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Police vetting exercise in Kenya just a sham

By Tania Ngima | September 6th 2016

Over two years ago, I wrote about the overdue reforms needed in the police ranks. As happens every so often, a member of the team looking into this very issue wrote back to me regarding some of the initiatives being put into place in a bid to streamline the sector.

One of the promising plans, the police anti-corruption strategy, intended as a means to reform the sector, was meant to among others reign in corruption, citizen harassment, and the rampant conflict of interest.

As much as I am curious about what happened to the numerous police reform programmes carried out, I am more curious regarding the actual reforms that keep being touted as game changers in law enforcement.

Is this yet another of those brilliant documents that gathers dust in someone’s shelf because there is no goodwill in implementing it, despite the man hours and taxpayers’ funds that went into developing it?

Increasingly, it feels as if these much-touted programmes at some point become a play to the gallery as opposed to planned and intended changes that are meant to benefit the general population.

Either that or there is a concerted effort to find scapegoats at which point the geniuses who came up with the scheme will present them with a flourish and declare justice served to Kenyans and the process a success.

It is completely unacceptable that every few years we go through the same motions. High expectations of a clean-up in various arms only to observe the rot go deeper and then just when public outrage becomes too loud, more pretext of changes without any actual sustainable actions or a change in governance.

It is also not a coincidence that this show of restructuring is being carried out around the time that the country is gearing up for elections. Dear Kenyans, we are the gallery and if we are buying into the promise of a more functional, efficient force without actually waiting to see tangible outcomes, then we have well and truly been had.

What saddens me more than anything though is that the ongoing exercise has been turned into a sham of epic proportions.

I wish that the police and the links between corruption, larceny, conflicts of interest and a dozen other injustices were irrelevant and disparate from the functioning of our country and our safety.

I wish that the importance of protection and upholding the rule of law was disconnected from the success of our businesses and our ability to function at our very best because our right to security has been taken care of. Unfortunately, all these factors are highly interconnected.

However, if the vetting exercise is not proof of the fact that justice is for sale to the highest bidder, then I don’t know what is. Reports upon reports of transactions ranging from hundreds of thousands to millions have been unearthed, without credible explanation.

If we were to believe the narratives told by these members of the police force, then they are the most enterprising, resourceful and financially smart group of people in this country.

From Sacco contributions running into millions of shillings and equivalent returns, to investments that have a cash flow as healthy as one hundred thousand per day, we should certainly take some investing classes from these individuals. It then makes me wonder.

If what the police officers consider their side hustle can net them more cash in a day than they earn in a month at their regular job, then why bother to keep your day job? Does it not make sense to channel all your energy into the business that gives better returns on investment?

There are a whole host of liberties enshrined in the Constitution’s relevant section on Rights and fundamental freedoms that are being trampled on.

From the Right to human dignity, freedom and security, expression, protection of rights to property, social and economic rights and access to justice, we can cite multiple instances where these have been subverted.

In as much as we admit it would be simplistic for us to mete out accusations without looking at the realities, there is a world of difference between survival and greed.

Yes, the conditions under which lawmakers operate leave a lot to be desired and in many cases are deplorable. And yes, you can only expect individuals to be accepting of earning a pittance for so long before they do something about it, however unsavory.

But it seems that the system is rigged in favour of corruption and fraud. Unless we address these root causes then the lines between police behaviour and bribery scandals will continue to be blurred.

As the law enforcement arm for the umpteenth year running receives the lowest vote of confidence from the public, maybe it is time to put the theatrics aside and make a wholehearted effort into actually implementing some of the proposals that will make a long-term difference

Kenyans, at the very least, deserve to have confidence in those that they are entrusting with their lives, their families and their property’s safety.

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