From success in keeping terrorists out of the cities and towns to his zero reference to March demonstration deaths, President William Ruto’s first State of national security report was a mixed bag of fortunes.
Presented in the context of a politically polarised election year, the Annual Report to Parliament on the State of National Security offers a sneak preview into the level of the president’s appreciation of complex national security issues and how he’s handling them.
The 65-page report was tabled by President Ruto pursuant to requirements of Article 240 (7) of the Constitution and Section 16(1) of the National Security Council Act.
It underscores some quite uncomfortable truths, including the fact that general crime has increased by 16.7 per cent in the last one year, that religious extremism has bounced back, and that cyber-threats to critical government infrastructure are blossoming.
A total of 100,651 crime cases we reported in the last one year, compared to 86,271 in the previous year, mostly perpetrated by persons between the age group of 30 and 44 years.
Kamagira criminal gang topped the list of criminal gangs whose activities are on police radar. The group had the highest number of suspects arrested at 587 followed by Confirm gang at 295.
Cannabis Sativa continued to rule as the most prevalent drug alongside heroin, cocaine and morphine.
The most prevalent crime was the possession of bhang and Central region had highest number of arrests relating to drug possession and use.
“To mitigate against the menace, the government has stepped up sustained intelligence-led security operations targeting narco-trafficking networks in the country, arrest and prosecution of key dealers and couriers, and liaison and sharing of intelligence with international partners,” report says.
In the report, the government confesses that investment in cybersecurity measures have not kept pace with the dynamism that characterises digital technologies thus exposing individuals as well as public and private corporates to cyber threats and attacks.
“Poor cyber hygiene amongst the citizenry exposes Kenyans to danger, which hence calls for enhances levels of cyber security awareness, both at individual and corporate levels,” the report reads.
In the last one year alone, 606 cybercrime-related cases were recorded, during which banks and their clients lost money.
A total of “close to Sh2 billion” was lost, according to the President’s report, but security agencies managed to recover Sh322 million.
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But it is the revelation that Kenya’s critical information infrastructure was target of more than 855 million cyber threats in the last one year which brings home the urgency of the matter.
The security of critical national information infrastructure is an essential imperative for national programmes to promote socio-economic development.
In July alone, the government’s one-stop electronic service portal – eCitizen – was brought down by cyber attackers who identified themselves as Anonymous Sudan.
Ruto’s security report says Kenya is now the third most targeted country in Africa, behind South Africa and Nigeria. As a result, the National Counter-Terrorism Centre (NCTC) is leading a multi-agency of 33 agencies to protect vulnerable sites.
“We have also stepped-up consultations with IT experts from universities, service providers from both in the public and private entities and from all national security agencies with a view to creating an all-of–nation approach to protection of critical national information infrastructure,” the report assures.
The report makes mention of an emerging threat involving the emotive land ownership in the country. This is the expiration of land leases held by foreign owned multinational companies, particularly in Kericho and Bomet counties, which have revived historical grievances of the communities.
Ruto’s report says the agitation has been fomented by political incitement which then triggered land invasions, threatening security. Other invasions on private land were witnessed in Nakuru, Kiambu and Narok counties.
The impunity around land has also seen encroachment on land held by government institutions, including the Kenya Defence Forces, Kenya Prisons and the National Police Service in different parts of the country.
Ruto has promised to enforce the law to ensure sanctity of private property, continued digitisation of land records to re-affirm valid and legal ownership and continued land demarcation and issuance of land registration to individuals and government institutions.
In the report, Ruto says a total of 85 incidents of political violence were reported during the campaign period last year, and that following the declaration of the presidential results, “several cases” of lawlessness were recorded.
“They include the assault of IEBC officials at the Bomas of Kenya; four incidences of unlawful demonstration, malicious damage to property and disruption of traffic flow in Migori and Nairobi counties,” the report says.
The report also records the political demonstrations which rocked the country in March, this year, including the arrests, the destruction, the injuries and the economic losses.
The report says the country lost approximately 20.8 million dollars daily as a result of the demos, 75 police vehicles, two police stations burned down, and 317 police officers injured.
The report, however, does not make mention of any fatalities relating to the demos.
Despite the role of the national dialogue talks in restoration of peace, the report does not make a single reference to the process.
Instead, the report says that the government deployed all required resources to ensure peaceful election, used lawful means to disperse unlawful demos, and facilitated smooth transition of leadership.
The report bemoans the “lower than average” voter turn-out during the 2022 general election, attributing it to “continued trend of voter apathy, mainly attributed to lack of trust in institutions and the electoral process.”
In the election, 64.7 percent of registered voters turned out to vote compared to the 78 percent of 2017 and 83 percent of 2013.
“Going forward, the government will adhere fully to the Constitution guaranteeing civic and democratic rights to all Kenyans, fully depoliticise the civil service; and facilitate independent institutions to effectively deliver on their mandates,” the report says.
The report makes another revelation; that corruption cases have increased by 64 percent in the last one year. It is not clear whether this is as result of greater efficiency taking up cases or general increase in corruption levels.
The report says the government is expediting conclusion of all corruption cases and “hastened expropriation of property” or funds acquired from proceeds of corruption through civil recovery processes and plea bargaining.
Ruto’s government has further promised to finalise the enactment of the Whistle Blower Protection Bill to support employees to have a conducive environment to report on corrupt activities within an organisation and to sustain efforts to implement lifestyle audits for public officers including the consideration of enacting the Lifestyle Audit Bill.
The government will also continue to aggressively pursue the continued automation of services rendered by the government so as to seal revenue leakages.
While appreciating the devolution has largely met its objectives, Ruto’s report says corruption has reduced effectiveness of devolved services, and has resulted in misallocation of funds and resources.
Other challenges highlighted by the president with regard to devolution is limited budgetary allocation, negative political interference, lack of good quality leadership, and negative ethnicity.
Despite their underpinning role in every facet of the country, national values and good governance got a smattering of five sentences in Ruto’s first security report. The first was to locate them in Article 10 of the Constitution, the second to restate their ideal attribute and the third to underscore governance as normative standards expected of public servants.
“The decline of national values coupled with the lack of good governance is a threat to national security. The key threats to national values and good governance within the reporting period are corruption and insecurity in institutions of learning,” said the last two lines on national values and good governance.
The national security report rues the missed opportunities for national development. For instance, it points out to the mineral sector whose potential contribution to the GDP is estimated to be over 10 percent but which currently contributes a mere 0.8 percent
This is largely due to prevalence of runway illegal mining, and partly due to moratorium on the issuance of licences and renewal applications which was imposed in 2019. The report says the moratorium has negatively impacted the sector, frustrating investors.
“To curb illegal mining, the government has partially lifted the moratorium and is strengthening mining policies and regulatory frameworks together with the formalisation of sustainable development of the artisanal and small-scale mining sector,” the report says.
In the report, Ruto’s government shines with its plan of action on food security, dedicating acres of space to outline policy interventions and expected outcomes. The report links food insecurity in the country to social unrests “as people become frustrated and angry with the Government.”
Among the measures taken include distribution of relief food to vulnerable communities, reduction of costs of fertiliser through subsidies, registration of five million farmers, implementation of agricultural reforms and duty waiver on importation of maize and rice.
Ruto’s government acknowledges the challenge of illegal logging to forest conservation. A recent report by the Friedrich Naumann Foundation identified the key policy and legislative gaps which continued to fuel illegal logging and charcoal trade.
In the report, the government says it is recruiting additional rangers and wildlife officers, enhancing community participation in the management and use of forests, as well as a multi-agency approach to forest security and parks.
Again, the government shines on its leadership in peacekeeping including the Haiti deployment and climate change action. It also shines on aviation security, scoring 91.7 per cent, the highest ever recorded for the region.
The report also outlined measures to tame unemployment, including investment on technical training, roll out of Hustler Fund, and development of guidelines on outsourcing of labour.