Why has the state failed to act decisively to stem spiraling crime?

By Anyang' Nyong'o

When I was a child I feared death like hell. I still fear death but I have come to confront and live with it more often, hence my level of fear has gone down by some recognisable percentage. When I was a child I understood that people died from natural causes. But my parents tried as much as possible to shield us away from funerals. While at St. Paul’s Theological College around 1949 I remember vaguely the death of a young pastor whose body was carried into his house on a stretcher. He was a good friend of my father but we would not be allowed to go to that house that day.

When I was a child tales of people picking up axes and whacking others to death, or spearing others through the stomach until they bled to death remained mere tales: they were not meant to happen in reality. Spilling the blood of a fellow human being was taboo; only the wazungus did that in their wars in Burma, Gonder and Misri. And such places were very far from Kisumu. They almost sounded like Jericho and Samaria in the Bible. They were not real!

Now I’m no longer a child, and I have systematically been shocked as I grow older how cheap human life has become. The police shoot suspected criminals with absolutely no sense of guilt. They just do it. The bodies are thrown on the back of the land rover, driven to whatever passes for a morgue and left there for whoever would care to bury them. The thieves, in turn, do no better. They will kill a fellow human being to run away with his or her mobile phone. They just do that.

I am no longer a child but I am shocked how adult human beings play with the lives of their fellow human beings as if people, God’s noble creation, are mere toys.

How do you pack people in a bus like sardines, keep them in a petrol station for one hour while you go for a drink and then you begin to roll down the Rift Valley at breakneck speed all the time assuming that you will get to your destination in one piece?

Just tell me, how!

A few months ago Nyakach MP Aduma Owuor, found an old man senselessly murdered in his constituency and raised genuine alarm over that murder. I saw the photograph of that old man with arrows sticking out of his torso. Cruel, senseless and gross murder carried out by some characters who pass for human beings.

I was with Mr Aduma at a press conference at Sunset Hotel, Kisumu. All we asked for was for the government’s internal security system to investigate the murder and bring the perpetrators to face the law. Nothing of the sort was done. I have raised the issue of insecurity in Kisumu County twice in the Senate. I was twice promised action by the government.

But now comes the terrible news of the extremely atrocious murder of Aduma’s parents. How does a government explain a thing like that? Why do such crimes keep on happening without any serious action taken by the state, the ultimate monopoliser of violence in society? For all Aduma’s genuine concern for stopping insecurity in Nyakach this is the “thank you present” some evil mind decided to give him, his family and friends! How mean, how totally inhuman can some characters be!

I guess somebody will come up and say that the perpetrators of that cruel murder were mere criminals. Of course they were criminals. But simple criminals cannot have the temerity to perform the kind of elaborate mayhem visited on the late parents of mheshimiwa. I have my doubts. Something is rotten in our internal security system.

If the truth be told it is a fiction to keep on believing that we have two distinct levels of government in Kenya: national and county governments. Complete baloney. A government cannot be a government if it does not have control over its security apparatus.

County governments need to keep security in the respective counties by ensuring that security heads are accountable to the Governor for their actions. As long as security chiefs in counties continue looking up to Police Headquarters in Nairobi as their immediate and ultimate bosses insecurity will continue in our counties. Devolution has no meaning if security continues to be over centralised.

When I was a child law and order was something that chiefs walked with, ate with and slept with. We had a chief called Melkazedek Nindo who was law and order in person: everybody in Seme Location walked the straight and narrow path for fear of rubbing Nindo the wrong way. When we subsequently abolished the Chief’s Act in 1997 because we disliked its authoritarian tendencies we did not mean to abolish law and order itself in our society. But it looks as if somewhere in the labyrinth of the current state some gurus who are upset with devolution want to propagate insecurity so as to discredit county governance. That is my fear. That is my concern.

What we are witnessing today in terms of wanton insecurity requires a bigger mother: the state. Can the government realise that her children are crying, they are actually wailing and gnashing their teeth! Or don’t we have a government with the passion of a mother to look after us?

Let us not push Kenya to a place where “nothin’ good ever happens.” Let us build Kenya where all of us can feel at home: an inclusive Kenya. For Aduma Owuor and his family the irony is deep: they have seen a Kenya where they have a home but they can no longer feel at home because even Mum and Dad could not feel at home there. Kenya: twaenda wapi?