The attack in which two security guards at a Nakuru shopping mall were killed has brought to the fore how unarmed guards are becoming easy targets of criminals across the country.
In recent months, at least six security guards have been killed and others injured after being attacked.
The guards deployed by private security agencies at various establishments to protect lives and property worth millions of shillings are left at the mercy of criminals as they are mostly not armed.
In the most recent incident, the two Nakuru security guards were killed by armed gangsters on Sunday morning at YKN shopping mall in the town.
The gang made away with mobile phones, laptops and other electronics valued at millions of shillings.
One of the guards was attached to Lavington Security Ltd, which has branches in other parts of the country.
Mr Amos Korir, another guard with the company who was reporting for duty for the daytime shift, said he went to the scene after learning about what had happened to his colleagues, but found them already dead.
According to Mr Korir, the body of one of the guards had several stab wounds while the other one had injuries on the head that appeared to have been caused by a blunt object.
“I froze when I saw the bodies. They seemed to have died a very painful death as they struggled to defend themselves,” said Mr Korir, adding that they found the bodies in a pool of blood inside the mall.
Shocked residents, who wondered how the gang managed to gain access into the building that is usually heavily guarded, now want security officers to mount more patrols in the town to tame crime.
“How can people be butchered yet we have police who should protect us?” asked Mr John Ombati, a resident.
Although police launched investigations into the incident, other guards in the town have raised concern over their security, asking the government to consider arming them.
Led by Mr Robert Makori, they said they have become criminals' targets. “We are always the first people to respond whenever there is crime. How do you expect us to protect ourselves yet we are not armed?” asked Mr Makori.
Nakuru police boss Samuel Obara said security officers were piecing together evidence and following crucial leads to arrest the criminals who fled after the early morning attack. “The bodies of the two had stab wounds indicating that the criminals had used swords and other blunt objects to kill them," said the police boss.
In May, Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i told private security firms that the government will withdraw armed police officers from the Cash-In-Transit (CIT) business from July. He said private security guards were to be issued with guns by July, in a move aimed at tackling crime.
Dr Matiang’i told managers of the firms the government would issue gun licences to vetted companies that would in turn arm their personnel to offer security. There are about 2,000 officers assigned to various security companies running CIT businesses.
Matiang’i made the remarks when he met members of the Private Security Regulatory Authority in his office. He made orders to have the authority start its work immediately and ensure better welfare for guards.
He also said his ministry intends to have centralised data for all guards and similar uniform by the end of the year, adding that the firms would have a centralised command centre to monitor their areas of operation as part of efforts to deal with all forms of crime.
The guards will also have a single identification document and be enlisted for a medical insurance scheme.
PSRA was tasked to come up with regulations on how licences will be issued.