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December 17, 2018

With goodwill, Nyumba Kumi system will work

I have full confidence with whoever came up with the plans of Nyumba Kumi system as a way to mitigate the runaway insecurity in our country.

What we wait to see is how the idea will be implemented. If the architects of the good idea will also get the goodwill of the people and especially the county leadership, the plan will work. It has worked elsewhere and it worked long ago when we were young. When cohesiveness in a village or an estate was the way to go.

In Tanzania, where I grew up in the late seventies, the system was in place, although it was used to group 10 houses together to ease up the distribution of state resources to people after the formation of ujamaa. But still, though the intention was not overly to stem insecurity, it had the same effect our Nyumba Kumi is intended to bring.

That is, a situation where you know your neighbour, what he does for a living, when he is there or when he is not, and most of all, when your neighbour is in need of help. We technically speaking, become our brother’s keeper.

Some nay sayers have voiced their concern that the system can only work in the rural areas where population is manageable. That those living in the urban setting cannot be grouped since there is too much movement of people in and out of towns. But I believe it can work. I went to Belgium in 2011.

When I arrived in Brussels, my host was already there to receive me. let’s just assume he could have missed coming to the airport. When I filled in my visa request form, I had to indicate the primary area I was visiting. Even with a Schengen visa, one has to indicate the person or hotel that will host you on the first landing.

So even if I were to get out of airport and take a taxi to a different place than indicated on my visa, then the person named would be followed and will have to answer as to my whereabouts. When he came to the airport to pick me up, we did not drive to his house immediately. We went to the chief of the precinct. What we would call locally as the community police post. Here in Kenya, such posts could be a chief’s camp which has the presence of a few APs, or an established police station that answers to a divisional police station.

Here, I was interrogated again just like I was during the application of the visa. They asked me how I knew my host and how long we have known each other. It was only after I answered their questions to their satisfaction, that they took four copies of my passport photo. A file was opened at the station where they kept my picture, gave one to my host, and gave me two copies.

Only then was my host allowed to drive me home. It does not mean that the plan is foolproof. Far from it. There will always be those bent on trying to break the rules. But if such systems as ‘Nyumba Kumi’ are introduced and enforced, a similar requirement would follow whoever enters into a county ward. If each member of the ten homes are known to each other, a visitor will easily be noticed. If not, the host will have been requested to register a visitor with the county ward rep, or the leader of the ten homes.

In our youth, even without the ten homes system, we still practised it albeit differently. When we closed schools, we would at the least, arrange one or two disco nights within our estates. We would do that at our local social hall. The organisers would be our seniors in high school, or those who had finished and were already employed somewhere. They were our leaders and we respected them. I don’t even remember how they were elected leaders or how the leadership changed hands. We just knew they were our leaders. They knew almost all the young boys in the area and those they did not know were summoned to introduce themselves and they were also required to associate with a certain group within the estate. Any intruder or a visitor was viewed with suspicion until formal introduction was done. This made the work of the police very easy. The famous Patrick Shaw had only to contact the estate group leaders to know there was an intruder in the estate. It can work.

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