Peaceful voters render police ‘jobless’

Saturday August 7 2010

Photo | AFP A voter walks out of a polling station past a policeman on August 4.

Photo | AFP A voter walks out of a polling station past a policeman on August 4. 

By DOMINIC WABALA [email protected]

Police Commissioner Mathew Iteere appointed 9,964 special police to complement the 63,000 regular and administration police officers and further deployed four helicopters to patrol perceived trouble spots during the August 4 referendum.

But no bullets or teargas canisters were fired, and there was little work for the security agents who were reduced to being spectators as Kenyans carried on with voting without any security threat.

The deployment of the officers and other resources, which cost several hundred million shillings, was necessitated by fears that there could be violence, especially in the Rift Valley, which was the hotbed of violence after the 2007 General Election.

The violence, which began after the Electoral Commission of Kenya released the disputed presidential election results, seemed to have caught the police flatfooted, but this time round, the force was not taking any chances.

The preparations began way back in March. Mr Iteere, his deputy Francis Okonya, Director of Police Operations Julius Ndegwa and Director of Logistics Bakari Jambeni mapped out the flash points.

But there was no violence during or after the referendum in which the ‘Yes’ side triumphed. Rift Valley leaders, Higher Education minister William Ruto and former president Daniel arap Moi, who led the ‘No’ side during the campaigns, acknowledged defeat and called for peace.

They had preached peace in their campaigns.

Internal Security permanent secretary Francis Kimemia told the Sunday Nation the government had made good use of the peace committees in the region to reach out to communities in the hot spots.

The efforts were boosted by Eldoret Catholic Bishop Cornelius Korir.

“The inter-cultural dynamic starting at the village level was very helpful, and when police were deployed, it was to help maintain what the communities had already established,” Mr Kimemia said.

In May Mr Iteere had summoned provincial police officers and formation commanders to Nairobi to moot a security plan for the referendum.

In June, the commissioner presented the report to the Office of the President for facilitation.

Head of Public Service Francis Muthaura directed government departments and parastatals to donate vehicles to the force. The government then released Sh100 million for fuel for the vehicles and the four helicopters.

The police, National Security Intelligence Service and National Cohesion and Integration Commission monitored campaigns to check incitement and hate speech.

Kuria MP Wilfred Machage, Mt Elgon’s Fred Kapondi, Cherengany’s Joshua Kutuny and Margaret Nyaguthii were arrested and charged.

The police ran a 24-hour operation centre at Vigilance House. Four helicopters carrying 25 GSU officers each were dispatched to the perceived hot spots in the Rift Valley.