Wednesday, March 17, 2010



By Jerry Okungu
Nairobi, Kenya
March 17, 2010

Where does one start when it comes to violent deaths in Kenya and Uganda?
The last two weeks have been tearful for Kampala and Nairobi.

It all started last week when a Kenyan university student murdered her fellow Kenyan student believed to be her lover under mysterious circumstances. However, before the country came to terms with this grisly act, it was the turn of the notorious Administration Police to open fire at Nairobi’s Kawangware slums killing seven innocent taxi drivers. And just as the Kenyan parliament was grappling with the circumstances of the Kawangware killings, another Administration Policeman went amok in Kericho, Rift Valley and shot dead a senior military officer in an apparent bar brawl.

And now, two days in to the new week, Kenyans must again contend with the chilling news of two of its young brains shot dead by a trigger happy security personnel in a hostel next to Makerere University.

As the debates raged in both national assemblies, one common message was coming out from our local makers; that neither the government of Kenya nor the Ugandan government was doing enough to protect the lives of our citizens against senseless loss of human lives at the hands of our so called protectors. If seven Administration Policemen could walk into a scuffle between taxi drivers and boda boda operators and shoot seven taxi drivers at close range without trying enough to quell the rights or disperse the crowd; then we have something that has fundamentally gone wrong with the training of our protectors.

If in far away Rift Valley in Kericho town, an Administration policeman could pick a quarrel with a senior military officer over some mundane issue and use that as reason enough to rush to his quarters and come back to gun down the military officer, then we have armed common criminals not national security guards.

The Makerere killing is rather different from the crime of passion that took place between two Kenyan students at another Ugandan University campus days earlier. This one was some trigger happy private security personnel who even though assumed to be trained to quell a public disorder as seemed to have taken place between university students on a campaign train resorted to using his one shot to fell two Kenyans and one Ugandan student. Was this really necessary?

For too long, Kenyans have complained and complained until the cows have come home about extrajudicial senseless killings by the police force under the pretext that they have been fighting crime. Every time police gun down innocent Kenyans, they brand them as either the most dangerous wanted criminals or better still Mungiki sect followers. In many cases they even cook up stories of shooting in defense since the victims were armed with dangerous weapons. This line of defense was again given for the Kawangware killings however, it didn’t wash with the public, parliament or government. And for the first time, Kenya’s internal security minister admitted that he was misled into believing that the policemen shot in self defense.

Perhaps these gun deaths at the hands of armed personnel should be a wakeup call for governments in the region. Perhaps there is need to strictly control who gets armed and who does not. But more importantly, there should be more thorough screening of those who enter the armed service in order to minimize incidents of trigger happy individuals whose only way of displaying their power is to mow down innocent citizens in our region.

I cannot speak for the level of gun related deaths in Tanzania and Rwanda in recent years. However if indeed they have equally been frequent, at least they have not been reported with the frequency such incidents have been reported in Kenya and Uganda.

As it is there are many Kenyans that lose their lives at the hands of criminals in our cities and cross border insurgents from South Sudan, Somalia and Ethiopia. I believe the same can be said of Ugandans in the North where Joseph Kony has operated as a rebel leader for over two decades. It is for these reasons that we cannot afford another wave of killings by our own security personnel with the mandate to safeguard our lives and property.

It was therefore gratifying to note that in both circumstances, the culprits at both Kawangware and Makerere have been apprehended and will hopefully be charged in courts of law to face the full force of the law is laid down in our statues. It is time governments in the region displayed the resolve that criminal elements in our armed forces and civilian security do not get to lay their hands on dangerous weapons like the gun.