The chopper tragedy last Sunday has shaken the country to the roots. To lose George Saitoti, Minister for Internal Security, and his assistant Orwa Ojode, after they were talking peace the day before was especially touching. Kenyans have given the two all the respect and support they deserve. We have equally poured our sympathies to the families of the two pilots (Nancy Gituanja and Luke Oyugi) and security personnel (Joshua Tonkei and Thomas Murimi) who died with them.
Historically, we have tended to pay the greatest attention to the families of dignitaries on the demise of their breadwinners.
But we have not done as well for the families of support staff whose sole breadwinners meet the same fate.
My colleague Honourable Asman Kamama told me how bandits shot him, along with three police officers, when he was a young District Officer in Garissa.
He was offered compensation of Sh12, 000, which he declined because he did not consider it commensurate with his injuries.
Meanwhile, families of the police officers who were killed in the line of duty are living in absolute misery after going home with the usual token Government contribution.
This is the story of many such officers who die for country and our leaders. Our support to families of departed Government officers – big and small – should be based on need and a measure of equity.
Unlike their superiors, such support staff can hardly make ends meet, even when alive, and have younger families depending on them. They also do not enjoy the benefits of strong insurance schemes.
It is a major injustice that bodyguards of VIPs have to struggle to educate and feed their children when it is thanks to them that all the important people in Government sleep in peace and address matters of national importance confident that they are safe. VIPs cannot get to work without their drivers, bodyguards and pilots, yet many of these officers can hardly afford one decent meal in a day, while serving persons living in plenty.
We have to rethink the kind of support accorded their families in the event of their passing on. Among other things, are generous medical and accident insurance schemes.
Second, part of their terms of employment should incorporate an element of adequate support for their families – education, health care and where possible employment of surviving siblings – on their demise.
Third, it is unfair for police officers to live in squalid residences – with married couples sometimes sharing single rooms – in sharp contrast to what they see where they work.