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January 21, 2019

Admit It, We Let Each Other Down

I'M HURT:: Machakos senator Johnstone Muthama displays injuries he sustained after Opposition MPs protested in parliament during the Security Bill debate
I'M HURT:: Machakos senator Johnstone Muthama displays injuries he sustained after Opposition MPs protested in parliament during the Security Bill debate

I’m still a little shell-shocked and bemused with the sheer madness we witnessed in the past week in the name of our new security laws. The reason I say “in the name of” is because the security bill, now law, wasn’t even on the agenda in the national assembly. If we can’t be honest about anything else, let’s be honest about that.

Cord went there to prove a point and score bully points. Their mission was singular — they were out to ensure they made headlines, got some twitter cred, got featured on television shows and radio interviews. It’s a no brainer — be as antagonistic as you can be and the cameras and microphones are all yours.

Jubilee were there to flex their might as the 'ruling’ party and the rest of us, media included, were there to cover the event. Kwisha. It was WWF the Muhesh edition.

Watching the speaker that morning, I knew that bill was a done deal. Muturi is usually very calm, very collected no matter how crazy mheshimiwas are. But that morning, he wasn’t. He had a job to do, the outcome had already been prescribed and we all knew it, the rest was just entertainment as we waited for the inevitable. We were spectators at our funeral.

The security of Kenya and Kenyans was not on the agenda when that lot got up in the morning. People who carry firearms and have security for themselves, their wives, mistresses, toy-boys and pets, don’t really care about our security — let’s also not kid ourselves that anyone showed up for us. Good so far? Great.

Speaking of us, we haven’t read the document, have we? Reminds me of the lead up to the 2010 referendum; lots of noise, no substance. This thing was in its third reading and THEN we got all hot and bothered. What were we doing before that? Oh, I keep forgetting, Vera had a new skin tone, new twins and new hair and Huddah had posed next to a new car. That’s what we were doing while the bill went through the first and second reading.

So please forgive me if I don’t join the chorus of those vilifying Uhuru. I’m not pretentious enough to castigate anyone after the fact. I was drinking Ketepa tea, shopping on Jumia and dipping my Co-op Visa card. I was busy getting on with my life and like you, while I was doing that s**t happened. If we had gotten all hot and bothered in the first and second reading, the third wouldn’t have been a given. We were caught napping and then we got up from our slumber kicking and screaming. We let ourselves down. I have spent time trying to go through media to see how often we raised the flag on this matter before December 15 and there isn’t much.

Aside: Those eight young men who were arrested as they “occupied parliament’. I hear bail has been set at a ridiculous amount and from Boniface Mwangi’s tweets and FB posts, it may mean spending Christmas as guests of the state. I would like to suggest that they are handed a copy each of the new security laws so they can familiarise themselves with the issues. If Boniface is to be believed, they went to parliament because Cord told them to, not because they had read and understood the bill and had genuine misgivings about it. Really? We are still doing the bidding of people who don’t do as they say? Seriously?

I’m a big believer in watching and learning from those who have walked this path of insecurity and terrorism. In the aftermath of everything, we hate and will continue to hate about our new security laws. Allow me to point out that the international community hasn’t condemned the entire item outright. All we’ve heard are mumblings such as ‘some concerns' about the new security laws. Very telling.

I can hazard a quick guess. If you look at the writings and reports by many security scholars and counter-terrorism expects and one Jeane J. Kirkpatrick, Senior Fellow for National Security Studies, Council on Foreign Relations; they all conclude that a near absence of terrorist incidents in the United States since 9/11 points to the success of the Bush administration's counter-terrorism measures that once stirred controversy but now have bipartisan acceptance. Aha!

I remember following closely the debate of what Bush’s counter-terrorism measures meant for American civil liberties back in the day. A decade ago, a lot of attention was focused on President George W. Bush's counter-terrorism agenda that have drawn criticism from civil libertarians and others in the United States and abroad, including the USA Patriot Act, warrantless domestic surveillance, extraordinary renditions, harsh detention and interrogation policies, the opening of a special detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, and efforts to curtail judicial review of such matters.

So allow me to state a few uncomfortable things about us and where we are and how we fit into the international counter-terrorism puzzle and why we all need to get a grip once we straighten our collective panties which all seem to be in a twist right now:

Having a counter-terrorism strategy is vital. It prevents over-reaction in the aftermath of an attack . Will we will be constantly on alert? Yes. Everything changed after 9/11 and nothing will ever be the same again after Westgate or Lamu or Mandera. Code amber, all the way.

Most of us tend to suffer from a “counter-terrorism fatigue” in between attacks. There’s this crazy belief that when there have been no attacks there is no threat. Not true. Security and counter-terrorism is an ongoing issue.

Fact: this is not 1988 and Moi is not in State House and the world is a colder, meaner place than it was back then. We can’t pine and hunger for those good old days — sorry, they are gone. Our biggest issue those days were cattle rustlers. Today it’s some bad arse guys who happily shoot children.

Fununu zakuaminika can’t help us. The world we now find ourselves in is fuelled by data. The wonderful thing about data is that even “lone actors,” like Norway’s Anders Breivik, leave traces. We all need to share more relevant information and that includes information held by the private sector (passenger name records, mobile phone data, what people search for, addresses etc). Please relax, nobody is interested in your chatter with your mistress or boyfriend or chama. The stakes are a lot higher — get over yourself. Seriously, what do you have to hide? For as long as I have worked in the media there have always been rumours that my phone and that of other media personalities is tapped. Who cares? I’ve never said anything in private that I haven’t said in public. I had a microphone and I used it and then you called me controversial. Nkt!

Terrorism knows no borders. Please note once again the low key mumblings from the international community. When Kenya is not safe, no-one is safe. Most terrorist organisations have international connections. Terrorists travel to training camps in crisis regions and return. Terrorists do not respect borders. However, law enforcement must respect borders and yet do what it can to track and trace the bad guys. The balance is delicate, but the price for not being bold enough to dare is unacceptable.

My final word goes to President Uhuru. I hope the law as it stands is something you can trust your political adversaries with. I’m a big believer in prosperity and if you can’t trust that if you’re not in office for any reason, you couldn’t trust your enemy with that law as it is, then you have reason to worry. Heavy is the head they say… I’ll leave that one to you.

Also beyond all the noise, there’s real work to be done. Kenya is a country that looks very good on paper but we don’t do any work or commit real time and resources to making good on promises. Sir, read up on the Strategy for the Sahel. Development needs security and security needs development. There won’t be any lasting security without development. Why? Because where there are no economic alternatives for young people, except crime and collaborating with the terrorists, even the toughest law on the books will have a hard time succeeding and you know how rubbish our security forces are at implementing the law. Think it over during your Christmas break.

In fact on that note, allow me to wish us all a peaceful, terror-free Christmas. It’s all we can truly ask, of the Prince of Peace. Be well. Be blessed. Stay boldly Kenya.



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