By Dorcas Sarkozy
There are two immovable forces currently facing off in Kenya’s socio-political discourse.
On one side there is the opposition and supporters of NASA while on the other side is the incumbent Jubilee with the country’s police and security forces at its beck-and-call.
The two sides faced off yesterday (Friday, Nov. 17) when Nasa-rites went to welcome Raila Odinga back from his travels and the 123rd ranked police force in the world was not about to let that happen.
While I understand the reason given by the police Inspector-General Joseph Boinett i.e. that the crowd “would be blocked from accessing the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport” unless they complied with the Public Order Act (2016), what I do not understand is the tactics the forces went about enforcing compliance with said order.
With approval of direct flights to and from the US hanging in the balance, Jubilee wants to put its best foot forward.
I get it.
I also appreciate the fact that Jomo Kenyatta International Airport is a protected area and access is open to travelers and those with “legitimate business at the airport who must be subjected at all times to the standard security procedures”.
That being the case, the easiest thing to do would have been to map out an alternate route for the crowd that was inevitably going to amass exactly where the IG had told them NOT to go if for nothing else other than thumb their noses at the be-spectacled toady.
The easiest thing the IG would have done would have been to invite the likes of James Orengo and the “welcoming” committee to discuss how to give Raila the welcome “he deserved” while simultaneously laying out the very valid security concerns and public relations nightmare the looming conflagration between the two sides portended.
While not equating the prerogatives of a sitting president with those of the leader of the opposition, Kenya Police already had a template on how to handle the arrival of a popular figure at the nation’s premier airport. Back in 2014 (October 9th), a throng of Jubilants welcomed back the former crimes-against-humanity suspect back from The Hague.
Mr. Kenyatta’s return went off without a hitch effectively using the same Mombasa Road-Outer Ring Road-Jogoo Road loop that Raila could have used.
The security forces could have used the same foresight, planning and restraint they displayed when the presidential motorcade and accompanying adoring crowd snaked its way from the airport while making several stops along the route for the relieved CAH suspect to address his supporters.
True to the adage “snatching defeat from the jaws of victory”, the “mbois in mburu” curiously opted for the more difficult confrontational and inevitably deadly option.
They not only dismissed or disregarded the opposition’s publicly-stated desire to “welcome” Raila Odinga back from the US, they opted to confront the opposition crowd with its palpable and pent-up anger and hunger, the former towards the incumbency.
And the mostly-young crowd was only too willing to oblige and take on IG Boinnet’s police force; the entity they hold singularly responsible for abusing and brutalizing them, repeatedly.
Like the deadly relationships between apartheid South Africa and the black youth of the townships, the mostly white American police force and the minority inner city youth and the Israeli security forces and the Palestinian youth, Kenya’s police force is establishing a relationship with the youth of the opposition that will remain toxic for quite some time.
The sad thing is that it need not be that way.