Jackson Mwalulu: We should give the vexed land question greater priority

SOME RIFT VALLEY MPs WANT the Government to prioritise the land question. They have a point.

Their employers are slaughtering one another with abandon. From Mt Elgon through Molo to Laikipia, life has become brutish, nasty and short.

When legislator Mwangi Kiunjuri argues that the land-related violence has nothing to do with electoral politics, one is tempted to agree with him.

In Mt Elgon, where thousands have been killed and thousands more displaced, mayhem started as far back as 2003. Molo area has always been a flash-point with or without elections, with the situation deteriorating around electioneering time.

Is Molo Kenya’s Gaza Strip? The level of tribal poison there appears unique, what with people making hacking their neighbours a pastime. Today, Molo is the only place in this country — south of the Equator — where life is as unpredictable as it comes.

LAIKIPIA EXPLODES EVERY YEAR at around this time, perhaps due to drought, with pastoralists trying to force their way into the expansive whites-dominated ranches. How Kikuyu peasants there get roped in and end up being the biggest losers remains a puzzle.

Suspending normal parliamentary business to discuss the land question is a point one can understand in the face of the on-going bloodletting.

Are we talking about a National Conference on the Land Policy We Want? Tough luck, for getting consensus on such an explosive agenda would be as easy as getting Somalia back to statehood.

A Special National Committee on the Cause and Source of Land-related Conflicts? Maybe. Of immediate attention, however, is the security of Kenyans living in these zones. We can no longer sit back as sections of this country burn.

Here, the role and place of Kenya’s security system must come under scrutiny. Our security agents are either inept, on strike, outgunned or simply unpatriotic. It is hard to explain how armed bands can roam the countryside peddling death and destruction with such ease.

This country has, perhaps, the most elaborate security system in this region. The Provincial Administration stretches from the village headman to the minister for Internal Security (and the President) through the sub-chief, chief, DO, DC, PC and permanent secretary.

The Kenya Police Force comprises regular officers, the Criminal Investigation Department, Administration Police, prisons officers, the National Security Intelligence Service (NSIS), and the General Service Unit (GSU).

The Government has taken to making mass transfers and reshuffles of senior security officers in what looks like a knee-jerk reaction to the recent (or is it ongoing?) post-election violence.

That is both a statement of failure of duty by the affected officers as well as policy inadequacy on the part of the Government in dealing with indiscipline, and, or, sabotage from within.

Out-gunned? It has been recorded that the Kenya police are thinly spread (one police officer to 1,150 citizens as opposed to the internationally recommended one police officer to 440 citizens). This is perhaps the closest one can come to explaining runaway insecurity, particularly in rural Kenya.

This is evidence as to how stratified Kenya as a society is. Security priority is directly proportional to the distance from Nairobi. Even within Nairobi, neighbourhoods dictate the geography of security services. It is easier to be killed in Korogocho slums than in Runda.

While still on official security policy, isn’t it strange that we just watched as villagers in the far-flung Mt Elgon organised themselves into a formal force —Sabaot Land Defence Force (SLDF)? How many other actual or potential “forces” are we dealing with?

WE HAVE IT ON THE AUTHORITY OF respectable sources like the International Crisis Group that various communities now have their own SDLFs. What are we doing about it over and above focusing on elite power-sharing deals? Is disarmament part of the national healing process or we stay put until the next time we start hacking one another and then invite Mr Kofi Annan back?

While arresting, detaining or even executing the foot-soldiers in this game of destruction is crucial to ending the anarchy, dealing with the master-planners is the ultimate answer. It is catching these merchants of death that will enable us to come closest to a lasting solution.

Finally, a blanket amnesty to those who, under the disguise of protesting alleged electoral malpractices killed children and women, is the shortest cut to the jungle law. Criminals must never be feted as heroes of democracy.

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