends. Police professionalism and capacity are frontline issues that must take precedent over other subsidiary issues. Although morale is a significant factor in enhancing performance, it cannot replace values, training, and technical professional skills that operatives or law enforcement agents are supposed to possess. In this light, it is therefore important that we go beyond police housing and remuneration in thinking police reforms and instead explore meaningful strategies to strengthen our policing capacity. We must take into account our diverse social - cultural settings in devising police structures at devolved levels to serve the people.
Law enforcement is a general term. Kenyans need to appreciate the police service as a social service. We need police officers who can garner public confidence for their deeds and with a world class client orientation and integrity beyond reproach. Corruption is a serious challenge that has eroded the image of our policing institutions and to overcome it, concerted efforts must be taken by stakeholders and championed by the government at the institutional levels. The police and politics will have to file for divorce because the two have to be separated for police requires professional independence.
Now that is law enforcement, the law cannot stop you from committing crime; it only prescribes punishment when you wrong others. So, how can we deal with lawlessness?
There are many things that come into play for a nation to be able to tackle security issues in a pragmatic way. The government must have in place a policy framework to deal with security in a unified way. This is what then helps the security agents to synchronize their efforts when it comes to dealing with security threats. We know, the Armed forces primary role is to deal with external aggression whereas the police exist to enforce law, in other words, law enforcement. But for the responsibility to combat terrorism, it is difficult to demarcate the extent of roles played by these security agencies. Terrorist organizations are asymmetrical forces, no one can tell their next point of call with precision. The only thing that can be determined is their behavioral tendencies typical in planning attacks against targets.
Well-equipped and trained security agents can readily deter terrorist threats through surveillance and targeted measures to defeat terror operations. It is a question of money, trained manpower, and capacity to handle subtle counter terrorism strategy. Unlike in the case of America where the Government is on top of things when it comes to registration of persons and immigration, ours is a different scenario. Beginning with foul mentality of ignorance and inattention, to lack of expertise and tools to mitigate terror manifestation, Kenya like many third world countries have got to deal with security challenges using the meager resources at its disposal.
Security is a collective responsibility. We cannot expect to enjoy peace and tranquility without being on guard. People must make it habit to raise flag whenever in doubt of their safety and security. Obviously not many people can predict or identify potential threats when they lack basic knowledge in security. The relevant authorities must roll-out outreach programs to educate the public on fundamental principles to safeguard against security threats that we face on daily basis. The main catalyst to Kenya’s security problems are – proliferation of small arms, porous borders, corruption, and lack of robust and coordinated strategy to deal with crime including terrorism.
Let’s talk about grenades and security at public places and discuss how Kenyans can be protected against persistent threat of Asymmetrical Forces.
Kenya’s security forces and the police are doing their level best to provide security especially now, when Kenya is dealing with Alshabaab in Somalia. The recent spate of grenade attacks in public places are indicators that call for extraordinary measures, arrangements to diminish and eradicate security breaches that is costly, claiming lives of innocent people. Anyone who understands the meaning of infiltration and clandestine nature of terror operations knows that public places such as bus terminus, malls, and churches are wide open, vulnerable places prone to surreptitious entry by lawbreakers if not properly secured.
Some will argue that police patrols and surveillance are adequate to guarantee security. Others think that encouraging public service vehicle operators to enhance security in their business operations would be sufficient to stop criminals from carrying out attacks. Well, although these measures are useful to a certain extent, they are not going to address the current challenges of grenade throwing felons from happening. The only way to defeat this threat is to invest heavily in physical infrastructure of closed circuits cameras, barriers, manned posts, and detection/inspection resources (Sniffer dogs, metal detectors and scanners) to bolster the existing measures, in coordinating access control to discriminate between criminals and law abiding citizens in order to guarantee a safe business environment for all.
At the moment, it is not possible to secure many free-for-all access areas, from destabilizing activities of criminals. It is hard to tell what goes on in open markets by day and night. It is even unreasonable to imagine how possible it is to detect intentions and plans of criminals in most of these highly porous and crowded zones.
Instead of waiting for incidents to take place, the stakeholders need to move with speed to put in place an urgent security plan for all common user public utilities such as Bus terminus, Hospitals, Universities and open air markets to guarantee security of Kenyans and meet the current security challenges facing the country. This preparedness must provide for contingency plans. In fact close liaison with Police and Security services should be applied in setting up basic security plans in all areas that need protection.
Lately many developments are taking place across the world as people grapple with global challenges of terrorism. In the UK for instance, physical planners and architects are making inputs into blue prints for infrastructure such as Government offices, Malls, and other public places with a view to overcoming potential threats. A useful platform called "Secure by Design" helps planners, designers, managers and security staff with security issues from concept of the building to operational implementation.
Our so called leaders must stop sleeping on the job. The parliamentarians should have moved a motion in the house yesterday to set, enforce, and regulate basic standards for security sector in order to enhance protection for Kenyans.
The citizens have a responsibility to help in combating crime by cooperating with the authorities in providing information that can assist them with improving and dealing with issues of security and safety that directly affects them.
"Say something when you see something" - But wait a minute, we do not have a responsive 911 systems and I'm afraid our police do not have enough vehicles. The few available are driven on economical scale for empty tanks lacking fuel.
Kenya is facing real security challenges at the moment. Please appoint the police reform commission and let the police reforms roll out without further delays.
By Mohamed Adan Wato, Major (Rtd.). Mohamed is the author of the book "Walking a Tight Rope Amidst Kenya Post Election Violence".
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I find this article very informative. It gives me hope we have people who think properly about some of these very important issues.
RAO just look for this guy and get him on board to help further ODM agenda in security.
Good information Mr. Wato.