Key Reading on Kenya Police Action: Mass Arrests “Counterproductive”

The U.S. Institute for Defense Analyses in the latest issue of Africa Watch features an article by Alexander Noyes entitled Kenya: Mass Arrests Counterproductive and Undermine Security Reform Pledge:

Kenya’s vulnerability to Islamist militant attacks should not be downplayed, as tragically illustrated by the Westgate mall massacre last September. That said, the government’s heavy-handed counterterrorism response is troubling and counterproductive on a number of fronts. First, as warned by the KNCHR and highlighted in the April 3 edition of Africa
Watch, such indiscriminate policies fuel a “cycle of violence” that risks further alienating and radicalizing Kenya’s Somali and Muslim communities. Second, the crackdown undermines President Kenyatta’s recent pledge to overhaul Kenya’s security agencies. As the author has argued elsewhere, Kenya’s previous power-sharing government was able to achieve real, if halting and incomplete, institutional security reform successes, including legislative and constitutional changes.The recent mass arrests and troubling allegations against security forces suggest that the Kenyatta administration is more interested in building up the capacity of the security agencies to fight terrorism—fostering the perception of security—than in consolidating any of Kenya’s fragile institutional gains on security reform.
Kenyans going for water

Kenyans going for water

Kenyan Election: KPTJ challenges IEBC and Registrar of Parties; Police remain unready; “Minefield” for Women

From the Sunday press conference of Kenyans for Peace with Truth and Justice, the released statement below warrants a careful reading.  Leading Kenyan civil society groups make it clear that:

the institutions charged with the regulation of political affairs have displayed a disturbing reluctance to enforce their respective mandates with regard to regulating political competition and ensuring adherence to electoral laws. The IEBC has displayed, within the last week, a tendency to buckle under to political pressure by repeatedly shifting timelines relating to the submission of nomination lists at the whim of the stronger political parties. This reinforces concerns around the independence of the IEBC, which were already raised in connection with the intervention by the executive in procurement of biometric voter registration (BVR) equipment.
The IEBC has also displayed a ‘hands off’ policy with regard to its regulatory mandate in respect of the nominations exercise. This is of particular concern because the IEBC will have to make bold decisions and interventions at the March 4th general elections if the country is to observe a credible, peaceful, free and fair election. Of further concern is the huge delay in rolling out civic education. This is despite the forthcoming elections being of an unprecedented nature in the history of elections in the country.

. . . .

The IEBC is required to regulate and monitor the process by which political parties nominate their candidates. The Commission only monitored that process and did not in any way regulate it. It was left to political parties to regulate themselves with disastrous consequences.
The Registrar of Political Parties has displayed an unwillingness to enforce her mandate and powers conferred upon her office by the Political Parties Act to rein in rogue political actors. . . .

KPTJ Statement on Political Party Nominations and mandate of IEBC 27.1.13

“Are Kenyan Police Ready for Elections?:  Force still under-resourced and poorly equipped as March polls approach”, from the Institute of War and Peace Reporting,

As a result of the bloodshed, the government launched a programme of reforms to turn the police into a more accountable and professional force. Although the appointment of an inspector-general in December is seen as an important step forward, experts warn that the force still lacks the skills and equipment to contain outbreaks of violence around the April elections.

“Kenyans should not expect much difference in terms of capacity and professionalism from the police because they have not acquired much [since 2008],” Simiyu Werunga, a security consultant who heads the African Centre for Security and Strategic Studies, told IWPR.

“Women Navigate a Political Minefield in Kenya,” IPS, Inter Press Service:

Blatant discrimination, threats and intimidations, an uneven playing field and a largely unsympathetic public have turned electoral politics into a veritable minefield for women hoping to secure top government posts.

Despite adopting a more gender sensitive constitution back in 2010, in which Article 81(b) stipulates that not more than two-thirds of the members of elective public bodies shall be of the same gender, male-dominated parties continue to make a farce of the little political space offered to women.

“The Long Road to Internal Party Democracy” from The Star via

[Updated] International Crisis Group releases key up-to-date guide to Kenyan election preparations

Toi Market-Nairobi

Update– the Associate Press reports “Analysts: Political Party Polls in Kenya a Failure”:

Political party primaries to select candidates for Kenya’s March national elections have been fraught with irregularities, disorganization and disgruntled losers, increasing the chances of conflict during the upcoming vote, analysts said Friday.

That’s bad news for those trying to avoid a repeat of what happened after Kenya’s 2007 elections, when a dispute over who won the presidency led to weeks of violence that left more than 1,000 people dead. The primary voting this week did little to instill confidence that officials are ready for another national vote.

.  .  .  .

Kennedy Masine, an official of the local Election Observer Group, described Thursday’s attempt to hold nominations as a “phenomenal failure.” . . .]

I’ve now finished an initial reading of the ICG report released yesterday entitled “Kenya’s 2013 Elections.”  It’s an important resource for two key reasons: 1) it is strikingly up to date for this kind of thing, with lots of new information, including footnote references for events even this week; 2) it is relatively comprehensive, covering a lot of ground in substantial detail.  It gives fair, sober assessment of the status of the major areas of reforms that were identified as needed in the wake of the disaster in 2007-08.  I hope it will be updated quickly once things shake out further with the primaries over the next few days.

In fact, you could take this report and prepare a “grade card” for implementation of the “reform agenda” over the course of the Government of National Unity.  Without being cynical or fatalistic, it would simply have to be quite low so far.  Regardless, by gathering a lot of the information that a lot of us have been thinking about in various areas in one place, the report could also be used as a road map to realistically “play to strengths” in the terms of the existing Kenyan institutions and develop last minute contingency plans and “gap fillers” in those areas where reforms and preparation are clearly going to be getting an “incomplete”, such as policing.  Surely it is clear by now that there need to be plans in place for how to provide extraneous security support beyond the Kenya Police Service in the event of a crisis triggered by major failure of the election itself.

Here is the Executive Summary with a list of recommendations.

An interesting point of reference is the NDI Kenya Pre-Election Mission of May 2012, to see what has been accomplished and not accomplished in the meantime.

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”.

Kenyan Military to deploy to Samburu

The Kenyan government announced this evening that the Kenya Defense Forces (KDF) would be deployed domestically to participate in responding to the massacre of, at latest count, 42 Kenyan police officers in an ambush by cattle raiding “bandits” with sophisticated weapons.

It goes without saying that this mass killing of police is a shock in itself.  It is also troubling for its implications for the capacity of the police to address violence in other instances, such as unrest related to the upcoming March election.  The “bandits” are reported to have had weapons such as rocket-propelled grenades that are well beyond the “firepower” associated with the usual run of cattle raids.


Normally quiet American ambassador speaks out to condemn police repression amid rising ethnic/political tensions in Kenya

Having marked a year in the post this week, U.S. Ambassador Scott Gration has generally “kept his powder dry” in terms of availing himself of the Kenyan media to speak out on the Kenyan issues of the day and exhort better behavior from Kenyan politicians and officials.  This is a marked contrast from what we had been used to during the 2008-11 period.

Today, however, is different.  Ambassador Gration is in both the Saturday Nation and The Standard condemning the Kenyan Police for violently blocking a youth-oriented meeting in Limuru called to counter the recent gathering there to revive the old GEMA (Gikuyu, Embu, Meru Association) to foster “Mount Kenya” solidarity against the International Criminal Court on behalf of the suspects, among other apparently divisive purposes.

The U.S. message leads both stories.  From the Nation‘s “US condemns Kenya Police over anti-Gema meeting”:

The United States has condemned the use of force by police to block the Limuru 2B meeting as calls for the resignation of their boss Mathew Iteere over the incident intensified.

US Ambassador to Kenya Scott Gration said the police action undermined the basic democratic tenets in the country.

“It was a grim reminder of Kenya’s past,” said Mr Gration in a statement Saturday.

“Fear tactics and political intimidation should have no place in Kenya under the new Constitution for they can threaten the brighter future we all desire for all Kenyans.”

He said the whole world looked at Kenya with admiration after the passage of the new Constitution two years ago, which enshrined universal rights as freedom of speech and assembly.

This he said, laid the ground for a free and fair election.

While both stories note criticism of the police from figures on “both sides” of the Government of National Unity, the Nation includes a defense from Kenyan Police head Matthew Iteere who alleges that the meeting was being used as a front to organize for the Mungiki sect.  Of course the Mungiki have a role in being a real problem in terms of crime, including ironically the instrumental political violence forming the basis of the ICC charges against Uhuru Kenyatta who the revival of GEMA seeks to protect; they also have served as a “bloody shirt” waived by state security forces including the police to justify extrajudicial killing in recent years.

[Update:  See Muthoni Wanyaki’s “Now we know: Only ethnic mobilization is allowed” in the East African.

So what does the history of Kenya’s military and GSU from the Kenyatta era mean now going into the 2012 elections?

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.

Jerry Okungu, “The Role of the Security Agencies During Elections in Kenya” at Africa News Online.

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 Prosecutions
With 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 Kenya
Because 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.
Among many key reforms in the new constitution:
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 Commission
 Part 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.