Category Archives: Law & Order

Choices DO have consequences: Corruption, Impunity and Hubris!

I have just finished reading the article titled Tanzania port project a big threat to Kenya’s economy in the June 2 issue of Daily Nation and concluded that the article is further evidence that Kenya’s future will continue to suffer due to the triple threat of corruption, impunity and hubris; threats that go hand in hand in a circular flow where one feeds the other and creates momentum, while periodically stalled, has continued unabated since the Brits “left” the country in 1963.

http://www.nation.co.ke/oped/Opinion/Tanzania-port-project-a-big-threat-to-Kenyas-economy/-/440808/1869420/-/gpa2ij/-/index.html

The story of Kenya’s culture of “kitu kidogo” is legendary and well documented most recently in the book Wuodha: My journey from Kenya to these United States and in the just-released Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission (TJRC) Report. The latter a comprehensive and detailed accounting of the country’s sordid past, perpetrated mainly by and/or at the behest of the country’s presidents – Kenyatta Pere, Arap Moi and to a lesser extent, Mwai Kibaki.

Speaking from personal experience, corruption at the port of Mombasa when one is trying to release shipment of goods from overseas not only deprives the government of the much-needed revenue, it frustrates well-meaning, industrious and entrepreneurial individuals including non-Kenyans who are not only bringing in the material and revenue, but may also want to start businesses that may in turn create jobs the country so desperately needs. While trying to clear an automobile I had imported from Japan back in 1998, I dealt with some of the rudest, most incompetent and corrupt individuals I have ever met at the Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) office in Mombasa and from all accounts, the problems persist to this day! I paid kshs. 5000, (~$72 at the prevailing exchange rate) to three different employees at the KPA, all who refused to process my shipment and clearance documentation because, and I quote: My shipping documentation was missing some very important pages. Customer service representatives at the Japanese company I bought the car from were insistent that they had sent all the paperwork related to shipment of the vehicle and given my experience with Japanese quality control, I did not doubt their claim. Finally after three days of epic frustration and wasted vacation time trying to track down the “missing pages”, I hired a “clearing agent” who laughed as he explained to me that the “missing pages” were the shilling notes the port employees were used to finding surreptitiously slipped between the paperwork they were paid to review and process! As if being fleeced by the good folks at the KPA was not enough, the “agent”, a friend from high school friend, disappeared after I had paid him his fees leaving me to navigate the meandering maze that was the clearing process at KPA! I finally cleared the car through customs exactly two weeks and almost 0.4million shillings later!

The notion that Kenya has done well despite lacking the natural resources abundant in the neighboring countries is a feeble attempt at the tried and true we may be corrupt but we are not as corrupt as Nigeria nor as dysfunctional as Somalia feel-good meme most Kenyans resort to every time someone has pointed out the country’s endemic corruption and dysfunctional government/polity. In a sobering reality-check, the article by Murithi Mutiga compares Kenya to Singapore, a country that like Kenya does not have much arable land and almost no minerals but with a standard of living that is light years ahead courtesy of leadership that has been ruthlessly intolerant of corruption! Additionally, one just has to look at the impact of the corruption caused by the coffee boom of the late 70s and by the elephant poaching that peaked at the same time to get a glimpse of what would happen if a country already reeling from wanton corruption had more natural resources! Countless human lives were disrupted and lost to the ensuing violence and greed as Kenyans, led by their leaders partook in the orgy of “magendo” or coffee smuggling. Similarly, the elephant population of the country was almost wiped out by poaching that reportedly benefitted the current president’s mother! The scale and scope of corruption in Kenya continues to be possible because the country’s past three presidents – Kenyatta Pere, Arap Moi and Mwai Kibaki – have actively engaged in and condoned the behavior. Friends and families of the 3 presidents have then followed their lead or as characterized during the presidency of Daniel Arap Moi, “fuatad nyayo” without shame or fear of prosecution. Finally, the public sensing the opportunity and not wanting to be left behind in the relentless pursuit of “mbesha” also engorged at the trough and the culture of “something small” or “kitu kidogo”.

The country’s history of single-party rule, centralized decision-making and strong almost imperial presidencies has exacerbated the intensity of corruption. The idea of co-equal branches of government – executive, legislative and judiciary – was just that – an idea that has not really existed. Kenya’s presidents ruled with near-dictatorial power and total control of ALL instruments of power. Kenyatta Pere, Moi and Kibaki had their sycophants and/or relatives head the various institutions/branches of government designed to check the power of the executive. They also controlled the country’s law enforcement and security apparatus; a concept that is not unusual if the organizations are used to protect and serve the citizenry. To the contrary, Kenya’s security and law enforcement apparatus have been used to strike fear in the hearts of and murder its citizenry even as the level of insecurity and violence in the country has risen unabated.

The Greek concept of hubris, a seemingly abstract and esoteric has been on full display since Kenya obtained its independence in 1963. Kenya’s ruling class, their families and friends, not to mention their well-heeled supporters have comported themselves with pride and arrogance that is astonishing. The arrogance and flippancy is embodied in the recent and popular expression “Move On”. The expression has been used by supporters of the victorious Jubilee Coalition to urge, more like gloat at those in the opposition, mainly CORD and its supporters to accept the verdict of the Supreme Court of Kenya that awarded the 2013 presidential elections to Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto and “move on” with their lives. From the assassination of those who fell out of favor with the powers that be – Pio Gama Pinto, Tom Mboya, JM Kariuki, Robert Ouko – to the brutal death of the hundreds and thousands felled by violence such as the Wagalla Massacre, the post-election violence of 2007 and the recent clashes in the Tana Delta reportedly fomented by those seeking to maintain their hold on power. From the massive poaching of Kenya’s elephants and pillaging of its other resources as evidenced by the Goldenberg and Anglo-leasing scandals, the country has “moved on” or lurched from one scandal to the next and one tragedy to the next in a paroxysmal waste of its energy and resources while imbuing the perpetrators of said events with hubris and impunity unrivaled since the days of Meidias, a wealthy and well-connected Athenian, in 348BC. The orator and statesman Demosthenes, in an assault case against Meidias, argued that a democracy’s (Athens) viability and that of the institutions therein is imperiled when the wealthy and well-connected undermine the rule of law, by assaulting others (bodily and property) without suffering the consequences. Kenya’s past is littered with examples of the wealthy and well-connected absolutely undermining the rule of law by plundering public resources and murdering opponents without being held accountable by democratic institutions designed to do that.

Kenya is now faced with challenges that it seems unable to deal with, the New Constitution and euphoria of the peaceful elections notwithstanding. One of the very basic challenges facing it is the insecurity that is rocking various parts of the country. Members of the public are now emulating their leaders and taking the law into their hands while circumventing due process. Frustrated citizens now mete out swift “justice” on suspected criminals. As recent as May 31, 2013, three suspected gangsters linked to a wave of insecurity and violence in Kiminini, Trans Nzoia were accosted by the public as they were being transported to the police station and set ablaze. One witness was quoted as saying that “they decided to lynch the three because they had lost faith in the judicial system.” These incidents are being repeated with alarming regularity throughout the country.

http://www.nation.co.ke/News/-/1056/1868914/-/w4jbc7z/-/index.html

Similarly, beyond the quest for security is the quest for an end to impunity as evidenced by the actions of the villagers of Timboni village who “set ablaze four posh houses worth millions of shillings, claiming they were owned by drug barons.” According to newspaper reports, “the more than 1,500 angry residents gathered at a local mosque for afternoon prayers before descending on the four houses.” A spokesman “vowed that the residents would burn more buildings they believed were built with proceeds from the sale of drugs and lynch the owners because they “were frustrated by an unjust system in which corruption had led to the drug lords buying their freedom from police cells and local courts whenever they are arrested.”

http://www.nation.co.ke/News/-/1056/526270/-/u1wkcl/-/index.html

The contention that the fore-going incidents are anomalies and not reflective of the country is belied by the portmanteau “Nairobbery”; a combination of the words “Nairobi” and “robbery” and macabre ode to the “city in the sun’s” never-ending incidents of carjackings, armed robberies and violent assaults. The name “Nairobbery” is now a fixture in the Urban Dictionary and a term used by the respectable magazine Economist!

http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=Nairobbery
http://www.economist.com/node/1276783

One can imagine the country shaking its collective head and similarly having a hearty collective laugh at the rich irony depicted by the picture of the chairman of the Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission (TJRC) Mr. Bethuel Kiplagat handing the commission’s final report to Mr. Uhuru Kenyatta. To begin with, the commission recommended that Mr. Kiplagat be investigated for complicity in the Wagalla Massacre of 1984, the murder of Robert Ouko and the comparatively pedestrian charge of land-grabbing! Mr. Kiplagat was handing the report to President Uhuru Kenyatta whose father Jomo was singled out, also by the commission, for engaging in massive land-grabbing schemes, crimes against humanity including the torture and murder of political opponents Pio Gama Pinto and Tom Mboya while simultaneously sending Kenya on its spiral towards the abyss of tribalism and tribal politics; a tactic he learned from the very “foreigners” he was castigating in the run-up to the country’s independence in 1963! And in the very essence of the maxims the fruit does not fall far from the tree and the one about those who refuse to learn from history, the recipient of the report, Kenyatta Son is now facing his own charges of crimes against humanity having been accused of fomenting the post-election violence of 2007 by none other than the very “foreigners” who taught his father to “divide-and-conquer” Kenya along tribal lines!

Unfortunately for Kenyatta Son but equally fortunate for the victims of those previously exempted from punishment for criminal acts, the impunity Kenyatta Pere enjoyed in the 60s and 70s went the way of the dodo as the internet beamed pictures of the violence and carnage wrought by tribal violence in 2007. Those ghastly images reminded an international community still remorseful because of its inaction in Rwanda of its collective responsibility to protect the weak and powerless within. Mr. Uhuru and his deputy are having to answer charges of crimes against humanity at The Hague, the embodiment of the very foreign institutions his father railed against!

http://www.nation.co.ke/News/politics/The-past-returns-to-haunt-Kiplagat/-/1064/1860186/-/fm7sg5z/-/index.html

Given the fore-going, is it any wonder that Kenya’s landlocked regional neighbors – Burundi, Malawi, Rwanda, Uganda, Sudan and S. Sudan – are actively seeking to re-direct their shipments to Dar-es-Salaam, Bagamoyo and Djibouti away from the corrupt and inefficient KPA-run port of Mombasa? With a Transparency International 2012 Corruption Perception Index (CPI) rating of 35 (100 being Zero Corruption) and a global ranking of 102 (out of 176 countries surveyed), Tanzania, Kenya’s “socialist” neighbor to the south is ahead of Mozambique, the other sea-faring country along the eastern coast of Africa with a CPI rating of 31 and ranking of 123 as an alternate gateway to the afore-mentioned landlocked countries. Similarly, Djibouti with a CPI of 36 and a global ranking of 94 is siphoning off business from Ethiopia, Sudan and S. Sudan respectively.

Yes indeed, choices DO have consequences!

For the record, Somalia’s CPI ranking was 174, Eriteria was 150 and Kenya was ranked 139 – the bottom three countries in the eastern part of the continent. Somalia is the poster-child and definition of a failed state. Eriteria gained its independence twenty years ago in 1993. Kenya celebrated its 50th Anniversary of self-rule also known as Madaraka Day on June 1, 2013 – two days before this piece was published!

http://cpi.transparency.org/cpi2012/results/

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Filed under 2013 Presidential Elections, Corruption, Democracy, Elections, Governance - Kenya, Justice, Kenya, Law & Order, Politics

The AU vs. The ICC: Racism vs. Impunity

The following explanation regarding the raison d’être of the International Criminal Court (ICC) is taken from the court’s home page:

 “The International Criminal Court (ICC) is an independent, permanent court that tries persons accused of the most serious crimes of international concern, namely genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. The ICC is based on a treaty, joined by 122 countries (effective as of 1 May 2013). The ICC is a court of last resort. It will not act if a case is investigated or prosecuted by a national judicial system unless the national proceedings are not genuine, for example if formal proceedings were undertaken solely to shield a person from criminal responsibility. In addition, the ICC only tries those accused of the gravest crimes. In all of its activities, the ICC observes the highest standards of fairness and due process. The jurisdiction and functioning of the ICC are governed by the Rome Statute.”

http://www.icc-cpi.int/en_menus/icc/about%20the%20court/icc%20at%20a%20glance/Pages/icc%20at%20a%20glance.aspx

 The claim that the International Criminal Court (ICC) is “targeting Africans on a racial basis” as alleged by the presiding chairman of the African Union (AU) and Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn should prompt the same analysis and review as the proposal that the ICC relinquish adjudication of the crimes against humanity charges facing President Uhuru Kenyatta, his deputy William Ruto and radio presenter Joshua Sang to Kenya’s judiciary. Africa and specifically Kenya should evaluate the two issues – a “racist” ICC and independent and competent local (Kenyan) adjudication of the country’s president and his deputy along with Mr. Sang for crimes against humanity – with the honesty and objectivity they both deserve.

A quick search on the internet rubbishes Mr. Desalgen’s claim that “99 per cent of those indicted by the ICC are Africans”. While the current active listing of suspects contains mostly Africans; from Congo, Sudan/Dafur, Libya and Kenya, there is also an extensive list of individuals, mostly from the former Yugoslavia who are non-Africans, who have been indicted and either convicted or acquitted by the ICC. Similarly, there is an extensive listing of non-Africans who were convicted and punished for war crimes at The Nuremberg Trials, the precursor to the ICC. Interestingly enough, the Africans facing charges at the ICC were referred to the court by their own people including Kenya’s own Uhuru and Ruto who ended up at The Hague because their colleagues in parliament did not want them to be
vague”!

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_people_indicted_in_the_International_Criminal_Tribunal_for_the_former_Yugoslavia

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Axis_personnel_indicted_for_war_crimes

One can make a compelling argument that in a fair world – and we know how fair and impartial life is – Donald Rumsfeld, George W. Bush, Tony Blair, Dick Cheney and Condoleezza Rice would all be in front of a war crimes tribunal because they invaded a sovereign country (Iraq) on the basis of cherry-picked and wrong information. As a matter of fact, I would argue that it is the fear of being arrested, definitely of being embarrassed by protestors, that prevent the afore-mentioned individuals from traveling abroad as regularly and as freely as they would otherwise do. In his op-ed piece titled Many Africans are coming to believe that international justice is selective, Mr. Mutuma Mathiu argues that the International Criminal Court, indeed international organizations such as the World Bank, International Monetary Fund (IMF) and even the United Nations (UN) and its related branches are slanted towards the west, particularly the US, Gt. Britain, France and the EU. While I agree with the very general thrust of Mr. Mathiu’s argument, I would also point out that Africa’s history is littered with evidence of its leaders colluding with the same dastard western governments and international institutions against their very own subjects and political opponents not to mention using Swiss banks and similar off-shore accounts to hide their ill-gotten gains. Kenya’s “founding father” and the current president’s father Jomo Kenyatta perfected the art of using the likes of Mr. Patrick Shaw, a British policeman, to do his dirty (political) work of planting evidence, intimidating witnesses and worse!

http://www.nation.co.ke/oped/Opinion/-/440808/1861062/-/ji9o2wz/-/index.html

http://www.nation.co.ke/News/politics/ICC-targets-Africans-on-race-basis-African-Union-chair/-/1064/1864200/-/14tyb02z/-/index.html

http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20120528042454AAdbSmG

http://www.foreignpolicyjournal.com/2012/05/12/bush-convicted-of-war-crimes-in-absentia/

As amply demonstrated by Africa’s history over the last 50+ years, leaders from Idi Amin to Mobutu Seso Sekou via Jean Bidel Bokassa, Said Barre, Jomo Kenyatta, Arap Moi, Charles Taylor and Robert Mugabe have colluded with western countries and western institutions to abuse their subjects and plunder their country’s resources with an impunity that was near-total! Few objective and fair-minded observers can review Africa’s socio-political and economic past and conclude that its leadership has led Africans with the respect and fairness they deserve. One can even argue that most African leaders have failed, miserably, at improving the lives of their people while lining their own pockets and those of their friends, family and tribe, similarly fattening their bellies while behaving worse than the very colonial masters their forefathers fought so hard to defeat! To paraphrase Jaramogi Oginga Odinga from his book Not Yet Uhuru, the average African is still struggling to prevent fellow (black-skinned) African leaders with vested interests from ruling as successors to the administrators of the colonial days i.e. colonialists.

Idi Amin single-handedly destroyed Uganda, a country once referred to as the “pearl of Africa” first by expelling Asians who were the backbone of the country’s economy before embarking on a pogrom that decimated the country’s intelligentsia and brain trust further diminishing its ability to develop economically and socially. Republic of Congo’s Mobutu Seso Sekou, with help from Belgium and the CIA, overthrew the country’s first democratically elected Prime Minister Élias Okit’Asombo aka Patrice Lumumba who was then tortured and ultimately executed by a firing squad. Kuku Ngbendu wa Za Banga, as Mobutu was also known, went on to squander the wealth of the newly-renamed Zaire, a country that was equally blessed and cursed with an insane abundance of natural resources. The sordid doings of Kenyatta Pere and Moi, hitherto discussed in hushed tones, especially during their reigns have finally been made official and public by the recently-released Truth Justice and Reconciliation Commission (TRJC) Report; an accounting of Kenya’s historical record of gross human rights violations perpetrated primarily by and at the behest of the country’s presidents.

I would thus argue that the key difference between the dreaded west – USA, Gt. Britain, France etc. – and say Kenya, Sudan, Congo, Rwanda and former Yugoslavia is the fact that the former have institutions that are mature and comparatively independent enough to handle matters such as crimes against humanity/war crimes involving the rich and powerful without blatant interference and manipulation from said rich and powerful. Can folks at the AU honestly see Hutus and Tutsis dealing with the very genocide they were both victim of? Indeed  Kenyans were given the opportunity to set up local institutions and mechanisms to investigate and punish those convicted of fomenting the ethnic violence after the elections of 2007. Both principals – President Kibaki and PM Odinga – were in favor of setting up local institutions and mechanisms to deal with the issue but were shouted down by none other than the sycophants of the current president and his deputy. The country seems to have forgotten  the chant “Don’t be vague; go to The Hague”. Its members of parliament (MPs) opted to go to The Hague for a host of reasons including the incredulously self-serving belief that the ICC would take forever to bring charges against those accused or that it, ICC, was a toothless organization, especially when called upon to charge the likes of Uhuru Kenyatta. Finally and most saddening and as evidenced by revelations by the Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission (TJRC), Kenyans were afraid that the accused high and mighty would manipulate and influence the proceedings and resultant outcome as they have done in past high profile cases!

Now that the proverbial chickens have come home to roost, the likes of Kenya’s permanent representative to the UN Mr. Macharia Kamau and the chair of the AU Mr. Hailemariam Desalegn are crying neo-colonialism and racism respectively! It is hypocritical, disingenuous and the height of arrogance. These individuals and the organizations they represent – AU and Kenya – would have some credibility if they had demonstrable track records of actions taken against crimes against humanity and impunity by the rich and powerful. As illustrated above and in a previous posting titled “Be a Sage; Push for The Hague”, neither Africa’s leaders nor Kenya’s have demonstrated an ability to do either – address impunity and crimes against humanity perpetrated by the rich and powerful within them.

It is why the ICC, its shortcomings notwithstanding, is a much-needed and powerful counterweight to the likes of Charles Taylor and Slobodan Milosevic, indeed to Uhuru Kenyatta. Similarly, it is the well-documented history of Africa’s “big men” acting with wanton impunity and the glaring impotence of institutions within their respective countries (including the African Union; the ultimate club for said ”big men”) to hold them in check and accountable that make Mr. Desalegn’s cry of “racism” laughable.

The shoes is finally on the other foot and Africa’s masters of impunity have finally met their Waterloo in the International Criminal Courts and they are now crying foul! I say it is about time they were held accountable.

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Filed under 2013 Presidential Elections, Corruption, Democracy, Governance - Kenya, IDPs, International Criminal Court - ICC, International Relations/Global Issues, Justice, Kenya, Law & Order, The Hague

Where there is smoke…..

For a man who was once an esteemed and invaluable member of Kenya’s now-ostracized civic society, Chief Justice Dr. Willy Mutunga is beginning to sound like the very sycophants he valiantly fought against back in the days as a student activist and founding member of the University Staff Union (USU) at the University of Nairobi. The Chief Justice’s tendency to respond, publicly and near-instinctively, to nearly every social media commentary by every Otieno, Kamau, Ole Mpaso, Makau, Mbela and Omwami – my Kenyan equivalent of every Tom, Dick and Harry – is not only beneath his office (of Chief Justice), it is also very telling.

http://www.nation.co.ke/News/CJ-Mutunga-denies-bribery-claims-during-Railas-petition/-/1056/1761342/-/7h5e2g/-/index.html

I am surprised that Mr. Mutunga does not have a “thicker” skin or that he did not see this onslaught of criticism coming in the wake of the ruling on the just-concluded petition filed by Coalition on Reform and Democracy (CORD). Add to the ruling which effectively dismayed and alienated if not out rightly angered approximately 50% of the voters, the manner in which the ruling was arrived at and delivered to the eager public and the apparent tone-deafness of the Chief Justice of Kenya’s Supreme Court is actually very disturbing! In a previous article titled Be Sage; Push for The Hague, that argued for keeping the proceedings for the charges facing Mr. Kenyatta and his deputy Mr. Ruto at The Hague instead of moving them to Kenya, I wrote that “I do not put it past the richest man in the country indeed one of the richest in Africa, Mr. Kenyatta, to use his family’s considerable wealth to buy the acquiescence of the Kenyan Supreme Court ergo his outright freedom or considerable reduction in repercussions stemming from the charges.”

https://thetwoninetyonetracker.com/2013/04/14/be-a-sage-push-for-the-hague/

In light of the allegations the CJ is pining about; it is not far-fetched to amend the foregoing quote to read thus: I do not put it past Mr. Kenyatta to use his family’s considerable wealth to pay the justices of the Supreme Court, including Mr. Mutunga, to rule in his favor in the petition filed by CORD! Frankly it was a thought I had while writing the preceding article on the proceedings at The Hague but did not want to come across as a conspiracy theorist extraordinaire!

Why would the allegation that the CJ was bribed by a yet-to-be-named source cause someone who presumably defended a doctoral thesis and is described by Wikipedia as an “intellectual, reform activist” cause him, Mr. Mutunga, “anguish?”
Regarding the CJ’s hand-wringing, the saying “where there is smoke, there is fire” comes to mind. So does Ogbuefi Idigo’s line “a toad does not run in the daytime for nothing” from author Chinua Achebe’s masterpiece Things Fall Apart (Page 20).

Frankly the CJ’s behavior over the past four weeks do not square up with the behavior of someone who famously told the Judicial Service Commission that he wears an ear ring not because of his sexuality but because of his spirituality. The then-candidate for the position of Chief Justice added that there is no way he can remove the ear ring even if he becomes the Chief Justice: He then concluded by saying that if he was told to remove said ring as a condition for getting the job of Chief Justice, he would tell the panel to “keep the job.”

http://mobile.nation.co.ke/Why-former-detainee-won-race-for-CJ/-/1292/1162218/-/format/xhtml/item/3/-/9xwjqk/-/index.html

This may sound a tad harsh, but Mr. Mutunga is acting like a man whose conscience is troubled! The CJ’s claim that he was “most hurt” by the allegation that he had been bribed during the Presidential Petition is, for lack of a better word, lame; definitely not commensurate with the weight of his position! For a man who heads the third co-equal branch of government; to wit access to the investigative muscle of said institution – the Judiciary – the claim that he “did not know where to turn”, presumably when the allegations that he was bribed surfaced, is equally unbecoming of a man who stared down the Head of Public Service Mr. Francis Kimemia when he was barred from boarding a flight and travelling to Dar-es-Salaam until he got a clearance letter from his (Mr. Kimemia’s) office!

http://www.standardmedia.co.ke/?articleID=2000077802

Memo to Mr. CJ:

Life is not fair; just ask Raila Odinga! The vitriol and criticism, indeed the hate spewed by all sides of Kenya’s political divide, especially in the CJ’s favorite medium – cyberspace – comes with the office. It is also part of the vibrant and open (democratic) society you and the likes of Maina Kiai and Makau Mutua fought for; suffered for!

The churlish reaction of the York University’s Osgood Hall Law School Doctorate of Law grad to the allegations of bribery – that his office has “been the target of attacks, slander, libel and outright indecent, vulgar and unacceptable abuses,” especially in the social media belies the CJ’s constant, repeated and I would argue, savvy use of the same (social) media to make proclamations, including announcing the single most important ruling of his court – the decision on the Presidential Petition! Can you say TOUCHE?

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Filed under 2013 Presidential Elections, Corruption, Democracy, Elections, Governance - Kenya, International Criminal Court - ICC, Justice, Kenya, Law & Order, Politics, The Hague

To Serve and To Protect ALL Kenyans

Some of the comments in response to the article titled “Police siege on Kisumu and Kibera fuelling ethnic hate” written by Otieno Otieno in the April 20 issue of the Daily Nation reflect an ethnic chauvinism that is reminiscent of the racial animus and stereotyping common amongst conservative white Americans towards African-Americans and Latinos here in the US. Comments by bloggers such as Magu Wa Maitha, Mtadao, Frankyzilla, Njanemuiruri, Pikipiki, Zeki Timona and Oldframe that characterize fellow Kenyans as “stone-throwers” or as “having “genes…that invite rioting” or display “the phenomenon of overreacting emotional characteristic..” are similar to the stereotypes that describe others as “thieves” or “dumb”. It is the same bigotry that contends that Blacks are “lazy” and “like water melons and fried chicken”: The same stereotyping that characterizes whites as “serial killers” who like any one of the one hundred and fifty “stuff” listed in Christian Lander’s book Stuff White People Like! To put it bluntly, stereotyping is ugly and idiotic. The behavior should have no place in any discourse – public or private – and those promoting such views should be called out by those of us who want a society where people are judged by the content of their character and not the color of their skin nor the tribe from which they hail.

The bloggers making the argument that the heavy-handed approach to law enforcement by the police, General Service Unit (GSU) and other presidential security personnel is to be expected during “preparation for a presidential visit” or in response to the unlawful behavior of a small section of the population are part of the “law and order” crowd in the mold of William Bratton, Bernard Kerik, Benjamin Hinga, John Michuki, Darryl Gates, Patrick Shaw etc. The strong-arm approach to law enforcement by these law enforcement professionals may have garnered them short-term positive results in New York, Nairobi, or Los Angeles. The same tactics however alienated the very communities they were supposed to be ridding of the crime and illicit activities; the very communities whose inhabitants ended up bearing the brunt of said tactics. I abhor violence and do not condone the culture of “No Snitching” i.e. the unspoken rule amongst some communities to avoid giving law enforcement any information that may help them during investigation of a crime. On the other hand, I can see how police brutality, not to mention fear of retaliation by the perpetrators would foster such counter-productive behavior. It is my opinion that the onus is on those with the power, in this case the police, to break the cycle of brutality and abuse of power so that those they are sworn to serve and protect see them not as enemies, but as friends. The evidence in favor of community policing – systematic use of partnerships and policing techniques that proactively involve the community in addressing conditions that create crime/public safety issues – is overwhelmingly favorable.

I have been within a couple of feet of the “rope line” as former President Clinton “pressed the flesh” in Washington DC i.e. shook hands with the public just before boarding Marine One then Airforce One on his way to Morocco for the July 1999 funeral of King Hassan. In fact, my partner at the time, being from DC, was blasé about the presence of POTUS and inadvertently crossed the security line thereby “contaminating” the previously “sterile” security zone. The ever-present and alert Secret Service personnel hardly flinched or panicked when my friend entered the “sterile zone.” The agent closest to us lifted his left wrist to his mouth and said something into a microphone hidden under his sleeve. He continued to monitor the crowd paying extra attention on me, my partner and her five-year old nephew. I told my friend that she had crossed the security line just as the agent firmly but politely told her to “get back behind the rope ma’am” while simultaneously instructing all within earshot alternately to “keep both hands in front of you and visible please” and “let me see both your hands please.” The agent was calm, professional and efficient. He was also courteous. Needless to say, we all complied, quickly putting our hands in full view of the agent as instructed. I was also impressed with the cool and efficient manner in which the agent handled the breach. Granted not all security breaches go down as I observed on that day but the point is the manner in which this particular episode was handled by the Secret Service (law enforcement personnel) and the indelible and positive impression their professionalism left on me.

The history of acrimony between African-Americans and Latinos on one side and the predominantly white police/law enforcement establishment here in the US on the other side did not happen in a vacuum. The anti-police/anti-authority mind-set that Black American and Latino male have towards the “men in blue’ was caused by the well-documented history of racist behavior and racism within those institutions. Google “Rodney King,” Darryl Gates” and “LAPD” and see what pops up. These same institutions have also made great strides in improving relationships with the communities they serve, not by sweeping their sordid past under the rug, but by opening themselves up to criticism, objective and otherwise from those who were victimized by their brutality and resultant cover-ups. I would also argue that the animus that some communities in Kenya have towards law enforcement and the institutions therein did not happen in a vacuum. Kenya Police, GSU, CID/Special Branch, Nyayo House are law enforcement institutions in Kenya that have a long, sordid and terrifying history of botched and disproportionate responses to peaceful or boisterous and tense gatherings, shoddy and non-investigations of corruption, torture and assassinations not to mention the rampant acceptance of “kitu kidogo” or bribes that one would have to be wilfully naïve and ignorant to disregard said history in any analysis of law enforcement in Kenya.

And before I get mail accusing me of peddling racist, tribal or anti-police views, let me state categorically that the point of this piece is not whether or not Kenya’s law enforcement can do its work by investigating and arresting law-breakers or “stone-throwers” as Luos are derisively called by some commenters. The main point of this piece is to highlight the manner in which the police/authorities have discharged said responsibilities over the years and the consistency with which enforcement has been exacted from one group to the next. Evidence, while sketchy and not as well-documented as it is stateside points to a Kenyan law enforcement establishment that over the years, has been over-bearing, punitive, selective in enforcing the law, corrupt, and a “matundu-ya-uhuru” to be doled out to cronies and tribesmen/women of those in power. The resulting politicization of these institutions is evidenced in the afore-mentioned shoddy investigations of corruption, torture and assassinations not to mention the rampant acceptance of “kitu kidogo” or bribes and a recent addition – extra-judicial killings.

Until ALL Kenyans feel that law enforcement and those who oversee those institutions are impartial arbiters of law and order determined to serve and protect them without discrimination, the anti-police sentiment that is all too common among some communities in Kenya will continue unabated.

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