President Uhuru Kenyatta will probably have taken no notice about our reporting of the crisis in the police since he considers newspaper useless and fit only for wrapping meat, but on Tuesday Al-Shabaab struck in Mandera and killed 14 people, which is a hell of a lot of Kenyans to lose in a single attack.
We will never know how effective the response was since the propaganda instruments of the government will likely be throwing up a wall of smoke and mirrors.
The critical question to ask is: how does this response demonstrate that the police have learnt the necessary lessons from previous attacks? To what extent do the security services demonstrate that they took preventive measures and that they have a creative understanding of the security problems ahead of us?
There are two schools of thought in the police crisis. There are commanders who believe that the police reforms have been mishandled, that the service is weakly commanded, and that it is ineffective and a poor guarantor of security.
There is another school of thought that those complaining are illiterate and old commanders who are afraid of being overtaken by younger, better-educated officers. They are also of the view that among Ms Grace Kaindi, the Deputy Inspector General, her CID counterpart Ndegwa Muhoro, and their boss, Mr Joseph Boinnet, Ms Kaindi is the bigger intellect and that she is being fought by men who cannot measure up.
My own view is rather simple. We have been reforming the police for more than 10 years. We are pouring billions of shillings into the service every year, but the welfare of the officers, though much better today, is still unacceptable. Way too many officers are dying in the line of duty, many because they are poorly trained, ill-equipped, and not properly disciplined.
Second, the service is a bribe factory. Corruption is worse today than at any other time I can remember. Kenya is the safest place to commit crime, including homicide: you will never be caught.
I have had police officers tell me that even when they are asked to be alert and on the lookout for terrorists, only a few are bothered. The rest are looking for a quick bribe. Many commanders care nothing for the welfare of the people they lead.
The service is the victim of external interference by politicians and civilians who have mismanaged its resources, stealing funds intended for the operations, kit, and welfare of officers. There has been no visionary thinking from the civilian overlords either.
The police service has a rubbish record in protecting us, especially against Al-Shabaab. Internally, it has a sick culture of compulsive corruption, endemic incompetence, tribalism, and laziness, which has stunted the careers of many bright and hardworking officers and destroyed its capacity to fight and deter crime.
The police service has lost pride and belief in itself. Its soul has shrivelled and it is almost dead. I know these things are written in a medium only fit for wrapping meat: We have a crisis.
My job, as an ageing bureaucrat, is also to pass on the lessons I have learnt the hard way in the business of journalism and life in general. Last week, I was at the sports day of the school that has been so kind as to admit my offspring.
I came late and my daughter briefed me about her performance in one of the races. She came last.
This was somewhat embarrassing because she had been given some responsibility and was expected to contribute to the victory of her team. I howled like a baboon with laughter. Coming last in athletics is a great family tradition.
However, it is her ideas about winning that caught my attention. “I’m in the litter squad,” she said. “This,” she gesticulated airily around the pizza boxes and other lunch parts, “is 100 marks. That’s two races.” And she looked up, knowing we were both probably thinking the same thing: junk the precious pizza for marks, or eat it.
I was surprised by the ruthless clarity in one so young: racing was a means to an end. Yeah, yeah sports and all that is great. Secondly, it is important as a manager to develop a talent for picking the moment correctly when to stop crisis management and move into disaster recovery. In other words, at what point do you stop trying to win through races and chart an alternative path to victory?
My carefully constructed mask of severe fatherly disapproval never slipped but I thought: this one is going to be a piece of work.
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