Archive | October, 2012


21 Oct

By Javas Bigambo

The police, in the old history of our country, have been known to be the human scarecrows, agents of torture, and replete with an appetite of torturing and killing Kenyans with wanton abandon. Corruption has been their emblem, so prominent like the mark of Biblical Cain, that they have ever distinguished themselves mostly as purveyors of impunity. Further, the paradox of organized crime in Kenya can baffle even the most seasoned FBI agent. The police are the first point of contact with the community in responding and addressing incidents of crime and violence, yet citizens have little confidence in their ability to respond. Every citizen’s understanding of dimensions of security at local, national, regional, continental and global level is exceptionally vital. The security must be demystified. Unlearning classical perceptions of security and learning new perspectives should be concurrent.

While the government’s reform agenda has addressed policy level change, local inclusion of the people in decision-making and resources allocation has not yet advanced. In fact, the Community Policing Initiative has fallen like the decline of man from the Garden of Eden. National security is exceptionally close to my heart. In the first quarter of the year 2012, I successfully finished my stint as the National chairman of Non-Governmental Organizations Working Group on Police Vetting. Under my leadership, we did collect and collate citizens’ views on police reforms and the intended police vetting exercise, we also liaised with security agencies and other key stakeholders toward invaluable police reforms.

Ultimately, we developed the Police Vetting Tool, an instrument which is compliant with Article 244 of the Constitution, which shall, among other manuals, guide the Police Service Commission in standardizing the police vetting exercise and the police reforms exercise. A successful police vetting process will facilitate a credible and accountable police service commission and enhance confidence in the police by Kenyans. An open police vetting process will also give latitude for proper monitoring of the vetting process.

This process was a basis for entrenching, consolidating and implementing citizens’ participation and ensuring accountability mechanisms as envisaged in the Constitution of Kenya 2010. The Working Group was guided by the recommendations of Justice Philip Alston, who in his inquiry into the extra-judicial killings in the wake of the post-election violence proposed sweeping changes for reform. There have also been claims that most police officers are promoted through patronage and corruption. “Proper administrative procedures were not followed in promoting most of the senior officers; hence the need for a thorough vetting,” said the report presented by Alston who is the UN rappoteur on extrajudicial killings. After the vetting, scores of police officers are likely to be either demoted or retired if found unsuitable to hold their positions. Others are likely to be promoted because of their qualifications. It is obvious that:

• The police are poorly equipped, resourced in terms of housing, transport, and communication facilities
• Police suffer low morale due to poor working conditions, allowances and remuneration.
• Lack of modern technology, poor communication equipment and reduced operational autonomy has weakened the investigative function of the police in Kenya.
• Police lack a strict code of ethics, are provided with no cover despite the risky nature of their jobs and criticize the frequent transfers
• The centralized transfer and deployment policy management of the police has also resulted to poor autonomy in their operations thus increasing insecurity.
• Police are frequently transferred away form their families, subjected to long working hours with vulnerability to HIV/AIDS
• Kenyans regard police as ineffective, corrupt and their level of their trust in them is low.
• There is barely any civilian oversight capacity on security

The promulgation of the Constitution in August 2010 heralded a new era of institutional reform in Kenya. One of the institutions that are targeted for reform is the Kenya police. The institution has been historically linked to perpetration of torture, extortion, extra-judicial executions, lackluster services, violence and corruption. The desired police and general security sector reform must be consistent, reliable, and credible, and must also afford the Police Service the trust of the people. No, the police vetting process must not victimize any serving police officer. The vetting process should serve to establish the suitability of police officers and address some of the issues arising with the service as indicated herein above.

It is fitting and proper that those who shall be found wanting in character and professional conduct may highly be redeployed. Further, police placements should be considered as well as voluntary resignation by those officers who may not be willing to undergo the vetting process. However, caution shall be exercised such that mass resignation by officers shall not be encouraged for national security reasons.

Most Kenyans may perhaps not be aware that the provisions of the Force Standing Orders are operative in a manner that technically disadvantages the police. For instance, by their nature, police officers are uniquely placed due to the nature of their duties and the regulations guiding their conduct and services. Some of the regulations hold that a police officer must not owe any institution money for a period exceeding 3 months. Yet police officers have no avenue to complain; they face poor housing conditions; have no insurance and have very low salaries. These are the archaic things that must be changed.

Kenya, like many other countries, faces formidable challenges in dealing with the proliferation of national and global terrorism, and this is central in the national security concerns. As Alice Hills postulates, the challenges of implementing security sector reform (SSR) in post-authoritarian societies are misunderstood, especially in Africa where even democratic regimes use authoritarian norms and practices.

Arguably, these challenges would best be addressed in the context of a democratically formulated national security policy that gives citizens the opportunity to deliberate on how their government should handle the problem of terrorism. Unfortunately, Kenya does not yet have such a policy. But this has not stopped the government from initiating and implementing policies and laws on counter-terrorism. The police reform process needs the involvement of external actors to compliment, and not undermine the collective quest for police reform in the devolved system of government. These external actors include policy makers, security sector reform enthusiasts, scholars and civil society actors. Duality of approach, converging internal and external actors is a plausible policy option for Kenya.

Border security, for instance, remains a challenge for Kenya. An authentic promotion of local ownership of organic SSR would definitely give life to the Community Policing initiative, and would refocus more energy and resources and build capacity on the emerging key security drivers in the region, especially after the fall of Kismayu in Somalia.
The dynamics and the urgency of Kenya’s SSR would ensure secure elections and avert election related violence. There is also need for synergized internal and external support for security plans and reforms beyond normative initiatives.

Africa’s Security Sector Reform
As a critical country in Africa, that Kenya’s security feeds into Africa’s general security cannot be gainsaid. Africa must adopt a dual approach on politics and SSR, and external actors, and strengthen local interests on security. This means that there is urgent need to document and upscale resources for security, expertise, experience and knowledge base of intra-African capacity to promote regional and continental security.
A stable, disciplined and polished Kenyan police and military power would help the African continent to develop a Pan-African Security Sector agency. My thinking is that the African continent must have all its duty bearers involved, and this can only happen if each African country can build firmly its internal capacity on security. This would perchance stem from a strong ideological consensus on SSR at the continental level, with a build up from regional blocs. In the end, security will be delivered to the continental citizens as a public and continental good, with enhanced capacity, reduced impunity, wit strategic engagements and an opened up space for security operation. So Kenya must carefully plan and execute the police reform agenda with precision and expertise. This may just set the ball rolling for continental security sector reform.

The writer is a consultant at Interthoughts Consulting and can be reached through