Shoot To Kill, I vote.

When an individual is able to congratulate himself on the attainment of enlightenment- or when such an individual reaches his Nirvana on a subject, it is a great day. When that enlightenment causes him to convert his belief and thinking, the day is brighter still.

I have had an epiphany that caused me to reach Nirvana on the subject of National Security – and indeed the enhancement of my own.

It is this circumstance that has led me to join the majority of officers of the Kenya Police Service and the section of wananchi that has directly suffered to “Shoot to Kill”as the most effective strategy to combat crime. This would be for me a controversy from the campaign that I have long held for the right of the individual and in truth, I have not diverted from this campaign, I have simply refined my approach to it. The end game is the same: reduce crime especially violent crime to the lowest possible levels – immediately.

The event of my epiphany occurred on the evening of last Thursday as I trudged up the hill to my little apartment in a leafy quiet area of Nairobi – an area that one would think to be highly secure and that is so, except for a few pockets here and there. Anyway, as I was walking, I met with a young man who made out to be timid about his gait and who tried to stop me with a “Habari”. Naturally i responded as I walked past him but when I saw the gun up in the air – a small enough pistol and i heard the click of it being cocked, well, i stopped and reached for the stars.

Another young man came upon the scene and a speedy ransacking was done of my person to find and retrieve any weapons and valuables as I might have had in my pocket. This incidentally was just next to the Railways Golf Course on Bunyala Road. I was then encouraged to cross the road to the darkened golf course by way of a fence that had been torn apart.

On the lush green, very nicely trimmed grass on one of the outer tees, I was asked to lie down upon my stomach, a command that I executed with alacrity. It was in this position that I watched as the young men painstakingly went through my bag and my person to take the things that they felt were due to them. I tried to negotiate with them, not to take the laptop, saying that I would lose my job and their answer was simple: “utapata ingine”

Presently, I was instructed back on my feet and I was told to quickly go. You can be sure I showed a clean pair of heels as I sped to the world bank and got help. A huge search was mounted even though it was fruitless. They were long gone.

I have to say Officer Mutiso and his mates as well as the Securex guards in upper hill showed prowess and they were lively in their pursuit. As we stood around after the search on the green, one of the officers asked me some penetrating questions:

Now that you have been robbed, how do you feel?” he asked. “if Maina wa Kiai came to you and said tutafute hao polepole and arrest them take them to court and prosecute for months before they are acquitted, what would you say?”

Hakuna dawa ingine, mzee.” Another interjected, “ni kumwaga wao tu”

The other cop explained that the public as personified by Maina wa Kiai, has a skewed perspective on the security problem. They get robbed violently (getting robbed is bad enough, being hurt or killed is much worse), the police are inundated and outnumbered by the villains, who many times have better artillery. In addition, the neighboring countries are violently running themselves wild and the borders are completely open apart from where the gate is.

In these circumstances, the police are having to wage war – and it is war. The robbers are leaving bodies in their wake and the police can’t keep up with procedure hampering the best of their efforts. At some point, they have to stand up and wage war.

A shoot to Kill policy has its merits. Yes, many will be killed – some innocent – but such is the situation in war. Uganda, Rwanda, and some Asiatic countries have implicitly had this policy and they are among the safest havens – Ask anyone who goes there or lives there. The cities in which human rights are upheld fanatically, are among the worst in terms of violent crime records – South Africa, New York…

By the way, in old Africa – and old America and old Europe – violent crime; indeed crime in general was rare because it was dealt with viciously and swiftly. A chicken thief was flogged in public, a violent man lost his property and in many cases the punishment was capital – flogged, killed etc. Barbaric, maybe but effective.

I say, lets deal with this issue in a barbaric way and do away with such nonesense. But I also say, we must look at the issue of the economic disparity and the optimism and hope that goes with that as well as – for God’s sake, Close those borders conclusively.

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  1. Vee

    I have been a supporter of the shoot-to-kill idea for the longest time (and human rights has never crossed my mind). I am not going to wait till I am affected directly or indirectly I want to ensure safety long before destiny and some violent robbery or event occurs to me or my loved ones.

    Kampala, Uganda was once the most unsafe city in East Africa, but now people walk safely at all hours of the day. Kuala Lumpur Malaysia is another example, you can leave the comfort of your house in pair of shorts at 3am, get a snack from 711 and be home safe in the next 30 mins.

    The only thing with the shoot-to-kill policy is that:

    First, the police’s weapons must be upgraded. It makes no sense for them to fight gun battles with criminals who have better weapons than they do. Second, watchmen & security firms such as G4S & KK Security must be given guns as well. There is no use to pitting an AK47 against a rungu. Third, citizens must be allowed to own guns as well. This is so that in the event of you being caught out (like you were) alone and far from security sources you can take matters into your own hands. Fourth, the laws on manslaughter, murder in the 1st and 2nd degree must be revised in the event that citizens with guns decide to kill innocents due to unsettled vendettas and such.

    Until all those things are set into place a shoot-to-kill policy won’t really do much but make the criminals a little more angry and more likely to be more violent. You’d have to understand that they are in a heightened state (adrenaline assisted with some drugs) so the idea that death be at their door-step might increase the random & stupid actions they might take to carry out a crime.

  2. Like the cops told you, there is nothing like a little action to bring one to taking a hard look at gun crime. It might sound cold but I feel I have to say it though – stop feeling sorry for yourself and start thinking about the problem. Robbery at gun point is a fact of life for more than 10 people every night – which I think is the estimated number of gun crimes in Nairobi every night.

    I have been robbed at gunpoint on atleast 2 occassions that I can remember and at knife point so many times that I stopped keeping count. After going through the same initial knee-jerk reaction that you are describing here, I thought about whether I really believed the notion that these guys want to be out there stealing when they know that it might cost them their lives with the trigger-happy cops that you are describing. They probably cannot find work doing anything else.

    Granted, they choose the easy way out by choosing to be jambazis instead of finding other ways but a shoot-to-kill policy is the easy way out for a society that allows government to get away with not taking care of business.

    Maybe a better approach would be passing legistlation that calls for mandatory sentencing with fixed terms, some sort of restitution etc etc. The lawyers and the legal system can think this one through. The issue though is that the approach taken MUST be inside the rule of law. Make no mistake, the shoot to kill policy that we have adopted is illegal since everyone is innocent until proven guilty.

  3. Dancan

    Very interesting comments.

    I’ve also for many years supported the shoot-to-kill policy as the only way to rid our society of these gun totting criminals. I have now come to see that even though the policy is already in place, though unofficially, it’s not working.

    The young thugs who are shot nearly on a daily basis, are quickly being replaced by other desparate young men. This tells me that clearly, the situation is much more deeper than we think. These young men (most of them are anyway) do not seem detered by the fact that they can die anytime as they engage in their chosen profession.

    For us to stem the tide of young men adopting kamikaze style of professions, we clearly need to address the factors that are pushing them into crime. And these are well known such as increasing poverty levels and desparate living conditions, especially in urban settings. This may take a long time to correct but it is necessary if we are to effectively stem the rising rate of violent crime.

    A more effective deterent in the short-term is the adoption of Sharia Law; that is, the aspects that deal with theft. There’s no doubt that the cutting of offenders hands has proven to be quite an effective method in discouraging incidence of theft in the Arab world. These parts of the world have the lowest crime levels in the world.

    The Sharia method, and some may call it barbaric, has quite a number of advantages.

    First, the criminal gets to live in the society as a free man (No costs to the state in terms of prison maintanance). Secondly, the fellow serves literally as a walking advertisement to children, who clearly get the message that if they steal, they lose their hands and they get to be ostracised by society. Finally, such a person will live the rest of their life, scorned, disrespected, can’t get a job anywhere, or even a spouse. To the youth, the message is powerfully reinforced when they see someone like that in their midst, as opposed to when the fellow is dead and buried.

    Before we all start imagining Utopia, the picture I’ve just painted cannot happen in Kenya unless we establish a corrupt-free Police force. Corruption and crime go hand in hand.




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