On FM radio stations and blogs, many Kenyans support last week’s cold-blooded execution of three suspected criminals on Lang’ata Road in full view of motorists, including mothers taking their young ones to school.
The same public was captured on camera cheering on one of their own assaulting and humiliating a police officer in uniform. They have little sympathy towards police officers killed by criminals. They themselves lynch suspects.
These are worrying symptoms, very worrying indeed. They are the early warning signs of a State on the road towards failure.
The post-election violence was not out of the blues. The signs were there all along. Nor are we out of the woods yet.
Witness the effort to guarantee impunity by undermining the International Criminal Court while paying lip-service to the plight of the internally displaced persons.
Do not be blinded by the skyscrapers going up everywhere and the road construction. Security and how a State deals with it is the barometer.
These are symptoms of a police service which has no confidence in itself to secure law and order within the parameters of the rule of law.
True, the police budget in Kenya is woefully inadequate. They are under-staffed, poorly paid, housed in deplorable conditions, under-equipped and generally un-motivated – fertile climate for corruption.
They complain that the suspects they believe should have been convicted are routinely acquitted by courts (the courts cite shoddy investigations) to return to crime, and therefore kill them on sight. And many Kenyans appear to agree!
In the slums, government presence is virtually non-existent. Criminal gangs are the “government”. They charge “taxes” through extortions or protection fees.
The residents accept these gangs and pay the taxes. Some up-country areas are not much different. There, the government exists more in name than in reality.
One of the defining characteristics of a functioning democratic State is the capacity of that State to secure her international boundaries and to guarantee her citizens (and visitors) security within the framework of functioning institutions, police, investigative and prosecutorial agencies and, of course, the Judiciary.
Faith and trust of the citizens in these institutions is an essential prerequisite. What we are witnessing in Kenya today is a total lack of confidence, trust and faith in these institutions, hence the high approval ratings for extrajudicial executions and lynching of suspects.
Yet, statistics show that crime levels escalate, not go down, when the police violate the Constitution and the law in the name of keeping law and order. Criminals become emboldened and show little mercy to their victims because they know their fate, if caught.
Internal Security minister George Saitoti announced the “stepping aside” of the police officers involved in the Lang’ata road executions “to facilitate investigations”.
The executions were captured on camera and witnessed by the public. What “investigations” and by “who”? Why are the suspects not in custody or in court?
These special squads have their supervisors in the police chain of command. These supervisors will protect their “boys.” If public pressure continues, they may eventually be arraigned in court, but the investigations will have been conducted by their colleagues.
Remember the Kisumu incident where the execution had been captured on camera? During the investigations, the “offending” gun was “inadvertently” exchanged, leading to the acquittal of the suspect!
More fundamentally, can Prof Saitoti inspire faith and confidence in the public mind to oversee police reforms and re-structuring? He has been at the very core of the system that saw the police rot to its present sorry state.
The hope lies in the faithful and full implementation of the new Constitution. It is a good document but only if implemented in full.
Seeing that many of the beneficiaries of land-grabbing, corruption, abuse of office to enrich themselves at public expense or their children or grandchildren – biological or political – are the ones in key positions across the political divide, full implementation of the new Constitution is a challenge.
A way forward is for the Commission for the Implementation of the Constitution to identify and isolate those provisions critical to the 2012 elections – the Judiciary, Police Force, public service, electoral laws, devolved government and, of course, the Electoral and Boundaries Commission.
Fast-track these so that peaceful elections can be held in 2012. Hopefully, that election will usher into power a government with the capacity and will to faithfully and fully implement the new Constitution, rejuvenate institutions of State and restore the faith and confidence of Kenyans.
Mr Muite, a senior counsel, is the leader of Safina Party, and a former MP for Kikuyu.