Let us lose friends and do what is right in the eyes of God. We shall gain other friends.
President Uhuru Kenyatta made this statement during a church service last Sunday. He was speaking about how the war on corruption has caused him personal anguish as some of those affected are his friends. However he had a very interesting perspective on it. What you lose in the process of doing good will be replaced.
In Nyeri Town constituency we have been grappling with acute insecurity for many months. Residents had gotten used to having their cellphones snatched. Businesses were being robbed, while house break-ins were the order of the day. The thugs had become so shameless that they would rob you and then tell you if you reported to the police they would know, and they would come back for you.
The town was gradually submitting to fear as people retired home early and locked themselves in. Residents were losing faith in the local police. Thugs were getting bolder. Then a couple of weeks ago they got so brazen that they walked up to my local chief’s home and shot him dead, at 6.30pm, two hours after writing ‘kama mbaya mbaya [come what may]’ on his gate.
This was the point where the community agreed enough was enough. During the chief’s funeral service I told the community that we must agree to partner with the security agencies to clean up our town. Some insisted that we could not trust the officers. Changes were made. Then a security clean-up operation was initiated. People started walking up to officers they trusted and telling police where thugs are holed up.
Firearms that were in the hands of criminals, including pistols, a shotgun and an AK-47 rifle, have been seized. Tens of suspects have been arrested. Several have been killed as they resisted arrest. The town is gradually getting back to where crime is abnormal. We got here using the same logic Uhuru is using. That sometimes we must lose friends to do what is right in God’s eyes. We will get new ones.
One of the conversations we have had during local security barazas is how we must accept some level of social discomfort if we are to get our crime problem sorted. We agreed on the need to carry out our own version of lifestyle audits on our neighbours, children, strangers, etc.
We agreed that if someone has a lifestyle that does not match what s/he does for a living, eg, has a cellphone worth Sh20,000, shoes worth Sh10,000, pays Sh25,000 rent, but it is not clear what they do for a living, then most likely they are criminals. We also internalised a message from our regional commissioner about a woman who hid a hyena from neighbours who wanted to kill it because it was destroying their livestock. She thought it looked pretty. The hyena ended up eating her children, before devouring her.
The Interior CS and the national security leadership have helped us considerably. Nyeri Town is doing much better now and it will get even better. But we would never have gotten this far if the local community had not accepted that we might have to lose some friends to get it done. We had to accept that hiding friends who were doing harm to others was harming us too, and would not take Nyeri Town where we needed to be.
This is the same attitude Uhuru is asking Kenyans to adopt nationally. We need to accept that to successfully and sustainably fight corruption, build national cohesion and implement the Big Four, we must be ready to lose some friends.
But thank God, we will get others.