Kenyan Election Violence: why would anyone expect the Kenyan Police to play a positive role in March 2013?

(As an aside, here is a headline to pause over from the Daily Nation“Sudan’s Islamists need new blood: vice president”.)

On Kenya’s police, Jeffrey Gettleman has an outstanding story in the New York Times: “Police Killing in Kenya Deepens Aura of Menace”.  Gettleman ties a compelling story of what amounts to the “typical” extrajudicial execution of two bothers in Nairobi’s slums to the massacre of new police recruits in Samburu:

The two episodes were hundreds of miles apart and technically had nothing to do with each other. But beneath them was the same rotten root: a spectacularly dysfunctional national police force.

“On a scale of 1 to 10, I would give our police a 2,” said Macharia Njeru, the chairman of Kenya’s new police oversight board, citing corruption allegations, human rights abuses, extrajudicial killings, failed inquiries and lost public trust.

“The list is endless,” Mr. Njeru said.

.  .  .  .

“On the face of it, it’s quite clear that the police leadership totally failed,” Mr. Njeru said. “The senior commanders were sleeping on the job.”

Kenya’s news media have characterized the massacre as the single most disastrous episode for the Kenyan police since independence in 1963. Unlike Kenya’s thriving business community, its booming safari industry or its reforming judiciary, Mr. Njeru said, the national police service has intentionally been kept weak for decades so it could be manipulated by politicians.

The concept of the various reforms under the new Constitution is great, but surely it is time to face the fact that it is simply too late for deep substantive change.   Of course every effort should be made by Kenya’s international supporters to intervene and step up as well as possible, but let us not kid ourselves.  It has been almost 59 months since the 2007 election disaster–the Kenyan police are still in the state they are in, with less than four months to go to March 4, 2013 because the Kenyan powers that be chose the status quo instead of reform (and for obvious reasons).

Again, please remember that current Kenyan Police Commissioner Mathew Iteere was the commander of the Kenya Police’s GSU (“General Service Unit”) branch during the 2007 election and its aftermath.

Let’s see what the Kenya Police official website has to say about the status of reforms today:

.  .  .  the Government has made some important steps. A task force appointed in March 2003 is drawing a road map for the Police Reforms. The Commissioner of Police is committed to a Police Force whose members are motivated, people friendly, open, relaxed and honest with one another and the public; know their role and mandate and be proud of their job; appreciated by the public…

The just concluded Constitutional review holds a promise for the establishment of an emancipated Police Service, that will operate in conformity with democratic transformation from the current practice of Regime Policing to Democratic Policing (Community Policing)

These measures augur well with the Police Reforms as well as the goodwill of citizens. An international survey conducted in January 2003 placed Kenyan’s as the most optimistic citizens in the world. The Government will do well to tap into this optimism. It is the energy that will drive the nation’s transformation to Its desired destination.

For citizen’s security:this is the moment.

Yes, 2003 was in fact “the moment”.  Let’s not let 2013 be remembered as a different kind of “moment”.

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