Now that the Executive has admitted that serving and former law enforcement officials are involved in the commission of crimes, violent and non-violent, why are the Ethics and Anti-corruption Commission and the Director of Public Administration sitting on their hands? Do they not realise that one of the things Kenyans expect from them, whether they are sincere or not, is to "swing into action" to bring this sorry, sordid chapter of the evolution of the National Police Service to a close? While vetting may assuage the feelings of the chatteratti, Kenyans from lesser ivory towers expect "action" and a "return to normalcy" with the declaration of the Commission and the DPP that "heads will roll" and that "no stone will be left unturned" in their "dedicated efforts" to "bring the offenders to justice." It seems that they have forgotten the dictum about "the long arm of the law."
Despite the grim memories of the aftermath of the 2007 general election, in the long run, Kenyans will remember Mwai Kibaki fondly. When he was first elected in 2002, the hopes of 35 million Kenyans rose to heights not seen, perhaps, since Independence. One of those inimitable opinion polls ranked Kenyans as the most optimistic people in the world. What President Kibaki achieved in the ten years he was in power is nothing short of a miracle. The liberalisation of the airwaves and the expansion of the free-expression environment are some of the absolute gains Kenyans must thank Mwai Kibaki for. Without his light-touch approach to governance and political survival, Kenyans would not be in a position to demand things from their government, such as the dismissal of corrupt policemen.
Despite this, there is a dark underbelly to the Kibaki Miracle. Not all Kenyans made the leap from shackles to financial success, especially the hundreds of thousands that form the public service. Many of them resent the creation of the special cadre on special terms and conditions who are coining it even today while the rank-and-file make do with a pittance. many, rightly or wrongly, consider the special cadre as an abomination. It is why, despite some of the most stringent provisions of the law regarding wealth declaration or ethic, many public officers will not hesitate to abuse their offices for financial gain. It is why, for example, policemen will "rent" out their firearms and uniforms to criminal elements. It is why policemen will participate in the commission of vicious crimes. It is why policemen will take money to look the other way when crimes are committed.
Policemen perform a hazardous enough job without us making it more so. Kenyans, sadly, do not care to understand the employment environment of the men and women in uniform. They turn a blind eye to the indignities visited upon them by their government and their superiors. They refuse to acknowledge that policemen live like rats in such abject conditions it is a wonder that more of them have not taken up secondary careers as brigands and bandits. Kenyans simply demand security, but refuse to spend more for it. Kenyans would rather elect and re-elect thieving politicians as a mark of their ethic loyalty. They refuse to acknowledge that the thieves who trouser hundreds of millions of shillings in pay-and-perks ever year are the primary reason why they do not have security, or safety. Until Kenyans are honest about the circumstances they have consigned their police to, safety and security will remain out of the reach of the majority. But they will proudly watch as their tribesman is surrounded by a cohort of well-armed, well-trained gunmen in the name of tribal pride.
The proposal that former policemen will be placed under surveillance to prevent them from engaging in acts of criminality is all well and good. It is, however, the sledgehammer employed to swat a fly. Why not eliminate the incentive of former policemen to engage in crime in the first place? Enhanced pay seems like the most light-bulb clear idea of the day. Of course, it means taking money from some other programme or project. Why not simply yank a chunk out of the fat wallets of the men and women who make our laws? They claim to be serving the nation; this is the moment for them to put their money, quite literally, where their mouths are. It is time that they shared our pain.