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February 23, 2019

Top Honchos Not In Touch With Insecurity

I try to be a decent citizen. You know, not throw litter on the street, not hit pedestrians, let other cars in, stuff like that. But this is clearly not enough.

The president said in his recent speech: ‘No matter how much we do, there will never be one policeman for everyone and unless we work together with the security forces, the responsibility lies on me and you.’

Following this encouragement, I looked inwards, harder, to see what I can do about security. I have decided that I will play my role by helping men. I will help them not to assault me by not walking home from yoga anymore.

I thought that since the yoga studio is in my immediate neighbourhood, it would be a good thing if I didn’t add to the traffic and the pollution, and just walked. But clearly I’m not doing enough here as I’m still causing assault.

Mr Kenyatta has a point there: If you see something go wrong, or someone being attacked, yes, speak up. If you can, that is.

If it’s a bunch of goons assaulting a woman, and I’m on my own, what can I realistically do to intervene? It’s not a problem I believe the President or Cabinet secretaries or MPs will face very frequently or ever, after all, they live in splendid isolation of cars, bodyguards, askaris and high walls, thanks to you, the tax payers. But if you are, say, a woman who had to work late (grateful that you have a job in the first place), and you don’t have the luxury of driving a car, or taking a taxi, then you’re stuck with public transport.

Turns out you’re not only at risk getting to the bus stop and home from it, but also at risk while on public transport.

Well, that’s not entirely correct: what we’ve had our attention drawn to recently (and it’s nothing new) is that women are subject to assault risks because they are women.

But of course everyone is generally at risk from all sorts of other thuggery and crime.

Nobody has asked for a policeman for everyone. Far from it – we’re not that ignorant.

But the Kenyan police, who top the hit list of the most corrupt institutions in Kenya year in, year out, have a good bit of room for improvement. Room for improvement the size of the Sahara desert, I’d say.

I’m glad that some people are being arrested after the recent spate of assaults on women, but this only happened after extensive protests. And they haven’t been convicted yet.

So no, not good enough yet. Not value yet for the taxes that people pay.

Should we be surprised by his statement? Not really. Everyone in business knows that paying taxes doesn’t necessarily get you value.

You run a large flower farm, for example, and you know you’ll have to include building a school and a health centre – not because that’s part of your production process, but because government often does not provide such facilities, or does not provide them with sufficient capacity. In many parts of the country, you need to build your own infrastructure if you want to do business.

If you explore for oil in northern Kenya, you have to pay for administration police to guard your sites. Any business knows that they need to pay for the most basic security, and many businesses will pay the public power utility, but will also pay for their own generation capacity.

Insecurity is costly for business, not just because you can’t rely on government to provide it and have to pay for it yourself.

It affects investment, and it is in the process of wiping out a crucial sector, tourism, and with it significant employment.

That in itself will worsen the security situation significantly: what options do people cut loose like that still perceive?

Yes, we get that resources are limited. Nobody is making unreasonable demands here (apart from the elected officials of the people and nominated ones like Isaac Mwaura who really takes the cake). Yes, we know that improving security and reforming the security forces is difficult. Yes, we know that terrorists are difficult to fight anywhere in the world.

But imposing an interminable curfew for months, killing people who could provide intelligence or handing back responsibility for assaults on individual citizens to said citizens is not the provision of security. Hashtags are not the provision of security.

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