The Kenyan Community Abroad acknowledges the current reality concerning insecurity in Kenya. While we encourage tourists to visit and feel free to travel in a country that is still safe in many places, vibrant with life and always welcoming, we must acknowledge that the feeling of insecurity has become pervasive and threatens a growing economy.
We call for bold and lasting measures that will start anchoring the feeling and presence of safety in Kenya. We suggest:
1. Overhaul the country’s security system from the very top. Kenya needs a security system they can trust; security leadership that reassures and provides bold ideas in times of deep national crisis. We appreciate that global terrorism is still a complex matrix that many countries are grappling with. While a lot of information is shared on a need-to-know basis for security reasons, a country’s security personnel still requires appropriate training and retooling to deal with the local terror attacks in a way that makes the people feel assured.
2. Develop tangible security processes and procedures that enhance and maintain our nation's security. This includes training of a security forces for fast-response anywhere in the country. Too often, response is slow and limited, sometimes tainted with scandal. The Kenya Defense Forces in Somalia have been reported as doing a commendable job. But more importantly, we need competent, motivated and highly skilled security organs within our borders. Promotions and assignment of responsibilities need to be strictly on merit and reflect a “face of Kenya”. Insecurity affects us all and in dealing with it we should all be involved.
3. Demand responsible politics: The voting citizenry should demand that politicians on both sides engage in politics that solve problems. Currently, outsmarting each other and point-scoring instead of maintaining a focus on actual solutions defines Kenya’s politics. At the heart of insecurity is youth unemployment. Some of the criminals who cause misery to thousands of Kenyans are well-educated unemployed youth. We need to see concerted efforts made to create jobs. Only a safe country can ensure an environment conducive to jobs creation. Huge disparities in wage packages also create discontent a volatile environment.
4. Growing security models organically. There is need for local leaders to engage communities in developing ways of ensuring they feel safe. Feeling safe is a natural product of trust in any community. It’s also the key incentive that drives investment in daily activity, from farming to education, travel, entertainment and construction. Without these ordinary investments that give us purpose for living, communities crumble under the fear of insecurity, families flee their homes, and poverty digs its heels deeper still. It’s important that local governments invest adequately in social models that build unity in increasingly diverse communities. Ethnic cleansing and dogma-driven attacks are barbaric solutions to powerlessness.
Organic security models involve initiatives by the very people who have faced attacks, those who grieve from loss, and those who now live in fear of terrorism. These models could include setting up community businesses for idle youth who often make easy recruits into gangs and militia; churches and mosques that drive gainful philanthropy and preach peace through collaborative community projects; and awareness campaigns by interest groups that positively address every divisive issue.
The local police have to become part of the community they serve regardless of their ethnic background. A cattle herder is safer not only because there’s a well-equipped police post in his village, but because it’s a post with officers trained in winning trust in the community. Too often, police officers become targeted enemies from within the community and are the first to get killed.
Equally, a passenger would feel safe not only because every matatu in the city has the very best possible security system installed, but also because commuters have built networks of looking out for each other without profiling along negative ethnic stereotypes. Lasting security requires visionary leaders in every sector becoming aware that they need to inspire models of trust and vigilance which complement government’s security structures.
July 1, 2014