There is nothing like absolute security; security is a function of perception in the minds of a people in an area or country.

For starters, Policemen and body guards do get killed by thugs, whether “in line of duty” or when off duty. If there was something like “absolute security”, anyone involved officially in security would only be expected to die of some other causes eg malaria or an accident, and if we were to split hairs, this means nobody is even  “secure” from death..

In Kenya, I’m told, the ratio of policemen to civilians is like 1:650, or even higher. This should not bother anyone as long as the presence of that one policeman is FELT amongst the 650 people! Having a police ratio of 1: 1 would solve nothing if they are ineffective. For sure we need adequate quantity of security, but the quality of policing matters more.  
My point in all this is that humans only need “a sense of adequate security”, and creation of that impression of security should be one that the  security organs’ should be  engaged in(research, development, training), not just waiting for the police/  population ratio “to get better”.
The state of mind that there is security in an area would serve as a deterrent to the proliferation of criminals.

If one walks along the streets of some of the “very secure” neighborhoods in Kenya, one is actually surprised at the paucity of police officers and police patrols on the beat. I once walked from Nairobi CBD to the UNEP and American embassies(Gigiri). I didn’t encounter police patrols. This area is  relatively “secure” area in kenya, because of the perception in most Kenyans minds  that the police are allover the place to protect the relatively well-up who reside in the area.

I’ve always wondered why there’s so much real insecurity in areas where the perception of insecurity is high. What attracts thugs to estates like Githurai 45, where most of the inhabitants are not that well up anyway? Maybe that state of high insecurity has an affinity for criminals…

Britain ranks amongst the most “secure” countries. And I have a feeling you’ll tell me it’s because they have the right ratio of police to population as recommended by WHO or whatever the body that does this. Wrong. To prove that the numbers don’t count for shit, London riots happened, and caught all those police officers flat footed. It took them days to return the situation back to normal. London brought all the riots to a halt by dealing firmly with the perpetrators of the riots.All the security apparatus were activated in a major way: rioters were promptly arrested,hauled in front of judges and handed hash sentences! In an a country who’s people are at a social  level where being denied freedom is as harsh a punishment as being hanged,  these measures worked like magic. Rioters realized that they’ll be caught and punished for their crimes. They realized that the security apparatus are alive and well!          
The major  work of security organs should be to endeavour to create this kind of impression and perception of effective  security.

In Kenya,the society is at a level where criminals consider  being sent to jail is actually better than life out in the streets. This essentially means that the British way of dealing with insecurity can’t work in Kenya.

However,there’s something that Kenyans respect and loath in equal measure in quelling episodes of insecurity: the KDF! Once an episode of violence seems to be overwhelming the regular police, the army is sent in and it works to bring the whole situation back to normal,a case in point being the quashing of the saboat land defense forces that had terrorized residents of mt elgon area.

I’d recommend that the government comes up with a policy which stipulates a threshold in violence level which automatically triggers the intervention of the army. The KDF then moves in in-force with the helicopters and ground forces. This would’ve gone a long Way in serving as a deterrent in the post election violence of ’07/’08.

There are issues in the operation of the army allover the world, but this perception can easily be addressed.  

In cases of the usual criminal activity such as (pickpockets, burglary etc) the security apparatus should consider “pouring”  plain clothes policemen in an area for about a week. They do a thorough shake down of criminals to the extent that the criminals fear that the next person they try to rob is a security officer. This done regularly and randomly would considerably lower incidences of crime.        


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2 Responses to “There is nothing like absolute security; security is a function of perception in the minds of a people in an area or country.”

  1. Alex Says:

    I’m not sure we should be relying on the army for domestic security, I thought one of their basic tenets is to not act on a civilian population, especially their own? What we need is a police force with the capacity to handle everything from petty crime to large scale riots. Then again, having never served in anything but a kitchen, I may be wrong…

    • Njuguna Ngugi Says:

      You are wrong on only one issue: “..having worked only in the kitchen..” If were to pay our stay- at- home wives the worth of what they do, many a man would never marry as we’d NEVER afford it! Moving on swiftly..I’m proposing the kdf involvement as we’ve lost faith with the capability of the police to deal with large-scale violence. I’m aware of the fact that the army isn’t supposed to work internally but the push has come to shove…Another way of fostering our capacity of the police would be to very “publicly” engage the army in training the police..

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