The problem with Africa is that those with ideas have no power, and those with power have no ideas -PLO Lumumba
A letter to the CS, Hon. Matiangi
I write to you, not as a concerned citizen but a tired and resigned one. A citizen tired of everything there is to do with the police service. Just as some laws and regulations in this country are irrational, the police make the already dire situation even more nauseating. Gone are the days when I got thrilled seeing police cars pass by. When I would attend police parades with my father and feel proud that he served the government. As I grew older, I started smelling the stench that was buried within decaying ‘cops’. A police service streaked with a smudge of corruption, theft, inhumane behavior and not to mention brutality.
The police in Kenya have always been a force and not a service. The government may lie to us otherwise or we lie to ourselves so, but that has and always remains a fact. When moving from being a force to a service everything remained intact but the name. A learned man like you sir would term that as hypocrisy.
I will not teach you the role of the police sir, since you know better, but rather I will question what the police do. As a linguist and a literalist, you understand that police in a community or a given set up should be more of conjunction and not a disjunction. Police efforts should focus on helping and not disrupting, soothing, and not creating new wounds. The problem with our police force as is the problem with our leaders in this country is not to learn, but to unlearn and delink from the concepts of their colonial masters.
It would be both a scam and a joke if you explained to a tourist that our traffic police officers’ jobs are to arrest and tow away traffic offenders. Unfortunately, that is what they do all day, alongside chatting on their phones. A person of your caliber sir doesn’t require a mathematician to calculate how efficiency is reduced here. Owing to that, they are the ones who cause jams instead of easing them. They do these why? Because the government needs money. If you look at it from the rational vantage point, it sadly boils down to theft, deceit, and extortion. Only this time, by a government. Why would a police officer whose responsibility is to man a traffic checkpoint get into my car to ensure I drag it downtown? Is it part of their job description? Where in our constitution is it written like so? All the more, they’ve disrupted my plans for the day, my earning, my meetings, and my work. I have to spend the whole day begging for them to let me go when I would be contributing to the economy.
It is a shame sir, that we call ourselves East Africa’s economic powerhouse when all we are, are a corrupt and stagnant system. In Tanzania or any other country with a police system that reasons, they do not tow away vehicles or escalate situations that can be avoided. A traffic offender is given a ticket and they will pay within two weeks, failure to which they may be arrested. This is comprehensible punishment or motivation however you think of it. Traffic police help mothers to board and alight in place of battering them as our police do. Who does that? Even cows do not horn their mothers. The police in Tanzania respect the rules first as a substitute for flouting them as ours do. They give warnings and ease traffic rather than escalating them. To say the least, our traffic police are part of the problem in this country and not a solution. At least not at this time.
Second I’d like to focus on police brutality. It is not a secret sir that our police behave more like animals than humans. To them, anyone who’s not police is a potential criminal. A potential offender and to some, just animals who don’t matter. I’m confident sir that you read the Ransley report for police reforms. It is not a disputed fact that our police record for killing the innocent is worse than gang killings. Even more painful is that, these sick murderers are never brought to justice. They will be transferred somewhere else to go continue the massacre. To the end of May 2020 sir, reportedly, our police in the name of enforcing Covid-19 guidelines killed more citizens than COVID-19 itself. How can the law be implemented by killing innocents?
As a community leader, a dad, an elder and a person with responsibility are role models. So should be our police. They have been mandated to keep law and order. Yet they break it first. A police without a mask arresting a citizen coz she didn’t wear a mask, how do you call that sir? Irony. You call it irony. Increasingly, why can’t they-citizens-be corrected in a nice and more sublime way, a way of the civilized. Should everything police involved have violence included? Why would ten police officers clobber and pummel an unarmed Kenyan citizen just because they broke curfew rules? Isn’t there a way of telling them to turn back and head home? Does it have to escalate?
Dear Sir, our intelligence service is just as embarrassing. You heard about people being tendered to supply air? Taxpayers are paying for air in the name of NIS and the CID. These institutions have done absolutely nothing to be credited as legit and functional. Unsolved murders, where the kin cry for justice for eternity. Crimes committed but rarely investigated. Corruption cases seldom reach pretrial, and the list goes on. Our intelligence ‘service’ has a job to intimidate and silence citizens who shout at the governments for their rights. Just like our government which hasn’t done anything really tangible, the NIS is so much a negative force. While I cannot deny that the information gathered is used to protect the political elite and leaders in this country, it has literally done nothing for the Kenyans we call ordinary.
I will be doing you a disservice if I did not tell you the root of the problem for the educated are supposed to find solutions to problems in society. The selection of police officers for training is nepotic, tribalistic, and corrupt.
As a man of vision, you acknowledge that results are heavily dependent on the process and input. If what we call the police are a graduate of Kiganjo, and any other police college, then the training is also a façade. It is frustrating enough that we select individuals whose names finalized exam lists to police and enhance coherence in our societies. For this is a noble course. Even worse is to deny them emotional intelligence training. While we can forgive their failing exams because our education system is also fake, it is utterly unacceptable to allow officers with low emotional intelligence to police the community. For when trained individuals behave like goons and gang members, we’re bound to question their training system.
I’d like to pique your mind sir and remind you that, good policing in the society is such a paramount factor in building a nation. Sadly, we’re more focused on building a country than a nation. I would love to live in a Kenya where I don’t have to worry about being arrested. A Kenya that I feel proud being part of. A Kenya where I don’t have to anguish over being abused and brutalized by some intellectual and emotional dwarf. I would love to live in a Kenya where I’m protected by police, not vulnerable. Where my money is mine and not for the state.
But as we all know, that the vision 2030 is but a dream. Kenyans live in fear of gangsters and police not knowing how to define who is what. They all operate the same. The difference may be that, one forcefully robs in the name of the state, while adorning a uniform.
Our law is based on threats. If you don’t wear masks you’ll be arrested. If you don’t file returns you’ll be fined. And now if you question the police you’ll be killed. While this may seem normal to others but to a learned mind, it is troubling.
I know I can’t ask you to do more on corruption; ‘coz leaders in this country will just impeach you. It is larger than you. I can’t ask you to amend laws to make them less animalistic and more humane for you’re just a CS. I can’t tell you to fire the whole force, for the owners of this ‘benevolent’ country cannot even let you imagine that. What I can ask of you though is to rethink the whole police issue and make changes where you can.
I write to you sir ‘coz you’re a thinker, an academician, a learned man, something I appreciate. It is commonly rare to find a leader who is and who does that. Some of what we have are cows and slaves to political kingpins like someone said in parliament the other day. I can only imagine how the voters feel knowing they chose a cow.