Friday, December 21, 2012
Crime Escalates In Kenya As Naïve Decision Makers Continue To Bark Up The Wrong Trees
David Kimaiyo: Kenya's first inspector general who incidentally was director of operations at police headquarters at the height of the post election troubles in 2008. Fighting crime should not be left to the police and he is doomed to fail if the next administration approches crime in the same manner as the Kibaki administration did.
A few days ago a Matatu headed to Eastleigh was hijacked by six smartly dressed gunmen who robbed all the passengers of cash and cell phones.
As I write this post, this incident has yet to be reported anywhere in the local media.
There are a number of interesting things we need to point out about this latest incident. Firstly it happened in broad daylight (at about 2 pm). Secondly the fact that they picked a matatu headed for Nairobi’s “Mogadishu” Estate was no accident. These matatus are usually packed with traders from Nairobi and indeed all over the country headed to popular wholesale venues like “Garissa Lodge” and others where all kinds of items whose import tax and duty has not been paid can be obtained very cheaply thus assuring retailers a handsome profit. They are usually carrying huge sums of cash and it is not unrealistic for robbers to get Kshs 1 million or more from a single matatu headed to Eastleigh. What that means is that anybody hijacking a matatu on this particular route is bound to make off with a very hefty sum of cash. As opposed to robbing a No 8 Matatu headed to the sprawling Kibera slums for instance.
What should really worry Kenyans here is whether the country has gone back to the Major-Hussein-Ali policy of fighting crime by NOT reporting major crimes so as to give the impression that crime was on a downward trend. At one point the police commissioner soldier was literally editing crime stories at the Daily Nation, albeit on phone. You really cannot blame the man with military training who was made a top cop by the Kibaki administration for that kind of thinking. In a military war (as opposed to a war on crime) propaganda is such a critical weapon that it has single-handedly won many major battles and even wars throughout history and when used well can be more lethal than any guns and ammunition on the ground. This is a historical fact starting right from the beginning of time an even in biblical times when a might army was defeated by simply being given the impression that there was a very big army marching against them when in reality there was actually nothing but some serious sound effects from the Almighty himself.
The only problem is that when fighting crime, propaganda has quite the opposite effect. If I was a violent criminal and nobody was reporting about what I was doing I would be delighted. It would mean amongst other advantages, that I would be able to retain my element of surprise on unsuspecting victims. The folks who robbed the Eastleigh matatu in broad daylight can do it again and again and many on the route will not even be aware that this was something that had happened before.
Yesterday we mentioned some of the successes of the Kibaki administration but today it is worth mentioning tha one of their biggest failures has been security and the fight against the escalating crime rate in the country.
For the sake of the next administration it is worth analyzing this failure a little deeper.
President Kibaki came into power in 2003 with the firm conviction that crime was one of the easiest of problems on his long list to handle. All the country needed to do was to find the money to increase the number of policemen and women in the force. This was promptly done but predictably nothing happened. Then they came up with the idea of appointing a tough military man to scare the criminals. This too did not work. Finally the president himself took to threatening criminals during his speeches to the public warning them that their days were numbered. Of course all those in crime must have had a good laugh and escalated their activities.
While it is true that we have just gotten a new inspector general who is probably the most competent and qualified person to ever head the police force since independence, even he will not have any impact on the war against crime until the next administration come to the realization that this is something that cannot be left only to the police. The next administration needs to actively pursue policies that are designed to curb crime.
Fighting unemployment like there was no tomorrow is one thing that must be emphasized from day one. More hidden close circuit cameras all over the city and indeed the entire country is yet another step that needs to be taken. Then we need to seriously look at the budget allocated to intelligence and undercover operations which is currently a sick joke. Lastly we need to come to the realization that the fight against crime never ends and so we need to brace ourselves for that.
There are of course many other good ideas that security experts can come up with. It is important to ensure that experts are involved in the decision making process to the highest level because switching off all unregistered cell phones for instance is not going to reduce crime involving cell phones as some smart alecs seem to believe. Indeed those kinds of crimes seem to be on the rise because my wife received a call recently from a man who told her she had won Kshs 100,000 and she should not send money to anybody to get the prize. But meanwhile she was casually asked if she had an Mpesa account. Much later in the conversation she was asked to enter a strange code that would have cleaned out her Mpesa account.
My point is that I often hear the views of Kenya’s middle class and the rich on fighting crime and just laugh my head off. Most Kenyans are so out of touch with the realities in their own country that it just unbelievable. To start with Kenya’s escalating crime rate has a lot to do with the huge number of foreigners we have allowed into the country many of whom do not have any papers. Especially from countries like Nigeria and Somalia. Some of these people are hardened criminals who see criminal opportunities where Kenyans have never dreamt that any exist. Just to give an example. A few years back some Nigerians took a lot of interest in the Post office at the City Square in Nairobi. They place had no security and so they just walked in late at night and spend time picking the locks of mail boxes to read the letters inside. Other Nairobi criminals must have been more than a little surprised as to what their motives were. However a few months later it was reported that companies and individuals were losing millions to intercepted cheques that criminals had found a way to cash. Indeed this is one of the reasons that led to banks refusing to cash third party cheques over the counter.
Why is it that we don’t realize Kenya is now an international hub with all kinds of characters arriving here daily? Long gone are the days when the most serious crime many sleepy rural police stations had to deal with was the theft of chickens. Despite this we expect the same kind of police force equipped in the same way it has always been to deal with the new realities on the ground. Getting more policemen without looking at a number of other policies is just recruiting and sending sons and daughters of Kenyans to unnecessary slaughter in the hands of a new kind of criminal who is extremely sophisticated and more daring than ever before.
Interestingly I have not heard any of the presidential candidates address this issue so far.
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