Saturday, 17 May 2014

Kenyans justify atrocities committed by their fellow tribesmen

This is the irony of being Kenyan. That we call ourselves a nation fighting terror for the sake of national security and at the same time endorse a national policy of ethnic profiling that targets one community and makes them live in perpetual insecurity.
There is a damnation that accompanies a history such as ours, where for 50 odd years we as a country internalized our bigotry and visited endless conflict on one ethnicity simply because they, at one point did not want to belong to Kenya.
It is the rankest irrationality; that we would punish, discriminate, torture, jail and maim people because 50 years ago they voted to secede. We forced them to be a part of Kenya, and yet spend every single day, egging on a government that does not acknowledge their citizenry or rights.
The profiling of Somali ethnic people by the Kenyan government and the Jubilee regime is of the most egregious sort. When 4000 people were arbitrarily arrested and detained for weeks, the entire society watched on with approval. Never mind that the people are innocent, civilians, men, women and children and that not a single person arrested thus far has been charged and convicted with crimes of terror.
Never mind that most of these people were never produced in court, nor was there any justification given for their arrests. Never mind that operation Usalama Watch despite all its recent illegal and unconstitutional activities has not improved security in this country one bit.
I don’t know what security chiefs were told but it looks like they now have the free will to invent operations that are of the most abusive and corrupt nature; “security measures” that mean Police Inspector General David Kimaiyo can wake up one day, utter some nondescript traffic act and make an illegal declaration on personal vehicles and tinted windows.
The fact that the law enforcers are so willing to break the law while claiming to be fighting crime would be laughable were it not so devastating. Criminals are defined by the simple fact that they break the law and commit crimes. What then is the difference between the police and the criminal if both commit crimes and both break the law?
It’s just so acceptable to all the other ethnicities that those members of the police service and security apparatus, people who are your own tribesmen can and do the most horrendous acts upon unarmed innocent Somali people.
The justification of atrocities committed by in-group members is a psychological phenomenon studied and documented by Alin Coman from the Department of Psychology, Princeton University see:
In his abstract, Coman explains that moral disengagement strategies are some of the ways people will rationalize the immoral acts of people they perceive as one of “us”, the in-group. Thus, the recounting of acts by American soldiers (in-group) will be watered down and even ignored by their comrades, while the acts committed by Afghan soldiers (out-group) will be more accurate.
We can see this psychological disengagement in Kenya; where for the better part of this year, the Jubilee government through its security apparatus has propagated a xenophobic doctrine in their claims to be at war with terror.
Its obvious that the completely immoral justification of ethnic and racial profiling has been swallowed whole primarily by ethnic groups that perceived themselves as the winners of the March 2013 elections. In the eyes of some Kenyans, the only people who suffer are non-somali victims of terror attacks – never mind that more Somalis have suffered under both Al-Shabaab and the Kenya government and for longer.
With the blasts that occurred at Gikomba on 16th May, Kenya marked over 100 terror attacks in the past decade with nearly 400 people being killed. It is quite disconcerting that while President Uhuru Kenyatta addressed the nation on the travel advisories and admitted to not having received any security information from the British or US embassies, 10 people lost their lives and 70 others were hospitalized.
Almost immediately, Moses Kuria a self-styled political analyst rumored to be an adviser to State House creates an inflammatory post on social media that contained a thinly-veiled threat of repercussions.
Here is the full post as it appeared on facebook:
“I think its just a matter of time before Kenyans start violence against PERCEIVED terrorists, their sympathizers, their financiers and those issuing travel advisories without sharing intelligence. I am not sure I will not be one of those Kenyans. When you touch Gikomba the nerve centre of our economic enterprise you really cross the line. Brace yourself. Choices have consequences.”
The sort of irrational hate mongering that fills the post beggars’ belief. We still don’t know who was behind the blasts at Gikomba, nor do we know what their ethnicity is. But it is clear that in line with the current Jubilee regime’s ethnic profiling that Moses Kuria implied Somali people; the only ones who thus far have been PERCEIVED as terrorists and suspects by government.
We have gone from fighting a war on terror, to fighting a war on perceived terrorists, forgetting that our perceptions of each other are massively tainted by our tribal bigotry and a history that is a curse upon the various marginalized communities in Kenya. Jubilee pledged to unite the country through its national policies, but thus far has engaged itself in doing the exact opposite, and its supporters justify atrocities simply because they perceive Jubilee leadership to be from their own tribe.

Sunday, 11 May 2014

Plight of Nigerian Girls speaks to our own victimized daughters

3 weeks ago over 200 teenage girls were abducted from their boarding school by Boko Haram militants in Northern Nigeria. What followed next was 3 weeks of international media completely ignoring these girls and the Nigerian government doing nothing to recover these girls. Tragically, reports filed in that the girls were being sold off as the Boko Haram moved through the northern territory. Out of sheer despair and the need to call attention to the plight of the girls, Nigerian Attorney Ibrahim Musa Abdullahi created the hashtag #bringbackourgirls on twitter, an adaptation of a chant he had heard on TV.
It took 3 weeks but the online campaign finally gained momentum worldwide with nearly 2 million re-tweets and celebrities and high profile individuals using it. What was lost in all this, is that not only has the Nigerian government done little to respond to the numerous calls to find these girls, nor are the Nigerian authorities  effective in dealing with Boko Haram who thus far have been responsible for hundreds of deaths in addition to numerous abductions of women and children in the North, making the region one of the most dangerous places in Nigeria.
It’s certainly ironic that 200 black girls can go missing and the whole world ignores this until American celebrities notice. But what’s even more disturbing is the fact that we in Kenya can talk of how devastating Boko Haram is while our own daughters suffer similar injustices in Kenya. The Commission of Inquiry into the Post-Election Violence better known as the Waki commission found that there were over 900 cases of sexual and gender based violence and described this as just the tip of the ice-berg. It is estimated by human rights organizations that up to 40,000 cases of sexual violence may have occurred during the 3 month period leading up to and after the signing of the National Peace and Reconciliation Accord (NARA).
The fact that rape and sexual violence was used extensively during the PEV and in particular targeting women and girls has been quietly swept under the rug, even as much of the attention has been deftly diverted from the victims of PEV to suspects charged with crimes against humanity at the ICC. It has now become part of our national narrative, to accuse the Office of the Prosecutor and the then chief prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo of not only failing to conduct thorough investigations into the PEV as recommended by the Waki report, but also of coercing, bribing and causing witnesses to lie about suspects charged and about the events of 2008.
In just 2 short years, the ICC has been morphed from being the sole resort for justice for suspects to being dubbed a “western” court that is purely political and targets Africans.  In all of this humdrum rhetoric the women and girls who suffered so brutally are completely forgotten.
Along come Boko Haram, and their brazen abduction of over 200 girls and all of a sudden even the political class in Kenya is concerned about the situation. The graphic irony in this is that, just like our own suspects who are charged with crimes against humanity, the ICC is also alert to the fact that there is reason to believe Boko Haram is guilty of similar crimes. See:
The sort of hypocrisy displayed by Kenyans when it comes to victims and the ICC is completely unpalatable. Whenever it suits us, we lambast the ICC, witnesses and victims as “paid by westerners.” Whenever it suits us, we lament the plight of women and girls who are savaged in conflict by militia. We cannot, in all good conscience find the actions of Boko Haram alarming and repulsive while at the same time conveniently glaze over the rape of our own women and girls as though they don’t exist.
The reason it took 3 weeks for the world to even notice that 200 girls had been kidnapped into sexual slavery is because we, as a continent do not care about women and girls and we are least concerned for their safety or lives. If we ourselves don’t care about African women, why should the rest of the world? If we can actually argue that the ICC is working for western political interests when it seeks justice for hundreds of victims of sexual violence in conflict simply because of our own political affiliations then why should we expect the same ICC to give women and girls justice when it comes to Boko Haram?
In the eyes of the law, suspects of crimes against humanity are equally subject to a judicial process regardless of our own emotional or political ties. It’s quite possible that if some political arguments were to be considered then even Boko Haram is being “oppressed by western paid elements in a Kangaroo court.” If you find such a thought unacceptably illogical when it comes to Boko Haram, then you should find the same when it comes to all other suspects.

Linda Okello’s Skirt is about more than uniforms

It took just one lascivious or maybe just mischievous photo-journalist to bring attention to the entire world the ample blessings of a lady traffic police officer in her skirt. For all the right reasons, Linda Okello has been the focus of attention in the media, although I am sure that by now she really would rather everyone go away and focus on their own behinds.
The thing about her skirt is that it fit her rather well. In fact, according to Grace Kaindi the Deputy Inspector General of Police, the skirt fit her so well that it may have been adjusted; something considered a breaking of the rules. Fortunately for Linda, Inspector General David Kimaiyo assured a parliamentary committee that no disciplinary action would be taken against her.
The idea that police uniform can be such a hot topic speaks volumes as to the mindset of most Kenyans. For starters, discussing the assets of a police officer simply underscores how far down the intellectual scale we are sliding as a nation. The fact of the matter is the central issue surrounding police uniforms is not how the officers fill them out, but how often they are issued with said uniforms.
The police service is undergoing reforms, but sad to say, these reforms thus far have not taken into consideration simple issues like how many uniforms are distributed and how often. Let’s face it; we can have no pride in a service where the policemen don’t even have sufficient clothing that fits well and at the same time is a smart representation of the sort of service and national pride we expect of officers.
If the police don’t even get uniforms that can fit them “decently” how can we expect the police to deal with terrorists or organized crime? We often forget something so crucial about our police; that the servicemen and women are essentially ordinary everyday people like us. They aren’t rich middle class civil servants. These are people who live among us and are part of our society.
Isn’t it incumbent upon us to discuss more than Linda’s body? Let’s talk about what support she and her colleagues get if she can’t get sufficient uniform. Let’s talk about the fact that members of the service are expected to provide protection for millions while they themselves number in the mere tens of thousands. Let’s talk about the fact that though we do have a working police line to call for help, the police officer we expect to help us doesn’t have sufficient resources to be able to respond adequately to each and every call for help.
Let’s really talk about police reforms. So far, the restructuring of the service has simply created new dispensation at the higher levels, much of this dispensation has certainly not trickled down to the lower cadres. You would think that the higher ranking officers, having had to climb up through the ranks under such difficult circumstances would also be willing to engage reforms that improves the working conditions of officers across the board.
I.G David Kimaiyo has insisted that we are in a war against terror and that we must win that war at all costs. But what exactly has been done for the officers who are to conduct that war? I believe it is incumbent upon the Inspector General and the Independent Police Oversight Authority to ensure that the officers are fully equipped in every sense of the word so as to be successful.
We lament the sort of brutality that the police officers use in “screening” illegal immigrants at Kasarani, and by extension we complain relentlessly about corruption in the service. As a nation, we surely can do more than just complain. We can provide avenues for these issues to be addressed with finality and we can do that as easily as we discussed Linda Okello’s “tight security”.
We talk about corruption as though it is something that happened in the past, and expect that by putting up posters and signs that say, “This is a corruption free zone”, like magic the Service or institution has cleaned up its record.
But if an officer cannot even receive uniforms in a regular manner so as to be able to have her measurements adjusted as she grows horizontally, then we have a serious problem.
We cannot expect police officers to function effectively if they don’t have enough uniforms, if they are limited by the very clothing that bears the sort of authority they wield. They say the clothes do not make the man, but if the officer can’t even get enough clothes then it is no wonder that some officers desecrate that uniform by being corrupt, and sometimes criminal in their actions. In Kenya, the clothes do indeed make the officer, and a lack of uniform tells us all what sort of officers we have in the service.