In Summary

  • Already, in response to terrorist threats, a large part of Kenya had been officially gazetted as military operational areas.
  • The licence to go in with superior firepower will by itself not be the solution unless underlying social, economic and cultural issues are addressed.

President Uhuru Kenyatta’s decision to have the military tackle the serious situation wrought by land invasions, banditry, cattle rustling and ethnic militias in northern Kenya is welcome, at first glance.

We can’t deny the urgent need to restores peace and security in the affected regions.

It is worrying, however, the rate at which the Kenya Defence Forces are increasingly being deployed in domestic security operations.

I’m not sure at this stage whether the proper legal proclamations have been issued allowing military activity in Baringo, Elgeyo Marakwet, West Pokot and Laikipia counties.

Already, in response to terrorist threats, a large part of Kenya had been officially gazetted as military operational areas.

These include the former North Eastern Province comprising Garissa, Mandera and Wajir counties, together with adjacent counties such as Isiolo and Marsabit in the former Eastern Province, and Lamu and Tana River at the Coast.

Also technically under military rule are all the major highways leading from those zones to Nairobi and Mombasa.

The latest decision significantly extends areas where the military, by law mandated to tackle external threats, is now engaged in domestic policing.

This could be dangerous if not well-managed, for the military forces are usually not encumbered by the usual restraints such as respect for human rights, due process, or Police Standing Orders on the use of firearms.

BAD IDEA
Even if we acknowledge that the deteriorating security made it imperative to add military muscle to restore normalcy in the affected areas, that itself serves as a severe indictment of the government and its regular security machinery.

It is an admission that the National Police Service has failed, despite its once-vaunted units such as the paramilitary General Service Unit, the Anti-Stock Theft Unit and the border security and rapid deployment units of the Administration Police Service.

The military engagement also comes at a time when the government is boasting of having dramatically increased the number of police officers to surpass the United Nations recommended ratio of at least one officer for every 400 persons; and equipped the service with the tools, equipment and weaponry needed to maintain peace and tackle crime.

Despite these concerns, I’m sure all well-meaning citizens would welcome any intervention to once and for all neutralise the armed irregulars that have for far too long roamed as if some parts of the country were autonomous killing fields.

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