Kenya is bleeding; It is high time firm steps were taken to combat insecurity

Wednesday June 18 2014

Some of the police vans that were burnt during the Mpeketoni attack in Lamu. PHOTO | LABAN WALLOGA

Some of the police vans that were burnt during the Mpeketoni attack in Lamu. Mpeketoni residents have criticised security agencies’ slow response following the attack on Sunday night. PHOTO | LABAN WALLOGA NATION MEDIA GROUP

The country is bleeding and it is the wrong time to play political snowballs. We must avoid the temptation to take advantage of the current insecurity to score political points.

The terrorists have us in a bind, divided and inattentive to the larger picture.

Hours into the aftermath of the Mpeketoni slaughter, we began another arduous body-count at nearby Maporomokoni. God forbid that we should be blinded by sideshows as another slaughter is planned.

We are under siege, not just because of the massacres in Mpeketoni. The reality is that we have been under pressure since the days of Al-Qaeda-sponsored piracy.

Direct Al-Shabaab terror attacks have left more than 250 dead since 2012. The toll from other terror-related violent encounters through ethnic militias, cattle rustlers, family feuds, and muggers is not known.

We are not safe anywhere; not in the village, on the road, in towns, at home, in the office, farm, or factory.

The trigger of the rampant insecurity is our leaders’ inability to cooperate to mitigate runaway poverty, youth unemployment, high cost of basic commodities, lack of national cohesion, and political exclusivity.

I believe that the current political skirmishes are fuelled by deep feelings of social, economic, and governance exclusion at the national level.

SABOTAGED POLICE REFORM

In spite of the advantages of devolution, there is a strong perception that the national cake is being hoarded by a few. Focusing on national cohesion and inclusiveness could be the magic pill we need.

Conspiracy theories should not be allowed to prejudice the search for comprehensive security solutions. Name-calling does not offer any solutions.

As we mourn the dead, condole with the injured, and lament the loss of property, we must not allow the actions of the terrorists to increase the fear, divisions, blame, and disaffection bedevilling us.

Sober heads must be allowed to prevail in this crisis. There is no doubt that a comprehensive review of the country’s security apparatus is long overdue. We have played to the gallery enough on this issue.

The two latest attacks underline an urgent need for decisive action to restructure our security apparatus, which is obviously malfunctioning.

One option is to institute an independent non-partisan commission of inquiry to examine the security structures and lapses, with the sole objective of instituting an overhaul.

Let us not debate this matter. Evidence shows that the security infrastructure is in a shambles. It may be that we have sabotaged police reforms to the extent that we are now hostage to the uniformed men and women we hoped to clean up.

We also ignore corruption to our peril. Maybe we have also been excluded from the international terror intelligence system because of our intransigence. These are some of the variables that should inform the inquiry.

CHECKMATE COUNTY GOVERNMENT

Prevarication could be our undoing. The President was recently on a publicity stunt to extol the virtues of shared responsibility on security with the citizenry.

The participation of the county governments in matters of security is provided for in law. Yet the national government seems determined to checkmate the county governments. Local governments must be allowed to participate in security management.

Counties such as Lamu should be given special consideration in terms of security deployment and funding to mitigate the impact of “hosting” terror operations.

Already, the county is on its knees with the collapse of the tourism industry due to marauding terror gangs. It should alarm us that in Mpeketoni, Al-Shabaab has targeted the tourism sector for intimidation.

Lamu County is unique. It is located next to Somalia and is at the frontline in the fight against terrorism. It is a bridgehead for our security forces and the target of murderous fundamentalist operations.

Lamu is a Unesco World Heritage Centre and also the springboard of the mega Lapsset project. The latest attacks have the potential to scare away investors and jeopardise these prospects.

Indeed, this attack could be a deliberate sabotage attempt. We must not allow Lamu to be lost to terror.

Mr Mudavadi, is the Amani Coalition and UDF party leader.