President’s praise for the police in bad taste

Tuesday December 5 2017

Strong-arm tactics: The Police use teargas to disperse a crowd that tried to force its way into Kasarani stadium during President Uhuru Kenyatta’s inauguration on November 28. PHOTO| FILE| NATION MEDIA GROUP

Strong-arm tactics: The Police use teargas to disperse a crowd that tried to force its way into Kasarani stadium during President Uhuru Kenyatta’s inauguration on November 28. PHOTO| FILE| NATION MEDIA GROUP 

By LARRY MADOWO
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It is insulting and outrageous that President Uhuru Kenyatta thinks the police did such a terrific job in the period following the two presidential elections that he sent them a glowing commendation.

Is he thanking the ruthlessly violent force for shooting dead innocent children playing on their balconies? Is the head of state proud of officers who beat old women who were caught up in the crossfire between protestors and the law enforcers? How can he be so tone deaf after dozens of people lost their lives directly as a result of police action in the 123 days that followed the August 8 General Election? Even for an out-of-touch leader, this is a new low and it shouldn’t be sugar-coated in polite criticism and mild surprise.

Just two days after he promised to be president for all — those that voted for him and those whose trust he was yet to earn — his note to the police flies in the face of all that.

President Kenyatta might disagree with the protesters’ message of resistance to his administration, but his gushing about how great the police were is an explicit endorsement of their use of excessive force to break up peaceful demonstrations.

“On my own behalf, I wish to commend all officers for their selfless dedication to duty that saw the national police service, with the support of other national security agencies, cover the 2017 electoral process effectively and in accordance with the law,” a confidential signal dated November 30 said.

This sentence alone is problematic in so many ways, not least because the number of laws the police broke with impunity in the last few months are too many to count.

SEAL OF APPROVAL

The president’s seal of approval for the use of state violence on mostly poor people expressing their constitutional rights is astounding, especially when on  August 14 he himself appealed to the police not to use excessive force.

Different independent organisations have produced heartbreaking reports about the numbers of those killed in the election season and any true symbol of national unity wouldn’t want that under their watch.

Look at the findings of Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Independent Medico Legal Unit or even the Kenyan National Commission on Human Rights Commission and tell me if that is a sign of a police operating within the law and worthy of praise.

The families that lost loved ones now know for sure that they are on their own and their president will not be sending them words of comfort, or even an apology, for the pain they have suffered.

It is basic human decency not to dance on the graves of the dead, especially when the circumstances are so controversial but clearly, State House operates on a different wavelength and erasing the dead is perfectly acceptable there.

Police brutality should not be a political issue like  it has become in Kenya. When those whose job it is to protect us turn against us, any right-thinking citizen should worry about the implications of such a dangerous direction.

All those who supported uniformed men and women killing Nasa “goons” or “militia” should have seen the systemic problem when the same officers teargassed and beat  people trying to force their way into the Kasarani stadium during last week’s inauguration.

ARREST, DON’T KILL

We shouldn’t disagree on whether the police should beat  people just because they are out on the streets protesting.

Those in their midst who destroy property or seek to harm people are criminals who should be arrested and charged, not killed. This should not be a point of discussion with two sides; it is just common sense that should be painfully obvious.

That our political differences have driven us to the point of supporting extrajudicial killings is more reason why President Kenyatta shouldn’t be supporting the injustices his administration oversaw.

“I have been directed by the President to convey his commendation to officers of all ranks involved in various stages of the 2017 General Elections exercise for the high degree of professionalism and dedication to duty displayed during the entire period,” read the signal signed by director of operations at the Kenya Police headquarters, Benson Kibui. The translation for this cold communication is that the country’s top leadership is fully behind what is evidently a rogue police force as long as their overreach protects the government of the day from any voices of dissent.

If it were Raila Odinga in power and his government used systematic violence against Uhuru Kenyatta and his followers in the opposition, it would still be wrong.

What is right does not change depending on who is commander-in-chief at any particular time because they swear to uphold our constitution.

The security agencies failed Kenya in this period and we should not equivocate about something as important as respect for human life. All lives should matter equally: those that support President Kenyatta and those that don’t.                              

Is he right? Send your comments to Larry Madowo at [email protected]

 

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TO LEGALISE SEX WORK OR NOT? A MORAL OR LEGAL DEBATE

Its proponents will tell you that it is the oldest profession and has always existed even where it is officially outlawed. Those morally opposed to it might argue that it degrades women, spreads sexually transmitted diseases and creates a permissive society. The Nairobi County Assembly has outlawed commercial sex work in our nation’s capital but residents are still divided. There are solid health and moral reasons for doing so, not least because HIV prevalence among sex workers stood at 29.3 per cent last year, compared with the national average of 5.9 per cent. While Koinange Street has always been at the centre of the trade, streets in other parts of the city have opened up for those who sell their flesh and those who stand ready to buy. Amsterdam’s Red Light District is world-famous for its open embrace of the practice that has led to the growth of a booming sex industry in the Dutch capital.

It is not only a must-see tourist attraction, the social protections availed to the players and the avenues for healthcare mean that harmful diseases are kept to a minimum and regulation ensures that there is almost no exploitation.

The members of the county assembly in the city might have had their hearts in the right place but this issue is much more complex.

 

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DON’T NAME YOUR WIFI THIS ON A PLANE

Everybody knows that you don’t joke about bombs in airports if you want to get where you are going. Once you are airborne, the same rule applies but it is not as widely known. A Turkish Airlines flight from Nairobi was forced to make an emergency landing in Khartoum, Sudan, because someone had named a wireless connection “Bomb on Board” and thought nobody would be alarmed.

“Experts said the wi-fi network in question was created on board,” the airline told Reuters. “No irregularities were seen after security procedures were carried out, and passengers were brought back on the plane once boarding restarted.”

All 100 passengers carried on with their journey, though the statement did not say whether the culprit had been identified. I can’t imagine being on board and finding such a cheeky WiFi network. When you’re 30,000 feet above the ground is not the time to try and decide whether it is a joke or a serious threat.