Jerry Okungu: City demo exposed our security lapse - The Star

No, those were not Muslims who rioted in Nairobi for eight good hours eight days ago.

It was not even Kenyan Somalis who went to Jamia Mosque armed with dangerous weapons and Al Shabaab flags to taunt Kenyans.

Those were foreign radicals, rebels without a cause that came to Kenya to spread the culture of violence that they have perfected in lawless Mogadishu.

Talking to many friends including those from Somalia, I got this impression that no sane person could condone, let alone support, the senseless demonstration in support of an illegal alien, a confessed hate preacher that no country, including his own country of birth Jamaica, wants to associate with.

That is why the citizens are yet to come to terms with Kenyan-born Muslims who masquerade as human rights activists and preachers who have gone on record to threaten the government following the riot of Friday last week.

I support the right to association, assembly and worship and even to demonstrate for a cause.

And I have taken part in many demonstrations right from my university days.

More often than not, demos will take a violent turn. The government always sees ill intentions in civilian demos.

The first reaction in most cases is to either deny such groups the permit or break up the demo by force if the order is defied.

It is therefore an accepted fact that anyone joining a demo — whether it is university students, lecturers' body or teachers union — risks injury or even death. You therefore cannot hold an illegal demo, turn violent and even shoot at the police and expect to be compensated for a lost leg, arm or even life.

What happened in Nairobi was a shame to Kenyans and the government. It was impossible to believe that just a handful of youths could paralyse the city centre for eight hours without the police dispersing them.

It was even comical to see the police resorting to throwing stones at the rioters instead of using teargas, water cannon and the good old rungus that Kenyatta-era GSU used on us during our university days.

Let us face it. Nairobi is East Africa's most important commercial city. The whole region depends on it. International agencies depend on it even to reach lawless Somalia.

Disrupting its operations and allowing terrorist insurgents to infiltrate it is an act of recklessness of the highest order.

It is the kind of negligence that many governments have been punished for over and over in recent history.

Can you imagine a group of Christian fundamentalists holding a violent demonstration in Tripoli, Baghdad or even lawless Mogadishu?

Christians would not even think of demonstrating in Mogadishu because that would be suicidal.

There would be a massacre at the hands of religious zealots.

However, if the Nairobi incident occurred in the centre of Kampala, Addis Ababa or Kigali, that area would have been cordoned off and a military operation would have taken place with dire consequences for the demonstrators.

More importantly, the Jamia Mosque would today be a security area or worse still, the mosque would have been brought down.

These ugly developments did not take place because this is Kenya where we value peace and human rights.

The Al Shabaab militias can kidnap our nuns, take our military vehicles into Somalia but we will never either demonstrate or threaten Somalia with dire consequences.

We behave as if the only people who matter are a certain tribe and a certain religion. Others can go to hell.

Here, an Al Shabaab militant or a Mungiki thug can kill a policeman. When it happens, we — the so-called human rights activists — never raise a finger or a voice.

However, when some deranged priest smuggles himself on our shores, then all hell breaks loose.

Our citizens working in Arab countries have no rights. A poor girl can be thrown from the top floor, break her limbs and the remains brought to Nairobi without a protest either from our human rights activists or the government.

What are we showing the rest of East Africans with this open tolerance for violent groups that we don't need? Why are we allowing terrorists, radicals and fundamentalists to buy property with abandon using illicit money? Aren't we courting disaster in broad daylight?

In many countries, the Nairobi incident would have seen heads rolling if not a whole government coming down. But this is Kenya. Nothing moves us here, not even the senseless death of a good policeman!

The writer is a media consultant.

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