In the wake of April’s terrorist attacks, Kenya’s Deputy President William Ruto has said that the country will change like America after 9/11. Whether Kenya copes the American response or not, it will have to tackle an enabler of terrorism: domestic corruption, as Mark Kapchanga reports from Nairobi.
Over 147 people were killed in a pre-dawn attack on Garissa University College in North Eastern Kenya on 2 April. It was the most deadly terror attack in the country since the US Embassy bombing of 1998. According to the Kenya National Disaster Operation Centre, 79 people were injured, and 587 people were evacuated in addition to those killed. Barely four months before the Garissa attack, Kenya had been rocked by two other major terror attacks in arid Mandera, close to the border with Somalia: 36 quarry workers were butchered just days after the heinous shooting of 28 bus passengers outside the town.
In February, Kenyan authorities said terror attacks had killed a total of 312 people between 2012 and 2014. According to the then acting Police Inspector-General Samuel Arachi, 2014 had the highest number of deaths: 173.
“In the same year, 779 people were injured. Radicalisation, especially in Northern Kenya and coastal regions remains the most significant threat, when the youth decide to act violently based on their beliefs,” Arachi said in a press briefing.
An investigation into the Mandera quarry worker massacre revealed that the attackers not only roamed freely in the area but were also assisted by the police and immigration officers to cross the Kenya-Somalia border. The border has long been a conduit for smugglers of sugar, charcoal and other goods as well as human and drug traffickers.
An intelligence officer told New African terrorists are now using these permeable spots to cross into Kenya from Somalia by paying corrupt border police and security officers. Unfortunately, he says, nothing can be done against them.
“More alarming are revelations that dozens of Kenyan military recruits who were being trained to fight [the Al Qaeda-linked terror group] al-Shabaab prior to the invasion of Somalia four years ago may have defected to the terror group and are now operating within Kenya,” says Rasna Warah, a security analyst and Daily Nation columnist.
The Kenya police, tasked with maintaining law and order, are known for their culture of impunity and appetite for bribes. The latest Transparency International Corruption Perception Index awarded the Kenyan Police an 81 per cent corruption score, making it the most corrupt institution in Kenya. Unsurprisingly, the vast majority of Kenyans do not trust the police. Past surveys on corruption by Transparency International show that an average of 90 per cent of Kenyans consider them to be either corrupt or extremely corrupt.
“There is a positive correlation between the increased corruption among our security officers and the rising insecurity in Kenya. It is a cancerous problem that we have been grappling with for some time. However, a lasting solution is imminent,” said Interior Cabinet Secretary Joseph Nkaissery, the successor of Joseph Ole Lenku, who was fired in December 2014 for underperformance.
“al-Shabaab is becoming stronger day after day despite the authorities in Kenya devoting massive resources to combat terrorism. This is because of the endemic corruption that is deeply ingrained in the public sector,” says Michael Juma, a retired police officer who currently runs a private security consultancy business in Mombasa.
According to Juma, the criminals can easily acquire identification documents such as passports, identity cards, birth certificates, among others from State offices in Kenya provided that they pay some bribe. “That is why today, we have many foreigners, especially from Somalia, in Kenya, who claim to be legitimate citizens, yet they can hardly speak English or Kiswahili,” observes Juma. Kiswahili and English are Kenya’s official languages.
A National Intelligence Officer told New African some form of military training should be introduced to the police so as to change their behaviour. “The General Service Unit (GSU) and the Administration Police (AP) are as old as the regular police in Kenya. However, the GSU and AP tend to be more professional than their colleagues in the police force because of the (military) training they go through,” he said.
But importantly, he said, Kenya should invest more resources in the police, where average salaries are about Ksh20,000 ($222) a month. “There would be minimum or zero incentive for a police officer to collude with criminals if he was well paid,” said the officer.