If the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Principal Secretary, Mr Karanja Kibicho, wants to blame anyone for the travel advisories imposed this week, he should start with his colleagues in government.
The United States, Britain, Australia and France issued advisories or updated existing ones to take account of threats in the north-east, Nairobi and Mombasa.
He is right to point out the hypocrisy of western governments; there were no advisories issued after the 9/11 attacks in the US or the bombings in Madrid and London in 2004 and 2005 respectively.
But such hypocrisy is not new. The British government’s reaction to the resumption of an ICC probe into the conduct of its troops in Iraq is evidence of this.
Mr Kibicho says the advisories are only adding to fear and panic. But what is likely to cause more fear and panic: a government that has little apparent idea on how to respond to threats or foreign states telling their nationals to avoid Eastleigh?
Watching Kenya in the last few weeks has been disquieting. Every new security strategy announced by the likes of Inspector General of Police David Kimaiyo and minister Joseph ole Lenku only creates the impression that this is a government that does not know how to protect its people.
COUNTERPRODUCTIVE AND INEFFECTIVE
Newspaper readers don’t need to be told that banning vehicles with tinted windows is absurd. But this ban is likely no less effective a response to a terror threat than demanding matatu crews to screen all passengers or indiscriminately interrogating thousands of Kenyans on the ground that they are likely to be Muslims.
Explaining such inconsistent, counterproductive and ineffective policies is easy. As Michaela Wrong recently argued, Anglo-Leasing left the security services ill-equipped to investigate and prevent the kind of attacks being witnessed.
That taxpayers will foot the bill for that crime only compounds the insult.
With the defence of the border and capacity of security forces undermined by graft, citizens and corporations are providing the last line of defence.
Matatu crews are expected to act like the police while Safaricom will build a modern intelligence and surveillance network at its expense.
The only saving grace of the policies introduced to counter terrorism so far is that they will prove short-lived. Police do not have resources to maintain mass arrests of Somalis.
The ban on tinted windows will be forgotten like earlier attempts to introduce speed limiters. Matatu and bus crews will also ignore the requirement to check ID cards.
Far more dangerous in the long-term than any of the recent temporary populist anti-terror measures are the new powers for county commissioners. There are reasons to object to the resurrection of the Provincial Administration.
The first is disregard for Constitutional reform. A county commissioner representing the Executive at the grassroots is incompatible with devolution.
The second reason is the doubt about the judgement of those appointing people charged with security.
Whatever one might think of Jomo’s presidency, his Provincial Administration and civil service officials were drawn from the ranks of the brightest and best.
The likes of Simeon Nyachae, Duncan Ndegwa and Charles Njonjo left an indelible legacy.
By contrast, some of Uhuru Kenyatta’s appointments have been disastrous.
There is no reason to believe that the quality of appointments of county commissioners will be better. Kenya deserves, and needs, more from its public servants.
Prof Branch teaches history and politics at Warwick University, UK. [email protected]