Who is to blame for arms proliferation in Northern Kenya? By Samwella Lerno

Samburu County
Election safari correspondent at Siasa Place

Laikipia North at its border points with Samburu and Baringo smells of death, it is littered with dry bones and carcasses. Hopelessness hangs in the air and you can feel despair from the triangle-shaped iron roofed police huts at Lmarani to the ashes of what was once Pokot villages in Lonyek, not to mention the now soot black ghost of Mukutani Retreat lodge.

It is the aftermath of the devastating fight that seems to have set everyone against pastoralists; from private ranchers, police, and farmers. As one writer of ‘The Conversation’ noted in February, “this is not a new issue, there have been many incidents of invasions throughout the past few decades. However, continued framing of current and past invasions as responses to droughts, fail to address the underlying dimensions of resource distribution.

Short-term programmes to address famine and prolonged situations of drought which don’t guard against future invasion and deep inequality within Laikipia between those who reap the benefits of wildlife and those who bear the costs. Additionally, the presence of heavily armed herders in Laikipia and the neighboring counties who do not seem to be petrified by security agencies is astounding.

How resilient are these young people (branded as bandits) that if police respond to any distress call in this side of the country you are assured of loss of life. As one security official once noted, people here do not care about the law nor respect the uniform. The only difference between a police officer and a herder is the former wears a uniform. Herders are well versed with the terrain and at times have better guns than the Kenya police.

Where do they get the sophisticated weaponry? In a bid to complement their security efforts in Northern Kenya, the Kenyan government decided to arm civilians in the name of home guards in the 1970s that later metamorphosed into Kenya Police Reservists (KPR). In a statement released by the Kenya Police on 1st March, 2017 it was noted that a total of 7,609 reservists in the following counties respectively: Baringo 30, Turkana 1,617, West Pokot 685, Samburu 1,486, Mandera 284, Wajir 336, Garissa 116, Tana River 280, Lamu 227, Marsabit 1,585, Meru 85, Isiolo 130, Trans Nzoia 505, Elgeyo Marakwet 101, and Laikipia 142, while Kitui had none. As of 1st March, 2017, an additional of 1,739 had been recruited for deployment as follows; Baringo County 195, Lamu 227, Samburu 375, West Pokot 250, Kitui 80, Elgeyo Marakwet 242, Laikipia 200 and Turkana 170.

There are no further details as to their recruitment criteria or the compensation, the Kenya Police Act 2012 article 110 outlines a good narrative that no one has ever implemented; KPR therefore is just some rural volunteer armed agency with little or no policy framework on management and administrative issues. Kennedy Mkutu and Gerald Wandera in their article Policing the Periphery in the Contemporary Kenya asked, “how significant is or will KPR as an auxiliary service without a salary impact on performance of security and safety be, and what measures can be taken to ensure they are not drifting towards private armed security to survive?”

It indeed, came to pass that KPR not only drifted to private armed security, but majority get converted into animal scouts manning conservancies, and now in Laikipia they have turned against the same government that armed them. More lethal weaponry is easily disguised in the name of KPR, previous security operations have failed to bear fruits as police rely on Chiefs for intelligence when recovering illegal guns, who are not likely to give up the KPRs’.

Kinship ties among pastoralist communities that straddle international borders facilitate movement of firearms from one side to another, and are openly carried under the KPR pretense. Policy makers have for years rode on the rhetoric that culture fuels animosity in Northern Kenya, as a scapegoat so that the electorates cannot ask the real questions like the international treaties with other countries with porous borders like Somalia and South Sudan where arms trade is conducted.

Or nonexistent of explicit legal criteria in Kenya for determining whether an arms shipment should be permitted to transit the country, with all the risks, for example if the weapons get diverted to an unauthorized third party where the market is ripe among the pastoralists communities or the existence of an abusive armed conflict in the recipient country.

Politicians’ actions and inactions are therefore perpetuating cycles of violations, insecurity and suffering at tremendous human, economic and societal costs. Failing to manage the weapons supply chain, weak enforcement of existing firearms legislation including the provision of KPR will continue to feed this vicious cycle of violence.

By Samwella Lerno

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The Integrity Question And The Gender Myth By Diana Korir

Election Safari Writer From Kericho County

The August 8th 2017 General elections in Kenya recorded a historic win for Kenyan women as five of their own went out to clinch hotly contested top positions in the country. Three women were elected as Governors while two others became senators for the first time. This is contrary to the 2013 General election where the county government recorded nil representation by elected women.

This counts as progress for The National Gender and Equality Commission. The constitutional Commission aims at promoting gender equality and freedom from discrimination. Article 81(b) of the Kenyan Constitution states that, “Not more than two-thirds of the members of elective public bodies shall be of the same gender,” Hence women representation targets about 30 women Governors.

Despite all the progress, women leadership is without fault. Similar to their male counterparts, they too engage in misuse of their power and engage in political corruption. In early 2017, we saw The Kenya National Commission on Human Rights seek to block a section of leaders mentioned in integrity cases from vying for elective positions in the 2017 General elections.

The charges were corruption, gross misconduct, misappropriation of public funds and voter bribery. KNCHR seeked to have them disqualified on grounds that they failed to observe Chapter six of the Kenyan constitution on Leadership and Integrity. Women involved in government are less prone to corruption. This is according to a research by Dollar, Fisman, and Gatti ; Swamy et al.

The electorate in Kenya characterized women as being intelligent, passionate and determined to make real change in their communities. This is true especially for the pioneers like Wangari Maathai, Ngilu and Martha Karua who played a pivotal role in the race towards achieving Multi-Party democracy. But with an increase in female representation comes watering down of the feminist cause and hence corrupt politicians in the name of feminism and being a minority arise (wolves in sheep’s clothing).

“Fairer Sex” or Purity Myth? Corruption, Gender, and Institutional Context”, a study by Justin Esarey of Rice University and Gina Chirillo of the National Democratic Institute, found that the statement that women are less likely to participate in corruption is a myth. Stereotypes depicting women as honest help advance corruption.
The report argues that this effect is highly dependent on institutional context. In a political culture “where corruption is stigmatized, women will be less tolerant of corruption and less likely to engage in it compared to men,” they write. “But if corrupt behaviors are an ordinary part of governance supported by political institutions, there will be no corruption gender gap.”

Highly Corrupt societies depict no difference in corruption levels between Men and Women. This is the case for Kenya. Women are not excluded from exposure to opportunities of corruption. A popular TV series “Scandal” follows the life of Olivia Pope played by Kerry Washington. As the protagonist we are forced to love Miss Pope since all the odds are in her favour. She is black (minority), educated and most important of all a woman who calls the shots in the White House and consequently the world.

Myself I love Olivia. She is strong, tactful and intelligent. She sacrifices her happiness for the sake of the country. She refers to herself as a Gladiator, defender of the innocent, supporter of justice. Prides herself in being ethical -‘wearing a white hat’. In the sixth season, power consumes her. She is involved and is aware of killings of many top officials and innocent people. She has also participated in election fraud, where her client won President.

Which begs the question is she still a gladiator for the truth &integrity or she now fighting for power. I’m worried that I am a fan of a powerful, hardworking and successful (Read: good) woman who is also an election thief and a fraud. At what point is it okey to leave our integrity at the door and decide that because she is a woman and she is pretty then all sins are forgiven.

If you have morals you won’t go far in politics for instance 2013 presidential candidate James Ole Kiyiapi who was commonly termed as the ‘nice guy’. He came in 7th in the race. Similarly Boniface Mwangi, the renowned photojournalist and activist vied for Starehe Member of Parliament seat and lost. Apart from human rights activism he is involved in several development projects all for the good of citizens.

You can’t win without playing the dirty game. The nice guys finish last. But then I guess politics has always been dirty; you have to commit a few evils to get to the top. The youth from my home county fear that just electing women won’t bring an end to corruption scandals that have crippled our country’s economy. I believe they will ensure the good guys men or women with clean records emerge victors next time.

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A Reflection on Kenya’s Rule of Law & its Implication By Sitati Wasilwa

Writer’s Podium First Cohort

The application of rule of law in the Republic of Kenya has for a long time been perceived as a cosmetic and bureaucratic. Common citizens and genuine members of the civil society are the victims of this compromised judicial system with the latter acting as a mechanism of subjugating the spirit of constitutionalism.

While acknowledging the significant progress we’ve made as a nation since the suppressing days of the Kenya African National Union (KANU) regime, more needs to be done in regard to the constitutionalism agenda and the principle of the rule of law. We cannot escape the reality of the subjective application of the rule of law and the selective administration of justice.

Unknown to many, the justice system includes and involves the National Police Service tasked with the enforcement of law and order. Delivery of ‘justice’ in Kenya is a façade. The politically connected tend to find their way out of the justice system without being punished for breaking the law.

After the final announcement of the nullified presidential election results, a number of Kenyans lost their lives including infants and very young children. Families that lost their loved ones are painfully waiting for justice to be granted. The rogue police officers who cut short the lives of these innocent souls haven’t been prosecuted. Are they above the law? Or is it the selective nature of Kenya’s justice system?

It is this hellish attitude of being above the law that generates the reproach towards the constitutionally-crafted institutions. Members of the Judiciary have on several occasions been admonished by the leading figures of the Executive and Parliament for making sound judgments. To the political class, the judicial process must always play in their favor, a disorder which has affected majority of their supporters.

A ruling in contrary with the expectations of a given political entity forms the basis of politically immoral suspicions. Politicians and their supporters must learn to accept the verdict of the courts without throwing tantrums and issuing threats of ‘fixing’ the Judiciary. We are accustomed to judicial mediocrity and institutional conspiracy between the arms of government. The bombshell recently delivered by the Supreme Court, however, will alter the legal and judicial architecture of the country and restore hope in the process of constitutionalism.

Restoration of the spirit of constitutionalism is fundamentally important in stamping out the selective administration of justice especially for the politically, economically and socially marginalized Kenyans. In essence, the judicial process and the justice system must effectively work for the benefit of the present generation and for the nation’s posterity.

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Young People, Before You’re Blinded Into Violence Listen By Okore Scheaffer @scheafferoo

(Image courtesy)

If you’ve been following the on goings around the country you’ll be aware of the bouts of violence that have been erupting in various parts. Kapsabet and Bungoma stood out for me and sadly so. With the campaign period officially on, the political tension seemingly has started to rise. I’ve witnessed stones been thrown at opposing sides, property destroyed and an angry mob of young people chanting.

I understand that young people are passionate about their support of specific political leaders and their parties but I fail to understand the senseless violence however small it may seem right now. If history is to teach us anything at all we should know that angry violent expressions like these can’t be taken lightly especially during a political year. They are usually a manifestation of what may come which should worry all of us.

That being said I want to address the young people who still at this time allow political leaders manipulate them into violence. Didn’t you learn anything in 2007? Have you forgotten so fast how turning against each other only brought us to our knees while the leaders were still standing? Should we be reminded of mutilated bodies, blood stained earth, a church filled with burnt bodies, raped women, displaced families, maimed men and a burning country?

It’s disappointing that young people aren’t realising that politicians don’t lose anything when we fight each other. They thrive in our discord and build alliances on our broken backs and scared bodies. You cannot allow a politician pay you to harm someone just because they don’t ascribe to your ways or thoughts it’s just criminal and utterly stupid. You can’t be the same people asking to be given a chance to steer this country when you can’t value each other. Your differences are supposed to strengthen you not divide you.

Ask yourself this, “If your leader was so pissed with their rival, why don’t they go and get their hands dirty themselves?” Why do they buy you cheaply as a young person to go behave like nincompoops? Why would you let anyone who has no idea how you’ve been living, the economic challenges you face and the opportunities that were stolen from you control the relationship you have with your fellows? It is moronic to fight a wealthy man’s battle while they sit behind closed doors counting you as a statistic.

Young people need to step up from this old ways of politicking and demonstrate that no amount of money is worth putting yourself in harms way for someone who is protecting their own interests. No amount of money is worth harming someone else ever. A leader is ok giving you money to go heckle then you take it and actually heckle, respect yourself you’re a human being not a heckling machine. Until you take a stand and denounce these manipulative ways politicians will never stop manipulating you.

No leader will take you seriously as long you’re still out here behaving like a lost lamp. You are the future of this country please act like it. The power of your voice through your vote is enough to make these politicians bend to your demands so stop behaving like a slave. Refute mediocre tactics of doing politics if you desire better. You can’t plant discord and reap unity you cannot.

Look around you in honesty and see how all of these leaders who incite you have secured a future for themselves and their families. They’re not like you and they lose nothing when small businesses are torched to the ground, they lose nothing when roads are barricaded, they lose nothing when one of us is killed, they lose nothing when we sleep hungry, THEY LOSE NOTHING.

During the violence of post election did any politician open their doors to let displaced Kenyans in when all hell broke lose? Did any politician have to queue in IDP camps trying to find their family members? Did they queue for hours in supermarkets to scramble over basic commodities? Think young people, think. Either you want to claim insanity or selective amnesia but if you’re truthful with yourselves you’ll know that you’re collateral damage in this equation. Remember always that division is a decision, a choice you make so, choose each other because no one will. It’s up to you.

By Okore Scheaffer
Program officer Civic Engagement At Siasa Place

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