In Summary
  • There is no doubt that there may be organised gangsters sabotaging the work and reputation of the police. There is also quite a bit of police negligence, lack of training, poor logistics and crowd control, panic, etc.
  • We have invested heavily in repressive tools like the green whales we see nowadays navigating around Nairobi. We had never seen them before.
  • Are the police using the right approach for crowd control? Is there proper intelligence on the conditions of pre-announced demonstrations? Or are we using demonstrators as human shields for political gains?

Whataboutism was used by Stalin in Communist Russia as a clever technique to rebuff harsh criticism against Stalin’s regime.

Stalin institutionalised a terror state. He killed more than 40 million people (between civilians and soldiers used as a human shield). Torture, extradition, and starvation were widespread means to keep people under control.

When criticised, the regime had no convincing answers and it could not keep quiet. So, they resorted to an absurd but pretty convincing technique. The technique of Whataboutism, which means “what about you…”

When pinned down about human rights atrocities or scandals, Stalin would counter-attack the questioner, “What about Apartheid, what about Korea, Vietnam, etc.” and immediately go “ad hominem” or against the person in an accusative mode.

This technique confused and refocused the discussion. It shifted attention away from shameful, unanswerable and questionable abuses.

INTIMIDATING TRUTH

Leonid Bershidsky explains that whataboutists don't deny the charge but attack the accuser as a hypocrite, "Who are you to lecture us?"

In the Western world, this technique has resurfaced. Donald Trump uses it quite often. On the US television programme "Last Week Tonight", John Oliver identified three tools Trump has put in place to advance his propaganda. Whatboutism, discrediting the media and trolling. This angers and disparages the opponent, until they become irrational.

Whataboutism is not new in Kenya. For example, we have never had a properly concluded investigation or inquiry on grand theft, assassinations or simply mysterious deaths because when things get hot someone asks, “What about my people, my clan, others have also stolen or … this is an attack on my people.”

Ultimately, whataboutism is about the intimidation of truth. In Kenya, we are witnessing a worrying whataboutistic trend in the responses we get to police brutality.

CRIME OF BEING POOR

I have met many incredibly good and gifted police officers. Many people in Kenya know or have a relative in the police. Many of them are dedicated and heroic officers.

There is no doubt that there may be organised gangsters sabotaging the work and reputation of the police. There is also quite a bit of police negligence, lack of training, poor logistics and crowd control, panic, etc.

But this cannot be justified and swept under the carpet as something that just happens. Several children, men and women have died from stray bullets. They were not demonstrating. Their crime was to be poor and live in Mathare instead of Muthaiga, Kawangware instead of Lavington Green, or Kibera instead of Karen.

Would we lightly treat a stray bullet incident that kills a politician? A renowned businessman or woman? Are some lives more important than others? We seem to justify and even defend situations and crimes that are not defensible. That is whataboutism.

The World Internal Security and Police Index (WISPI), is a report presented by the International Police Security and Police Index (IPSA), an institution specialising in police science. The report evaluates and ranks the best to the worst police services in the world.

It ranks countries based on evaluation of the ability of police institutions worldwide to render effective security services. It looks into the internal security of countries and measures public confidence in such services. It studies the rates on fear and crime, rates of crime victims and establishes indicators of police operations and activities.

The study measured security provider performance across the four domains of internal security: capacity, process, legitimacy and outcomes. It considered the availability of resources devoted to internal security, the use of these resources, public perceptions of the use of these resources and whether the public views security providers favourably, and the current threats to internal security in each country.

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