The people of Kenya continue to pay a high price in terms of deaths and injuries from terrorist attacks planned and executed by people who receive legal documents irregularly or who recruit Kenyan citizens to carry out such attacks.
If we are serious about fighting terrorism and securing the homeland, we must focus on a comprehensive examination of our security challenges and put in place measures to respond to these challenges.
We do not need to re-invent the wheel. We can formulate solutions based on measures that have worked in other countries facing similar challenges. In this regard, it is undeniable that when it comes to security, Israel and the US are second to none.
Part of the effort towards tackling the security crisis in Kenya must include a re-examination, review, and eventual overhaul of the Immigration Department similar to that which was undertaken by the US following the 9/11 attacks.
The US government moved swiftly to re-examine the country’s security challenges and formulate measures to meet them. The government of Kenya must re-examine the country’s security apparatus, structures, and institutions and embark on initiating and implementing measures to address the myriad challenges that will be unearthed.
The first and main area that the US targeted in its response to 9/11 was the overhaul of its immigration structures and institutions. The Department of Homeland Security was formed. It was divided into 16 streamlined agencies that include the Citizenship and Immigration Service (CIS), Customs and Border Patrol (CPB), Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Transportation Security Agency (TSA), and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
Each of the agencies serves a clear and specialised mandate to ensure efficiency in service delivery.
Securing the homeland was prioritised, with the US Department of Homeland Security becoming the third largest government department in size and funding. Its establishment came with rigorous and crucial training of key staff to handle existing and emerging security challenges and to secure the borders. As a result, there is a marked decrease in terrorist activities in the US.
TRAINING OF SPECIAL UNITS
Other measures included consolidating responsibilities to avoid duplication and investment in new technology.
In addition, the American people were quick to take ownership and responsibility for their security individually and collectively. For instance, citizens reacted overwhelmingly positively to a widespread and vigorous campaign that was dubbed “If You See Something, Say Something”.
Neon billboards were set up on major highways for the purpose of running security alerts and displaying a toll-free hotline number for citizens to report suspicious activities.
The core US agencies that ensure homeland security are CIS, CPB, ICE, and TSA. In the Kenyan context, a similar structure can be adopted to avoid security lapses and promote efficiency in ensuring interior security. Indeed, CBP, TSA, and ICE officers are uniformed service members and perform quasi-policing roles with powers to arrest.
The same approach could be adopted in Kenya with appropriate adjustments to respond to the country’s unique needs. This would require investment in training of special units within the Kenya Immigration Department to handle, for instance, customs and border patrol and to respond to calls to arrest illegal aliens as well as to patrol priority areas. It would also require recruitment of staff with a high level of discipline.
Above all, we must undertake an audit and review of the operations of the Immigration Department with a view to re-examining existing policies and structures in order to make the changes necessary to seal security loopholes and tighten the rules to minimise irregular issuance of passports and other documents and prevent and detect corruption.
Of course there are other major issues that need to be addressed, some of which the government is already doing, such as hiring of new police officers.
When it comes to security, one of the government’s chief responsibilities, all measures needed to secure the interior must be considered.
Ms Njogu is an immigration attorney in Washington DC