ONYANGO: Community policing only solution to North Rift insecurity

The security agencies have faced strong retaliation from raiders.

In Summary

• Community policing draws heavily on the importance of relationships between the police and the community

• Government's efforts to restore order are likely deliver very little than those implemented in the past.

The perennial cases of insecurity, banditry, death, revenge, cattle rustling and arson in North Rift region among other areas has led to the deployment of the police and the military to restore law and order.

The move, however, raises pertinent questions. What is the capacity of the military and police to thwart lawlessness in the counties of Baringo, West Pokot, Samburu, and Turkana, among others?

One equally needs to question on the impact of community policing in preventing such violence in the past. While community policing draws heavily on the importance of relationships between the police and the community, the concurrent deployment of police and military in such situations may be undermining those relationships.

In beefing up security in the region, the government has not only deployed security agents and increased resources allocated to the security operation but also employed Kenya Police Reservists in the Kerio Valley.

However, these efforts to restore order are likely deliver very little than those implemented in the past. This is because they do not deal the perennial problem causing insecurity in the region — lack of community involvement. The difficulty faced by the security agencies can largely be attributed to the lack of cooperation with the local communities in the region.

The security agencies have faced strong retaliation from raiders and have targeted security personnel sometimes, the worst being the Baragoi and Kapedo police massacres in 2012 and 2014 respectively. The goals of community policing significantly deviate from the military goal of fishing out and destroying the enemy.

Studies show that militarisation not only causes a civilian-police strain but also makes civilians to perceive the government and military or police as an enemy. This is because militarization creates fear, and genuine people who could have provided intelligence run for fear of being mistaken identity, while businesses close up as local economy dwindles.

The most effective solution would be to strengthen community policing. The community policing model takes a progressive approach aimed at reducing crime and making communities safer, as Michael Lund opines.This is realized through law enforcement officials involving the local communities and seeking their assistance to monitor and prevent crime, especially through reporting.

However, the community policing model needs to be strengthened for better implementation by giving them a “stipend” to motivate the officials involved. The government equally ought to ensure the community policing concept in the Kenyan context is clarified and the roles of different players properly outlined.

Second, the institutional capacity to implement community policing initiatives should be strengthened through provision of adequate resources. Moreover, a performance measurement framework for police officers should be developed to measure the quality of their engagement with the community.

In light of the search for sustainable solutions to insecurity in the North Rift and other regions, investment in community policing is a more productive use of resources. Community involvement in security is, in addition to being a constitutional requirement, an indispensable asset to security agents.

However, like the Mau Mau, these gangs are a direct result of the failure of the state to accommodate the basic aspirations of a marginalised group. Only a genuine attempt to solve historical injustices and give economic meaning to a lost generation in every County can cure future problem.

One must understand that the perennial insecurity or bandit phenomenon is unfinished class warfare partly inherited from colonial rule and the Mau Mau war of liberation.

The legacy of the social distortions, dispossession, marginalisation, and exclusion of the colonial era continue to haunt us. The state must think deeply about social justice and produce a blueprint for bridging the incredible gulfs in the society.

Dennis Onyango is an Advocate of High Court of Kenya                                      

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