By Eliud Owalo
In late 2013, Kenyans received official communication from the Jubilee Government that the erstwhile civilian oriented National Youth Service (NYS) was being transformed into a paramilitary organization replete with its own security firm to provide security services for hire.
Further, other sinister and suspect changes were rapidly effected without public notice. Such changes included unprocedural appointment of a new Director General, huge budgetary allocation to NYS way above that of regular security organs such as Administration Police, Regular Police etc.
Of particular interest to note was the transfer of NYS from the Ministry of Interior to the Ministry of Devolution, the enhanced interest of the Office of the President in NYS, the vested interests of the Chinese Government in the promised activities of the revamped NYS and the glaring lack of accountability, transparency and legal mechanisms as well as Parliamentary approval to underpin the restructuring and designed activities of NYS.
It is indeed of great public concern that although NYS is being transformed into a paramilitary agency, it is not subject to control by official security organs such as the Police Service. Equally, the necessity of its paramilitary nature is not clear nor the post training deployment of NYS Trainees.
Following the 2007/8 post election violence (PEV) in Kenya which was traced, as per the reports of the Commission of Inquiry in Post Election Violence (CIPEV) and the Kriegler Inquiry, to the illegal activities and assignments given to the Administration Police (AP) in connection with 2007 General Elections as well as the conscription of elements of Mungiki Gangs to participate in that yearâ€™s PEV, suspicion is mounting that part of the ruling clique has redesigned the NYS to camouflage political activities to be carried out by the organization in the General Elections slated for 2017.
Thus, in the wake of sinister and suspect developments at the NYS and also in the context of the turbulent nature of Kenyaâ€™s Presidential Polls, it is instructive to draw parallels to the establishment in Haiti in 1959 of Tontons Macoutes â€“ a paramilitary organization â€“ by President Francois â€˜Papa Docâ€™ Duvalier and the aftermath of that action.
Papa Doc created the Paramilitary Force two years after he became the President. The Tontons Macoutes was only answerable to him since he perceived a threat to his regime from the regular armed forces. He authorized the Tontons Macoutes to commit systematic violence and horrendous human rights abuses in order to suppress political opposition.
The Tontons were responsible for unknown numbers of murders and sexual abuses in Haiti. Political opponents often disappeared overnight or were sometimes attacked in broad day light.
Tontons stoned and burned people alive. On several occasions, they put the corpses of their victims on display, often hanging them on trees for everyone to see and to serve as a deterring warning to the opposition. Family members who tried to remove the bodies of relatives for proper burial often disappeared without trace.
They were believed to have been abducted and killed by the Tontons. The unrestrained state sanctioned terrorism by Tontons was accompanied by corruption, extortion and personal aggrandizement among the leadership. The victims of Tontons Macoutes included a wide range of people such as the poor and the rich so long as they were perceived to be opposed to the dictatorship of â€˜Papa Docâ€™. Analysts estimate that the Tontons Macoutes murdered more than 60,000 Haitians.
Some of the most important members of the Tonton Macoutes were Voodoo leaders. This religious affiliation gave the Macoutes a kind of super natural authority in the eyes of the public. From their choice of dressing, Voodooism always played a motivating role in their actions. The Tonton Macoutes wore straw hats, blue denim shirts and dark glasses, and were armed with machetes and guns. Both their allusions to the supernatural and their physical presentations were tools to instill fear.
The Tontons were everywhere at the polls in a rigged 1961 Haitian Elections, in which Duvalier was unanimously re-elected to another term. They appeared in force again at the 1964 polls in which Duvalier held a rigged referendum that declared him President for life.
Already, it seems that a section of the Jubilee leadership has realized that the 2017 polls might prove too tough for them to rig and have therefore redesigned the NYS to serve as a camouflage for effecting rigging the Tontons Macoutes style.
First, by endearing them to the public through community based activities; secondly, by training them on combat skills for violent activities; thirdly, by training them on rigging techniques and preparing them to work for IEBC at the polls in 2017;
Fourthly, providing them with military uniforms to instill fear amongst the public; Fifthly, introducing Mungiki style beliefs, oathings and activities in NYS operations.
It should be recalled that an official document prepared by a known local political analyst who was reportedly hired to propose the restructuring of NYS extensively relied on the operational organization of Mungiki gang including activities such as oathing and pseudo – religious activities.
Part two of this article will be published tomorrow.