December 2 President’s Speech on the Current Security Situation in Kenya

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Without a doubt security, mostly the lack of it has been one of the biggest talking points in Kenya. After the Mandera incident which took place while the president was out of the country on official duty in UAE.  The president received a lot of backlash on his reaction albeit lack of it at that point in time not to cancel his visit in UAE and come home to attend to the growing insecurity matters. It must be pointed that after the Mandera incident the Deputy President did address the nation in a well-choreographed speech which indicated that the Kenyan army had miraculously identified an Al Shabaab camp which it went ahead to bomb. Needless to say no level headed analysis believed the Deputy Presidents account of events since the evidence of this attack mostly the veracity of the photos produced was questioned by security experts.

As it would be, the Mandera incidence was immediately followed by another terrorist attack incident in the Northern part of our country. This point in time it seems the presidency learnt from its previous failures and the president within 24 hours of the attack addressed the nation, with what was going to be a far reaching speech. This as some analysis rightly put it was the first time the president was addressing the nation after the Mandera incident. A number of things had taken place in between these waves of attacks, with protestors having marched outside the office of the presidency asking for the sacking of the Cabinet Secretary for Interior and Coordination of National Government, John Ole Lenku and Inspector General of Police – Mr. David Kimaiyo.

There was growing pressure from within the country that the above two officers were sleeping on the job and that their failures in their respective offices were now reflecting badly on the presidency because ultimately the buck stops with the president.

The December 2, 2014 statement by the president was by all accounts a Kantian moment from the presidency since it indicated that our country was at war. It is more or less reminiscent of President Bush speech after the Sept. 11 terrorist attack. The speech narrated the history of attacks in our country and pointed a finger at Somalia and by extension showed cause as to why our military is in Somalia. Some of the highlights of this speech are;

In October, 2011, the Government authorized the KDF to pursue the Al Shabaab militia into Somalia. This decision was right then, and remains so today.

It was also noteworthy that the president went all out to show that Kenya’s military is part of the AU mission. This is because some sections of the population have been calling for the Kenyan military to pull out of Somalia – if this would help reduce the attacks on the Kenyan soil.

Following requests by regional, continental and global actors, KDF joined AMISOM in February 2012. We remain part of the African Union mission to date.

This is why we have witnessed intensified extremist rhetoric against the KDF campaign in Somalia as well as support for murder and impunity. This reprehensible rhetoric has embraced Al Qaeda’s extremist ideas of setting up an Islamic Caliphate in East Africa.

However, the biggest news was the December 2, 2014 statement was the sacking of the CS for Interior and Coordination of National Government, Mr. John Ole Lenku and the surprise voluntary retirement on health grounds of IG of Police, Mr. David Kimaiyo. The surprise of the evening however was the man tapped to replace Ole Lenku to the docket responsible for Security. Major General (rtd) Joseph Nkaissery had been a Member of Parliament from Orange Democratic Movement (opposition) and in so doing it seems President Kenyatta was following in the footsteps of the US President Barack Obama who nominated the outgoing Secretary of Defense, Hagel from the Republican Party.

By all accounts the new nominee who has of yesterday been vested by his former colleagues in Parliament is a respected military man. Major General (rtd) Joseph Nkaissery is an US educated General and many people have faith that he is the man for the job.

However, one of the main areas of concern from the president’s speech was the apparent reference for the media to ‘tone down’.

Our national conversation, whatever its temper, is facilitated by our media. The media must step back from being an inert funnel of sentiments, opinions and messages, and become a true mediator and an honest broker of the national discourse. The media must not allow intemperate, intolerant, divisive, alarmist and stigmatizing views.

You can access the full Mandera Statement by the President here

The author of this piece is a blogger and a cultural practitioner in Nairobi. The views expressed here do not necessarily represent the views of FES.