The recent directive by the President to security chiefs in the country to develop and share their strategy on security matters reignited debate on the issue of reforms in the sector.
What is the scorecard on security sector reforms and what are the lessons learnt? Critical things that must be prioritised include the formation of County Policing Authorities that require the involvement of governors and county government in the provision of security, involvement of clan elders and the Kenya Police Reserves (KPRs) in crime prevention and intelligence gathering and more importantly, the need for culture change and human relations matters within the sector.
The directive comes as the country continues facing new emerging challenges in the security domain while at the same time continue battling old problems including improving welfare and working conditions in the services.
The security forces have been dealing with terrorism, violent extremism, and increased insurgency in Turkana, Isiolo and other areas with mixed results.
Commendably, and with revamped national strategies on terrorism and violent extremism, developed jointly with county governments that were prone to such attacks, the security sector has managed to reduce these attacks.
The re-energised Nyumba Kumi initiative and related community policing approach, acquisition of latest equipment including helicopters among other things have enhanced the country’s security.
Areas like Mandera town, which used to record nearly nine terror attacks in a month, has now gone for over two years without any attack. Lamu, Garissa and Mombasa have similarly recorded low level incidents.
The same is not happening in Turkana, Baringo and Isiolo counties and other areas outside the mentioned areas. Article 244 of the Constitution sets out the standards by which the reformed National Police Service should work.
The Justice Waki report on the 2007 post-election violence recommended a complete audit of the current police management, its structures, policies, practices and procedures and an examination of the structures, including the senior executive; thorough examination, review and revision of all tactics, weapons and ‘use of force’ employed by the police as well as a complete revision of the Police Act and application of a National Security Policy.
I would recommend that the government relooks at the use of local community’s leadership especially clan elders and the Kenya Police Reservists, especially in such areas like Turkana, West Pokot, Baringo and Isiolo, especially in intelligence gathering, information sharing with security agencies and solving resource related conflicts in those areas.
The security teams in Mandera County seem to be using this approach with impressive results. We just need to see how to incorporate these two groups without necessarily arming them as this will assist a lot in enhancing the country’s security.
The KPR was created as a supplementary force under the old Police Act and are a very important link in assisting the police service in the maintenance of law and order, preservation of peace, protection of life and property, prevention and detection of crime, the apprehension of offenders and the enforcement of all laws and regulations which the Police Service is charged. It’s important that we focus on reviewing the training manuals used for training officers, redeployment and retraining of officers on modern policing techniques, serious fundraising to equip the service, putting up of the national forensic laboratory and recruitment of professionals into the force.
We need a culture change in the police service that will see officers who make decisions on behalf of others held responsible.
The 2010 Constitution, in creating the devolved units, and the current structures being prepared by the Police Service take into account the reality of devolution. In the structure, the governor has a central role in the security structure at the county level. Governors are critical in the formation of the envisaged County Policing Authorities (CPA), which are expected to facilitate public participation on county policing policy and ensuring policing accountability to the public.
Each county is expected to have its independent CPA, whose membership is to be established under the supervision of the Governor. County governments are required to facilitate community policing forums, which according to the law are expected to foster a better working relationship between the Police Service and the public which they serve.
The thinking here is that improved relation is critical in providing criminal intelligence to the relevant arms of the government for action.