This article, on a subject still so current today, first appeared in the Kenya Forum on the 1st October, 2012.
The ubiquitous police roadblocks in Kenya are a national disgrace, blight the economy, and serve little purpose in protecting the people. They are supposed to be phased out but it is not happening.
ROBINSON NJERU GIDHAE – ROADBLOCKS REDUCED TO A ‘BARE MINIMUM’
It was while he was reading Kenya’s 2012/2013 budget estimates to parliament in July that Finance Minister Robinson Njeru Gidhae said roadblocks in the country would be ‘removed or reduced to a bare minimum’ over ‘the next five months’. They have not been removed, they are not being removed and they are being manned more aggressively than ever.
Minister Robinson Njeru Gidhae was particularly referring to the ‘Northern corridor’ from Mombasa through to Uganda, Rwanda and DRC Congo where the aim was to reduce the number of road blocks and weighbridges on the route to ease the movement of goods and services in the region.
36 ROADBLOCKS MOMBASA TO KIGALI
There are currently estimated to be about 36 roadblocks between Mombasa and Kigali in Rwanda, and 30 between Dar es Salaam and the Rusumo border with Rwanda, whilst Uganda has nine between Malaba and Katuna border points on its Kenya and Rwanda borders.
The Permanent Secretary to the East African Ministry, David Nalo, was also quoted at the same time in the Nairobi-based weekly ‘Eastafricans’, saying that the removal or reduction of roadblocks, especially on the Northern Corridor from Mombasa to Kampala through the border post town of Busia, would greatly reduce the cost and time of doing business in the region. So it would but it hasn’t happened yet.
NAIROBI TO KANYENYAINI – (AND FIVE PEOPLE ON A MOTORBIKE)
The reality is, of course, that there are numerous police check points on just about every road across Kenya.
Last week, for example, this Forum correspondent drove from Nairobi to Thika, turned off 10km passed Thika towards Muranga, turned again toward Kangema and travelled on to Kanyenyaini. On that journey there were three roadblocks coming out of Nairobi and two each coming in and out of Thika, Muranaga and Kangema, nine in all for the journey.
At the Muranga-Kangema turning on the C71, a motorbike carrying five people, three adults and two children, rode passed the roadblock without hindrance, as did a van with six people standing on the rear bumper. Meanwhile several matatus and trucks were being held at the side of the road.
NAIROBI TO GILGIL – POLICE TOLD TO “RAISE MORE MONEY”
Last week too, a Forum correspondent travelled from Nairobi to Gilgil. There were seven roadblocks along the way on a journey of under two hours. On setting out for the return journey to Nairobi he was warned to be careful as the police had been given instructions “to raise more money”.
We all know that it is in large measure for the purposes of raising money that the police roadblocks are set up and that is why matatus and trucks are pulled up, because they can and will pay a bribe, while five people on a motorbike ride by unchallenged (because they are deemed not to have enough shillings in their pocket to make it worth the while of the police pulling them up).
These police bribery points serve little purpose. Vehicles are not rigorously searched (for example, for weapons), only checked sufficient to find a reason to ask for money, and unsafe vehicles (for example, cars with bald tyres) are allowed to travel on if they pay ‘something small’. So the roadblocks neither improve security or road safety.
HASSAN OMAR HASSAN – IMPROVE POLICE PAY, WORKING CONDITIONS
In a thoughtful article published in the Standard on Saturday, Hassan Omar Hassan, ‘a lawyer and former commissioner with the KNCHR’ (Kenya National Commission for Human Rights), argued that police officers should earn at least fifty thousand shillings and that there terms of service ‘should include housing, medical cover and life insurance’.
Hassan Omar Hassan made the point that the police are not allowed to go strike (as teachers and lecturers have done recently) under Article 41 of the Constitution. He therefore looked to the new National Police Service Commission (NPSC) being approved in parliament this week, to address the issue of police pay and working conditions.
“My vision is to see young Kenyans answer to the calling of being police officers”, wrote Hassan, “In the same way ‘A’ students aspire to be doctors, engineers, lawyers, among others”.
SH50,000 TO JOIN THE POLICE
The Kenya Forum agrees with Hassan Omar Hassan but unfortunately, at present, the institutionalized corruption that goes with being in the police service in Kenya, begins even before new recruits are even ‘selected’. Some anecdotal evidence suggests that Sh50,000 is the price (bribe) required to be selected for training as a police officer in Kenya.
The new National Police Service Commission should address this issue. Robinson Njeru Gidhae and David Nalo should be held to account. Senior police officers should be hauled in to explain themselves, and we hope Hassan Omar Hassan will return to the subject in future articles.
The waste of time for ordinary Kenyans, the drag on the movement of goods across the country, and the rampant corruption associated with police roadblocks in Kenya, must be brought to an end.