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No, the answer is not more security for the Big People

Gangland-style executions are firmly with us in Kenya. A spate of recent incidents, all with the same calling-card: professionally executed hits that target specific individuals. Couple that with the ever-present threat of terrorism, and lots of Big People are worried.

What is interesting is what the Big People think they should do in response. Members of parliament, for example, are busy lobbying for bigger security details and budgets – for themselves. They even want a tunnel to protect them as they walk from their offices to parliament…

Knee-jerk elitism looks like this: If society is becoming more dangerous, the Big People must be protected from the danger. Let the Little People be attacked at will, but we must protect the Big People at all costs.

That indeed is what the Kenyan state, since its colonial origins, has always been designed to do: exist for the betterment of the elite. That isn’t a development; it’s part of the design.

So what if we accede to the MPs’ wishes? What if we give them an additional retinue of armed bodyguards? What if we give them armour-plated vehicles? What if we give them special protected lanes on our roads, to dodge both traffic and adversary?

Do they seriously think this keeps them safer? I have written before: the rich are not spared the effects of a society in decay. Did Westgate spare them? Even if whole platoons of guards protect you, they may not protect people who matter to you. Will your children not need to still go to school, or will a bodyguard be assigned to sit in on the lessons? Will your spouses not need to go shopping?

Even if your family members remain cosseted and cocooned, what does that do for their quality of life? Will your children actually be able to experience the fullness of life, or create meaningful bonds with others?

And finally, have you given some thought to those underpaid armed guardians, operating in a system of collapsed discipline and guns for hire, ostensibly there to protect you? Are they not the very ones who will betray you or turn those same guns on you when the chance comes?

Society does not solve any problem at all when it tries to only solve the problem for those at the top. This is the equivalent of cladding your toes in protective bandaging and stopping walking because you have gout. A body-wide change and treatment are needed, not just where the symptoms appear.

We are not going to address any security problem until we address the issue of the decay in our law-enforcement organs. We will not cure the disease until we remove the toxins that propagate it. We cannot get better until we behave better.

We are where we are because we allow unchecked corruption. The law is a joke to those who have money, and a tool for the oppression of those who don’t. That’s the real problem. If the Big People want to feel more secure, they have to address the insecurity problem at its roots.

You don’t cure violent crime by shielding a chosen few from violent crime. You cure it by developing a deep understanding of the forces in society that cause people to become violent criminals. You cure it by maintaining widely respected and demonstrably competent law-enforcement institutions. You cure it by having the determination to make tough decisions and stay the course. You cure it by curing it for everyone.

As for better security for the bigwigs: that is precisely the problem. Those who craft policy and pass laws must start thinking of the wellbeing of everyone in the nation, not just their self-absorbed selves.

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