Before You Send That Tweet: Kenyan Armed Forces & Police

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November 6, 2014

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Photo credit: Standard Media

Photo credit: Standard Media

There are some things the average person takes for granted: you don’t remember that your internet service provider or Kenya Power is doing a good job up until the moment they fail in their obligation. A brief blackout or outage of service will have most of us justifiably angry and tweeting colourful epithets about our discomfort at whichever innocent intern runs the account of the company that has dared to inconvenience your day. It can be argued that it is the responsibility of whichever corporate to keep up their end of the bargain by providing services agreed upon, but this logic cannot be applied across the board. Here of course, we refer to the Kenya police and armed forces.

Social media has of late been awash with Kenyan opinion on the state of security in the nation in light of recent coverage of unfortunate incidents. While a healthy discussion on the state of our nation should always be encouraged, sentiments thus have have ranged from outrage, sympathy and criticism, swaying with the tides of current events as they happen and are reported on.

One would be excused for having a hard time defending our uniformed troops when word of what sounded like a Hollywood script reached our ears. What began as a routine alcoblow check at a police roadblock quickly turned dramatic as officers on duty realized the gentleman who had just failed the sobriety test was in fact a senior AP boss. As our commendable boys in blue proceeded to carry out their duties of arresting said inebriated driver, they quickly found themselves in the company of a 24 man strong AP squad on a mission to liberate the senior officer. Far outnumbered, the police reportedly had no choice but to release the senior boss, as politely requested by the heavily armed AP squad who fulfilled their liberation mission.

Photo credit: Kenya Army blogspot

Photo credit: Kenya Army blogspot

Stories like this do little to repair the distrustful image most Kenyans have of those meant to serve and protect us, but others blur the line between outrage and sympathy. News broke of a raid on a Nyali barracks where one soldier tragically lost his life. Reports had it that the brazen attack was carried out by antagonists wielding rudimentary weapons such as pangas, which likely contributed to the death of six of the gang at the hands of barracks sentries in the course of the raid. While some Kenyans thought of those deceased in the struggle, others pointed out that it was a sad day when homegrown bandits with little by way of training, planning or weapons feel confident enough to take on a barracks. Some went as far as to say the disregard for armed forces in their own backyard was a clear sign of an inefficiency and mistrust in the abilities of our security forces that may explain the current wave of insecurity.

Sadder still was reports that barely two years after the Baragoi massacres that saw 40 police officers and reservists slain in cold blood, 21 police officers had been met their demise in Kapedo in another brutal attack on Kenyan soil. Attacks on the armed forces having been uncommon in Kenyan history, both these attacks have left Kenyans reeling: caught between offering condolences to fallen officers’ families and baying for the blood of those responsible. Regardless of our differing opinions on how the situation could have been handled, and our personal solutions going forward, the unifying thread in the conversation thus far has been mourning the loss of life.

While we concede that Kenyans have more than enough reasons to mistrust or even be angry with the police and armed forces for abuses of power, corruption and other ills that we seem to discover every other day, the fact remains that under those uniforms beat human hearts. Tasked with the job of laying down their lives if need be to ensure our lives proceed normally, and that we live in peace is no mean feat. Spare a moment to give a thought to the officer who wakes up knowing he or she might stare down the barrel of a gun that day to make sure you can tweet your opinion without fear of harm today.

Talking of tweets this week, we all know the war of words between the #GrandMullah and the CS for internal security Hon. Ole Lenku. That’s a story for another day.

Don’t let a few bad apples ruin the bunch for you: have an appreciative week.


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