Last weekend, a friend was involved in an accident in Nairobi. I went to help out, and though the cars were badly damaged, no one was seriously injured.
And thank heavens for Steve, Alex and his friend, who were the proverbial Good Samaritans, for protecting my friend from possible mob violence and theft. Kenya still has some good people!
But as the police towed the cars to the police station, quite a few onlookers emphatically warned us to ensure that we took all moveable items from the car, including the battery, spare wheel, floor mats, and radio once it arrived at the police station. These items, we were told, were sure to be stolen at the police station!
We proceeded to do as advised, shocked that a place that should be the safest in Kenya could be a den of thieves. And when giving the statement to the police, a helpful officer repeated the warning to take away all moveable items.
I asked why we needed to do this in a police station, with armed and trained officers on duty, and living close by. He said: “…police are part of society, with the same evils as society. If someone was a chicken thief before joining the police, he will continue being one.”
I was flabbergasted! And not least by the casual and accepting tone. This, it appears, is the new Kenya.
But it was not so just a couple of decades ago. I used to leave my car at police stations in the 1990s when I needed to travel abroad. I, especially, left it at Busia Border Police Station, on my way to Uganda, where I would cross on foot and find alternative means to Kampala. And never did I worry about theft or loss of anything there.
So what has happened? First, it is totally wrong to suggest that because police come from society, they should behave just like the rest of us. No, no, never! We pay the police from our taxes to be different, to uphold the law and protect us! We don’t pay society for those responsibilities!
Second, if we can’t trust the police, who can we trust? How will we ever work with them to end crime and insecurity? Oh, if new IG Joseph Boinett can’t get the police to understand that we demand and need the police to be better than the rest of us, then he will fail, miserably.
NO ONE'S RESPONSIBILITY
Third, this attitude that attempts to deflect responsibility to all of us, thus making it no one’s responsibility, is rubbish!
This is exactly like the notion from some ivory tower analysts that “we are all corrupt” and, therefore, we must all take responsibility for ending corruption. Hogwash!
Corruption is a power dynamic where the person with decision-making power decides to thwart the rules to enrich themselves. If the decision maker would not consider the bribe— especially because the consequences of corruption are high— no one would even think of offering it. It is that easy.
And the best way to reduce corruption is not through civic education and posters blaming us (for example “Corruption Starts with You). It is by ensuring that there is accountability and a high price to pay for decision makers engaging in corruption.
And, of course, if the big fish are jailed, rest assured the smaller fish will take notice and understand that they have no protection for corruption.
The problem is that this regime signals not just business as usual, but a return to the worst of times in Kenya that some of us recall from the Moi era, as shown by the recent public appointments of Chris Okemo, who is facing extradition to answer corruption charges abroad; Kipngetich Bett, who is named in the Ndung’u Land Grabbers report; and Winnie Guchu, who was part of the “Chicken-gate” election body.
Its desire to return to centralised rule is clear, as is its contempt for the Constitution that was to change the way we were governed and behaved.
If it continues this way, we will undoubtedly recall the Moi years fondly.