On the Government’s Responsibility to Protect its Citizens

Posted by on 14th September 2012

Categories:   Uncategorized

The primary of role the state is to protect its citizens. Our constitution guarantees both the right to life (Article 26.1) and the right to security (Article 29.6) providing that, “Every person has the right to life, and that a person shall not be deprived of life intentionally, except to the extent authorized by the Constitution or other written law.” The constitution and also provides that every person has the right not be “subjected to any form of violence from either public or private sources” (Article 29.6).

However the recent and rising incidences of violence and insecurity, coupled with the government’s inaction/delayed action, probably has most Kenyans questioning the government’s ability to effectively perform this primary function i.e. the protection of its citizens as well as provide and protect constitutional freedoms i.e. the right to life and the right to security of person.

Just 6 months to the next general election, politically/ethnically instigated violence has claimed the lives of hundreds of people, thousands have been displaced, and property lost, causing a tangible feeling of insecurity. Despite promises of “never again” after the electoral violence of 2007/2008 it seems that politically instigated violence is still rife and that insecurity is an endemic part of our electoral politics. Recently the National Cohesion and Integration Commission decried growing ethnic violence in Mombasa County (between the Garre and Degodia), in Wajir/Garrissa (between Ogaden clans), and in Tana River/Lamu County between the Orma and Pokomo Communities and the violent protest in Mombasa following the death of Sheik Aboud Rogo.

The manner in which government is dealing with these incidences of violence leaves a lot to be desired as far a protection of citizens is concerned. In what is the worst incidence of violence since the 2007/2008 post election violence i.e. Tana River, we have seen government officials and members of parliament speak out against the violence, too little to late with not enough action in the initial stages of the outbreak of violence; and the imposition of a dawn to dusk curfew, which did little to curb the violence.

This week MPs Danson Mugatana and Abdi Nuh filed a motion in parliament to have Kenya Defence Forces deployed to Tana River citing Article 241 (3) i.e. “The Defence Forces may be deployed to restore peace in any part of Kenya affected by unrest or instability with the approval of the National Assembly.” Parliament has since passed the motion to deploy the defence forces and Police Commissioner Matthew Iteere has announced the deployment of more than 1000 General Service Unit (GSU) Officers to curb the violence in Tana River. While deployment of the armed forces to Tana River may be a necessary course of action, caused by the government’s delay in acting in the initial stages of the violence, in my opinion it is also a crushing indictment of the government and its failure to provide security for its citizens. The deployment of the armed forces to the Tana River also begs the question, why did the police fail in stopping violence in Tana River in its initial stages?

In your opinion has the government shown sufficient political will to deal with rising political/ethnic violence and insecurity? Beyond the rhetoric is there a demonstration on the part of the government to investigate and prosecute highly placed individuals that support/instigate such violence?