13 June 2006
‘No, Mr President’
from the East African Standard, 13th June 06
The last six days have been humiliating for this nation. Our sovereignty has been violated. Our nationhood has been insulted. Our borders have been encroached by hostile forces. And our hospitality has been abused.
What is even more humiliating is the casual manner in which the Government has treated genuine public concern over national security.
We are concerned that the President and his minders are conveniently becoming impervious to threats to national security, prosperity and unity and are exposing the Presidency to ridicule.
Monday’s suspension of CID Director Joseph Kamau and the formation of a commission of inquiry into the Armenian saga is a good example of this for it is too little too late. As a nation, the Presidency is the one institution we all identify with, one that is supposed to be above reproach.
While the President and his family have the right to privacy, that privacy is not the single most important issue in Kenya today. Many things have gone wrong in this country, which the President’s voice — only his voice — would help straighten. Yet the only time we hear the President’s voice is when he is clarifying his family situation.
The President has failed to take unique opportunities to address much weightier matters of national concern. In the light of recent events, security is top among them.
Your Excellency, when the Armenian saga broke out in March you held your tongue, and just when Kenyans thought you had your fingers on the national pulse, you took to the podium on national television last Sunday to clarify the composition of your family. You seem to have forgotten that when you assumed office four years ago, your family grew from a nucleus to encompass all Kenyans.
As the Leader of the Official Opposition Uhuru Kenyatta said on Monday, the blame for the Armenian saga and political and security paralysis rests squarely with the President. What Kenyans want urgently is reassurance about their safety, national sovereignty and competence of institutions and the rule of law.
We have heard for a long time that the police force is divided , with the Commissioner Major General Hussein Ali trying his best to run a disciplined outfit but with the now suspended CID Director meddling. That the Commissioner was kept in the dark about the raid against the Standard Group in March — a raid planned and executed in the name of State security — is evidence of those divisions. Why do you sit by and wait for such a key institution of governance, one tasked with maintaining law and order, to degenerate?
That police received conflicting instructions as they tried to arrest the alleged Armenians last week is further evidence of these divisions. Your Excellency, don’t these things bother you? As a company we have taken unjust blows from your Government. Only in March did hooded policemen, in an operation that was patently illegal, raid us. We have sought the return of equipment confiscated from us then to no avail.
Now we have reason to be concerned at reports that tapes similar to the ones taken from our studios were found in the Armenians’ house last week. We have reason to be concerned that hoods similar to the ones worn by those who raided our premises were found in the Armenians’ house. We have reason to be concerned that the key person who ordered the raid against a legitimate business — Mr John Michuki — one who is on record defending the Armenians, continues to serve without as much as a bother about the serious implications of these revelations.
In March we recorded a statement with the police about suspicious surveillance of our offices by the Artur brothers in an unmarked car, which we saw in their compound when the police raided the place recently. Nothing was done.
As a conscientious corporate citizen, we called for the deportation of the alleged Armenians before anybody did after they asked your minister for internal security to shut up. Nobody heeded us. In fact, the minister in question subsequently defended them in our own Parliament!
When Kenyans voted for you they did so because they trusted you. In you, they saw the embodiment of national aspiration, growth and all that is good for their prosperity.
Sadly, Your Excellency, your Government has progressed from managing by crisis to thriving in paralysis. For how long can a nation operate this way? When foreigners ambush our national airport, the internal security minister goes underground. Yet the same minister does not hesitate to raid The Standard Group or other media houses critical of impunity. Indeed, the minister only a few weeks ago threatened "to do it again".
Does Government only act at the behest of foreigners? Until they drew guns against us at our most respected airport! And what a cache the police found on subsequently arresting them! Guns reserved for the presidential security unit, documents declaring them deputy police commissioners, bullet-proof vests, Government vehicles or vehicles bearing Government registration plates, gun holsters, passes giving them access to all parts of all our airports. If this does not warrant the intervention of the President what does?
Because the Government sat back as Armenians turned our national airport into poodle, the country risks isolation from the international community. The British Government is demanding an explanation for the security breach at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport by the Armenians and is concerned over the safety of their airline.
The breach could lead to suspension of British Airways flights to Kenya. Other international airlines might follow suit, and the tourism industry would be hardest hit. Should Kenyans suffer such loss for the comfort of a family, a few individuals and foreigners?
Does it occur to the Government what last week’s airport drama has done? Kenya as a transit point for serious investment and as an investment destination is severely compromised by this gangland behaviour. And all we can do is clarify family ties?
With these banana republic antics, is it difficult to see why foreign missions will now be coming to this country with their own security detail since they can no longer trust the Kenyan security agents to guarantee their safety? Imagine the number of job opportunities thus lost!
The Government appears rudderless today, and this hurts millions who invested so much hope and trust in you. We speak plainly because we believe that there is time to redress the mess. You took an oath to protect the country and the Constitution, an oath you must live to.
No Mr President: We respect your fourth clarification about your family. But, Your Excellency, it is time you looked at those who advise you with honest eyes. Michuki, his Defence counterpart Njenga Karume, Permanent Secretary Stanley Murage and Head of Public Service Francis Muthaura are leading you into an abyss.
You must also take action against the Managing Director of the Kenya Airports Authority George Muhoho for he has failed to protect our airports. And you must take action against your associates — or those using your name for ulterior motives — for their behaviour has besmirched your good name and that of your family.
And if nobody else will tell you this, we will.