So what does the history of Kenya’s military and GSU from the Kenyatta era, as discussed in my last post, mean today heading into the 2012 elections? Please take time to read a presentation from Jerry Okungu from a UNDP conference in South Africa over the weekend posted at his Africa News Online blog. I worked with Jerry at IRI and I understand and appreciate his expertise on Kenyan political history. He gives the background of the role of state security forces on through the Moi era and the first Kibaki administration and the 2007 election, along with a discussion of structural changes possible under the new Kenyan constitution.
So where are we at the end of 2011?
In Kenya the situation has been like this before a new constitution came into place:
- The President is the Commander in Chief of all Armed Forces including Prisons Department
- He appoints ministers of Defense and Internal Security together with their assistants and Permanent Secretaries. They all have their offices in the Office of the President
- He appoints all army Generals and Commandants, the Police Commissioner, the Admin Police and General Service Unit Commandants
- He appoints all the eight Provincial Commissioners and 250 District Commissioners who are also Security Committee chairmen in their respective Districts and Provinces
- The President also appoints the Directors of Criminal Investigation and National Intelligence Service that also report to him directly
- The President also appoints all judges of the High Court and Court of Appeal as well as the Attorney General and the Director of Public ProsecutionsWith this scenario, it was difficult to have a legal system that would go against the wishes of the President in power. It was the reason the police never investigated election related crimes and those who were taken to court were acquitted for lack of “sufficient” evidence.Because non-state actors in politics realized that they could not get protection from state owned security agents, they recruited their own for their own personal security and to encounter state brutality during election seasons. In this regard, the following private militias have sprouted on the Kenyan scene since 1992, the year Moi predicted that multi party politics would bring back ethnic violence:
- The Kalenjin Warriors of Rift Valley believed to have belonged to President Moi and his kitchen cabinet
- Mt. Elgon Land Freedom Army fighting for their land in lower parts of South Rift Valley
- The dreaded Mungiki militias of Central Province fighting an economic war against wealthy Kikuyus
- Jeshi la Mzee of Nairobi area during Moi’s time
- Kizungu Zungu and Chikokoro gangs that operated in Kisii parts of Nyanza Province
- Angola Musumbiji gangs that operated in Western Province
- Coast Republican Party, a militia separatist group that operated in the Coast region
- Baghdad Boys of Mathare slums
- Artur Brothers that were imported from Armenia to cause chaos in KenyaBecause the government was running its own set of gangs from the Police Force that from time to time carried out extra-judicial killings of innocent Kenyans, it was difficult for the government to curb the growth of other non-state gangs. Ironically when the government operatives needed to deal with the opposition leaders, they would employ the services of some of these gangs a long side the regular police.Kenyans, mainly non-state actors struggled for almost three decades to get a new constitution and to restore governance and democratic practices that would salvage their nation from the abyss of political pit-hole they had found themselves in.The 2007 post election violence left a bitter taste in the mouths of many Kenyans. The aftermath of the death of 1500 innocent Kenyans half of which perished at the hands of police brutality made Kenyans resolve that time was ripe for a new constitution and far reaching political, social and economic reforms. We had to rethink our governance practices.Because of the trauma of post election violence of 2007, it was easier for political foes to reach compromises and usher in a new constitution that was finally promulgated at a colourful ceremony in August 2010.With this new constitution came sweeping changes in our governance structure. The office of the President was stripped of powers to appoint state officers. Such powers the constitution vested in Parliament to avoid future abuse of office by the Presidency.
The constitution also merged the Regular Police with the Admin Police to form the Kenya Police Service with one Inspector General at the head and a Police Service Commission as the authority to report to. This means that future regimes would not be able to misuse the Police for their own political ambitions. A long with this the entire Police Service would be structured afresh with top officers vetted before being reemployed.In the Judiciary, the constitution created another layer of the judicial system by creating the Supreme Court of Kenya above the current Court of Appeal with the Chief Justice as the President of the Supreme Court. Also created was the post of Deputy Chief Justice and five other Supreme Court Judges. The constitution also mandated that all sitting judges and magistrates would be vetted by the Judicial Service Commission before being readmitted to the service.The vetting of judges and the Police Force was one way of saying that corruption in the Judiciary and the Police Force, especially the investigation and prosecution agencies had to be dealt with. With a more professional Judiciary and State Security Agencies in place, it was hoped that criminal activities that went unpunished would be a thing of the past in Kenya’s electoral process.The Creation of a new electoral body- The Independent Election and Boundaries CommissionPart of the reason why elections over the years were riddled with violence and corruption was because the Executive appointees to the Electoral Commission were too weak and powerless to act against the excesses of the state. They had no security of office entrenched in the constitution. They were handpicked by the Executive, hence the temptation to please the appointing authority.
So formally, the opportunity for significant change is in place with the new constitution for the next election. But implementation is very much a work in progress and the new mechanisms are untested or not yet in existence. The individual actors in the process are mostly the same people who have thrived under the Kenyatta/Moi/Kibaki rule in the old system. So tools are available for a better outcome and there is some basis for hope, but clearly no one who is not a direct actor in the Kenyan political system has a sound basis to assume that the next election will not be violent.