When a man’s training and livelihood is to kill men (Legitimately or not), he develops power and confidence over humanity, such power that no human being should have. In this sense, both the violent robber and the flying squad policeman are similar in character and form – they both possess the power to take away life. In consequence, their capacity to be in charge of themselves as normal human beings is eroded. Their conscience is blurred and they evolve into soulless machines – perhaps they have bills to pay. We have been told stories of death squads within the Kenyan government whose role is to eliminate ‘enemies’ of powerful people within government. We have seen assassinations target individuals possibly singled out by these guys or their agents. We have seen men die brutal, painful deaths like that of Jacob Juma – a man whose final moments of pain were even visible on his face as he lay in his coffin. When a leadership is scared of its people, it stoops to such levels of violence.
But let me also ask; are not all men potential killers? That pushed to the right limit, any man will kill, or will fight even though he may be out-numbered, even with his bare arms. Do they underestimate the capacity and resolve of the citizen to protest state sponsored violence? Who would stand there and watch you kill their brother or mother? Have they forgotten that this is the same logic behind terrorism? And you can kill one or two or even a hundred, until it is your turn to die too.
Mombasa County Governor, Ali Hassan Joho being blocked by police from attending a ferry-launch event that the President presided over. He was later kept under ‘office-arrest’ until the President completed the event.
So when I saw the state security block the Governor of Mombasa at the Nyali bridge yesterday, I was drawn to look at the faces of the security agents ordered to block him. They were men like anyone else. In uniform or in plain clothes. They carried guns – which perhaps gave them more courage. Some of them wore dark glasses which perhaps helped them to hide their true identity and conceal their own shame. The shame of being the ones chosen for the dirty job. Who were these men? Some of them looked thuggish and scary, like real killers. Perhaps they have done this for long. A part of me felt sympathy for them because I know however that in the long run, such people often suffer tremendous psychological trauma such as we witness in the lives of ex-soldiers and ex-policemen. They are Kenyans stuck in this loop. Often under-trained, un-rewarded and used for illegal purposes, many of them risk their lives and kill only to defend themselves. That they were used to enforce an illegal arrest and to clamp down on Governor Joho’s freedom of movement speaks volumes about the security priorities of the leadership. The government cannot deploy to protect citizens against violent Pokot herdsmen but it can deploy to stop a single man from coming out of his office.
I watched the clip where they pushed Governor Joho backwards as they blocked his way – they were pushing as though they were prodding him to lose control and do something stupid so that they may have the excuse to use violence. I recalled the several instances in the past where such men have been sent to Kibera by the lorries to provoke the people’s anger in order to find a reason to beat up and even kill some people. This is the kind of stuff that happens in uncivilized countries led by equally uncivilized leaders. The idea of democracy is tolerance. The capacity for violence is but a-posturing, reserved only to the military to be used across the border. A para-military institution like the police has the role to ‘keep law and order.’ Beating and killing of innocent civilians has never brought about any law and order anywhere in the history of this world. Intimidating popularly elected leaders with violence tends to radicalize communities further. Actually, violence has always preceded the fall and collapse of every regime that has used it in excess.
“…we must all teach our children that a president is not a god…”
The presidency is above all, a political office and the bearer of the title being a politician – must also play politics. But the law of the land demands that they must not use the instruments of the state in pushing their individual political agenda. This used to happen in Kenya years back under Moi and Kenyatta. But now that we have seen the sunshine and enjoyed its warmth, we will all die before we go back to the dark caves of political submission and dictatorship. Again, we must all teach our children that a president is not a god. His die-hard followers may want to believe that, but the truth is that he is human. He feeds, pisses and poos like all of us. The illusion of omnipresence and omnipotence should not get into his head. In matters freedom, the child is already out of the womb. So much blood has already been spilt on this subject. We are not going back.
(Note: I would still say these if the president were my brother.)
The writer is the founder of Forum 43 Kenya, a Kenyan organization working to pursue the implementation of article 43 of the Kenyan constitution – Article 43 emphasizes the delivery of Economic, Social and Cultural rights for all Kenyans, particularly those in marginalized communities.
“The man who will hide the light of a candle is the man ready to burn.”