By Henry Mobbi Gichaba
It’s important to understand Kenya’s national insecurity and its implications to social, political and economic development. Our reference to Kenya’s security (or lack of it thereof) must be tethered to food insecurity, financial insecurity, personal insecurity and national insecurity.
Before I explain my position on Kenya’s (in)security situation and what Mr. Kenyatta should do to address it, let me take you to the builder of modern free-market enterprise. In his classic work, An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, written in 1776, Adam Smith outlined three important government functions: “National defense (“security”), administration of justice (law and order), and the provision of certain public goods (e.g., transportation infrastructure and basic and applied education).”
The eighteenth-century Scottish moral philosopher argued that national defense, administration of justice, and development are essential to a free and prosperous society. You are aware that in Kenya the internal security of our people as far as lives and property, and indeed, general well-being are concerned has been adulterated.
Without security life is incomplete and lived with the trauma born of constant fear. Our need for security can’t be more gainsaid. Criminal violence in Kenya is intense and growing – both in rural and urban areas. In the last few years, we have lost thousands of Kenyans to growing insecurity. We lost billions in property damage; our freedoms; and our human rights. In the post-election violence of 2007/08, over 1,500 people were massacred and over 500,000 others displaced from their homes. We have since endured more deaths in the Baragoi violence, Westgate, Baringo, Bungoma, Mandera, Garissa, Wajir and Mpeketoni. We have endured a chain of terrorist bombings in Mombasa and Nairobi. The work of Somalia’s Alshabaab.
More lives are lost in our country through road accidents; preventable diseases; infant mortality; ignorance; illiteracy and poverty. This is indirect violence on our people. We must judge Kenya’s successive governments for causing so many deaths of Kenyans, indirectly, mostly as a result of corruption, greed, selfishness, poor leadership, and lack of vision and purpose.
Clearly, insecurity isn’t a problem that’s unique to Kenya. The US, the West and other countries also face the challenges of insecurity within their borders on a daily basis. The difference between them and Kenya is how they manage the threats; how knowledgeable and prepared they are; how they deploy resources against the threats; how effective they are; how patriotic and united they are against threats of insecurity and how their compliance to their constitutional laws help to deter internal and external insecurity.
The security of Kenyans and their property should be the primary purpose of Kenya’s Government. It’s expressly stated in the Constitution of Kenya that the Government is ultimately responsible for the security of lives and property of the people of Kenya. As a sovereign country, Kenya must keep peace within its borders. This should be done by upholding our constitutional law and defending against national security threats. This is the duty of the police and the paramilitary, and in extreme circumstances, the military. The buck stops at President Kenyatta’s feet. He’s Kenya’s Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces.
In the last ten years, look at the security mountains we’ve climbed. The reckless violence of 2007/8; continuing tribal cleansing; Mpeketoni, Baragoi, Garissa, Mandera, Baringo gas chambers et al; Mungiki and Kisungusungu vigilante violence; burning of witches in Kisii; daylight robberies of homes; cattle rustlers; terrorist attacks, police killings of innocent Kenyans, profiling of Somalis, Westgate, hotel bombings and armed insurgency. These threats to internal security have been directed at either Kenya’s citizens, the organs and infrastructure of the state, and Western interests in Kenya. They range from petty crime, political unrest and terrorism. Well, we have also witnessed foreign powers and groups acting as threats to internal security, by either committing or sponsoring acts of terrorism.
The current trend of violence in Kenya is imprinting on the psyche of the people that the government apparatus is incapable of guaranteeing their safety and security. This would impact on our general security because the situation promotes fear and limits our potential to develop economically. On the same footing, our country’s capacity to attract investors is impaired as a result of insecurity. Kenya’s huge tourism industry would be the first casualty in this front.
The long-term effect is that the on-going insecurity will discourage potential investors in Kenya. So there is the very damaging consequence of giving the signal to the rest of the international community that Kenya is not a safe and secure place and as such unsuitable for economic investment activities.
Social cohesion among the tribes of Kenya and other interests is important in the process of national development. Indeed, all the tribes, counties and other constituent parts of the country must be and indeed feel that they are being carried along in the process of national governance. This is true because widespread discontent and loss of confidence in Mr. Kenya’s government may ultimately affect national political stability.
Most of all, invariably continuing escalation of violence and crises across the country will impinge on the survival of our democracy. We have a challenge to rethink and improve on policy and institutional means of dealing with security concerns arising in the country.
On the political level we need to evolve programs for cultural and civic education that seek to enthrone the fundamentals of democracy so that the political contestants and the citizenry imbibe principles and practices essential for sustainable democracy. Such programs must also address specific tendencies that create security breach in Kenya.
In addition, a process of legislative and constitutional review should be initiated to assess the country’s constitution and amend or expunge as necessary areas that have been found to give rise to conflicts and security problems.
The process should introduce new provisions and legislation that will ensure better and more effective interplay of interests among all groups and stakeholders in Kenya. Such exercise should also embrace ways of making the country’s democratic space more open, freer, fairer and more tolerant.
Among specific lingering political issues that should be addressed are: the laws relating to political parties and their activities; the electoral body; county and national government relationship; allocation of national resources and revenue; citizenship rights; and devolution of police and education activities to counties. Security sector reforms that will make the security agencies and institutions more effective in combating crimes and other threats to national security and make them accountable to the Constitution.
In a nutshell, for security to work in Kenya, we need a better government. A government whose sole function is to protect its people and uphold the rule of law; a government whose strength of democracy is drawn from the will of the people. The citizens would then feel a sense of ownership of the country and their government. They would identify with it as vital stakeholders whose would give constitutional existence and legitimacy to the government.
Once Kenyans are united and are shareholders of the common-wealth, the citizens will not only avoid such behaviors that hurt and sabotage the system, but join forces to resist any such attack on the collective interest.
Mr. Kenyatta, this is the real basis for the development of a grand action or strategy, the mobilization of the entire national asset for the protection of the nation, will work best if the potential of the citizenry is unleashed to fight and win against internal and external insecurity in Kenya.