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The Telescope

Who will guard civilians from a trigger-happy police force?

The seeming surge in fatal shootings by police officers has become one of Kenya’s most discordant issue in the recent past raising a legitimate concern of whether the disciplined forces operate under an “us versus them” mindset, one that regards the public as more dangerous than it is.

The latest cases of suspected police killings include that of Ms Janet Wangui Waiyaki who lost her life to what has now been revealed as a collective 15 rounds of bullets on her and a companion who were undoubtedly unarmed.

The parallels in this case with ones we have heard about most recently are more chilling. Not too long ago seven-year-old Geoffrey Mutinda’s life was snuffed by a bullet while innocently playing on the balcony of their rental house in Pipeline Estate, Nairobi. A story similar to that of ten-year-old Stephanie Moraa, killed while playing on the balcony of her home in Mathare North.

This murders beg the question, is the proliferation of this shootings motivated just by brazen trigger-happy officers or by a impotent system that has incubated rogue officers overtime and when pressured by the public do not respond entirely or merely give the officer a slap on the wrist as punishment for taking innocent life?



It is not lost on us that across democracies, police have moved from protectors of rights to violators of freedoms. In 2014, the UN Committee against Torture condemned global police brutality and excessive use of force by law enforcement agencies highlighting the frequent and recurrent police shootings or fatal pursuits of unarmed individuals.

Dissonantly, the local National Police Act 2011 permits the use of excessive force in situations where the life of a policeman is threatened, or when a criminal is escaping from custody. Even then, a warning must be given first. However, in all the above cases and those ones so far catalogued, the police have not been able to prove that this was the case in those incidents.

In two of the cases above, senior police officers denied police involvement in the said deaths, yet were at pains to tell Kenyans who the culprits were or apprehend them.

Kenyans horrified by the incidents can only hope the trigger-happy cops will not end up with medals and a promotion in a country that is fast curving a reputation of being altruistic to rule breakers with the prominent ones being rewarded with the state jobs.

Bottom line, anyone who shoots first and asks questions later, when he or she is clearly not facing an armed threat, must be made to face the consequences. Aggressive, confrontational policing is the least effective way to control crime.  As a country we cannot afford to have a police service that is not only rogue, but partisan as has been observed in the past. A time has come when individual responsibility must be assigned to trigger-happy police officers to assuage the public.

Finally, it can be hard to adjust the narratives we process life through, especially when the past and even present justify that narrative in so many ways. However, there is no doubt that when policing results to excessive force, the stakes are grievously high. Our conversation must be based on viable options of a system overhaul in the disciplined forces and most importantly in their engagements with civilians. Also the force must embark on serious measures to redeem its reputation and restore Kenyans confidence across board.


The Telescope


You’ve probably received various graphic images doing rounds on social media every so often of young Kenyan women working in one of the Arab countries living under squalid conditions and being mistreated. The lucky ones make it back home to tell the harrowing tales in pursuit of greener pastures.

Although it is rarely highlighted, slavery stubbornly persists throughout the world .This is rather unfortunate considering that the right of freedom from slavery is a fundamental human right and no set of circumstances can override or qualify an individual’s right to be free of slavery in the Kenyan Law and even in the European Convention on Human Rights but fact is many have been denied this vital privilege.

It is also not lost to many that its among the female gender that slavery is most hard hitting. Women carry a triple burden in addition to enduring the harsh conditions of forced labour, extreme forms of discrimination and exploitation as a result.

This year the United Nations commemorated the International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade under the theme, “Women and Slavery” paid tribute to the many enslaved women who endured unbearable hardships, including sexual exploitation, as well as those who fought for freedom from slavery and advocated for its abolition.

The theme which notably recognised the strength of enslaved women even after encountering abject abuse and neglect registered the need for a worldwide concern which has severally been placed at the peripheries of urgent interests called for ultimate address to this global predicament.

Lured by the promise of well-paid work and a chance to escape joblessness at home so as to send the much needed remittances to their families every year the risk of dismal misfortunes continue bedevilling Kenyan women seeking better life abroad left at the mercies of reigning illegal and unscrupulous recruitment agencies playing slave merchants. Many girls end up reported dead under mysterious circumstances while hundreds of others remain detained by agencies that abandon them in foreign countries.5310018381_ecdefcd613_b

Even with this reports agencies atrociously persist in minting millions through human trafficking and modern day slavery in broad day light through impunity issuance of thousands of passports monthly to unsuspecting poor girls being exported as slave-maids; all these happening under the governments watch.

Failure of the Kenyan Government to defend its citizens in and beyond its borders in taking concrete action against unscrupulous agents of slavery and death continues to be a big let down to Kenyans. The Government ought to step up and address these veiled acts of shame; lift fellow deserving Kenyans in the country or abroad out of harm’s way and put them on a path toward empowerment, financial stability and self reliance. It could start by creating solid job opportunities for the youth.

It is also a dishonour on Kenyans part for engaging in such life threatening conditions even after hearing of heartbreaking accounts from others who have gone to such countries and luckily survived terrible ordeals and still be willing to endanger their lives by accepting to be shipped to Middle east.

Unfortunately by the time you finish this last sentence another Kenyan is elatedly boarding a flight bound for the Middle East ignorant to the vast possibility of telling the same sad story.

It is my belief that the situation will change and employment agencies that do not meet government’s regulations be dealt with immediately to save lives. Let us all work together to end modern- day slavery.

This article was published on People Weekend on 15-16,August 2015


International Mother Language Day

The United Nations International Mother Language Day celebrates language diversity and variety worldwide. The event that was quietly marked yesterday promotes linguistic and cultural diversity.

Created by UNs Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) on November 17, 1999, it has been observed every year since February 2000. The date represents the day in 1952 when students from different educational institutions demonstrated for recognition of their language, Bengali, as one of the two national languages of the then Pakistan and were shot dead by police in the capital of present-day Bangladesh.Screen Shot 2015-03-07 at 12.56.45 PM

The United Nations General Assembly by the same resolution, proclaimed 2008 as the International Year of Languages, to promote unity in diversity and international understanding, through multi-lingualism and multi-culturalism.

By extension, Unesco in Africa declared 2006 the year of African languages. In spite of this, the language policy in Kenya continues to be tilted in favour of English and to some extent Swahili, at the expense of mother tongue.

The importance of mother tongue in cognitive, linguistic, personal and educational development of children is crucial and this cannot be over emphasised. Granted, the question of language and identity has been a thorny issue in most African countries ever since they attained independence from their colonial masters.

There is a scenario that keeps unfolding in the country as the Education ministry struggles to assert the status of our mother tongues in the education system. The move always attracts support and dissent in equal measure.Opponents argue it will heighten negative ethnicity and may even lower the quality of education offered. But proponents see massive benefits to the child, both in the quality of learning and appreciation of themselves.

Mother tongue is important in moulding a society to be able to provide homegrown solutions to local problems.But these benefits have been shrouded by stereotypic notions, social injustices and tribalism.

The undercurrent of tribal division is undeniably gaining momentum fast. We seem to be on a slippery trajectory towards disintegration.

Cohesion must be a mutual venture. Instead of pointing fingers, we must take up the responsibility in willing to be a nation that refuses to be torn along tribal lines. We must walk towards building confidence among all communities.

(This article was published on February 22, 2015 on People Daily Kenya