Kenyan Blogs Webring Member

Monday, March 05, 2007

Prison break, Kenyan style

First, it may be appropriate and courteous of me to apologize for being off air for such a long time. Secondly, I want to clarify that contrary to your belief over the subject of this post, I had not been incarcerated and neither am I being pursued by the Kenya Police! There are reasons as to why I have been MIA since January and within the next couple of weeks; I will bring you up to speed on some of my tribulations.

There comes a time (not my words, so don’t read my lips!), sometimes many, in life, where your common sense and intellect, are at odds with each other as you battle your demons. That is acceptable. However, when the same happens to an organisation, it surely leaves a lot to be desired. The following post tells of such a time in the life of the Prisons Department and the Kenyan security and justice system in general.

The punishment of criminals should be of use; when a man is hanged he is good for nothing.
- Voltaire

Life imprisonment. Death penalty. Serving time in a Kenyan jail. Eternity far away from the vagaries of Kenyan life, and in the real sense of the word, ridiculous. Many Kenyans have never been very good at counting time, let alone keeping it. People wear watches because they have to, pay attention to the calendar because their jobs, banks, schools and mistresses make them do so. Now imagine yourself behind bars for life or awaiting the hangman’s noose. It’s either you will not take your eyes off the non-existent clock or make yourself lose track of time by counting time backwards. The days will definitely get longer if you are serving a life term, and the reverse is true for the death penalty.

Hon. Moody Awori, you had it coming.

There are certain things that happen at the intersection of certain events: upon "stepping on to the highway" and "speeding trailer coming down the same," we find the subject being run over. Ditto the intersection of "jumping forward" and "standing on the rooftop of a tall building" - there are certain expectations of result. Is it fair that someone who jumps off a tall building should plummet hundreds of feet to their death?

You are probably wondering why I am asking this question. Fairness has nothing to do with most elements of life - such as throwing yourself off a tall building. There you're engaging gravity, under the direct guidance of Darwinian evolution - you're naturally deselecting yourself from the gene pool. The question of "fairness" is one for intellectuals to debate over in lecture hall in one of Kenya’s universities; the question of what will happen in certain obvious situations, though, is more a matter of basic science and logic.

Take the case of the Prisons department case in Nakuru for example: Five convicts escaped from tight custody at 2 AM, scaled a fence using a blanket and disappeared into the night. There is a certain expectation that when convicts escape from custody, a manhunt should ensue right away, all roads sealed off and cars searched. Other should mount foot pursuit with sniffer dogs to trace the convicts. Are the Kenya Police and the prison’s department running an experiment on the justice system?

The security personnel were still searching houses late Sunday close to the prisons after a car sped off from the scene at 2 AM, suspected to be carrying the escapees. There was no roadblock into and out of Nakuru all day Sunday. I know this because I was there. The police were looking in the traditional places for the suspects. We all know that the police chase running things like dogs chase fleeing cats - dogs have no inherent interest in cats, but if they run away, something snaps in their brains. So the police are looking for fleeing inmates dressed in the new look uniform because something has snapped in their minds. Nobody else is a suspect. This has nothing to do with the efficiency or fairness of the Kenyan security apparatus, no; it has to do with the evolution of men into Kenyan police.

Why did the Commissioner of Prisons and other senior officers to rush to Nakuru, hold a four hour meeting debating on who let the convicts escape, suspend six officers, and then address the press rather direct and lead the search operation, call in the rest of the security teams like CID and NSIS to gather intelligence around the area? Isn’t that how a search for escaped dangerous convicts is supposed to be carried out? Not from a boardroom. Not by deploying more officers to search and subdue prisoners under incarceration than those searching for the dangerous escapees. Not by leaving all routes out of Nakuru unmanned and then searching houses, starting from the prison’s neighbourhood at a slow pace, expecting the escapees are moving at your pace as well. Oh, I almost forgot, and after a car sped off from the scene!

Everyone suspects that there was assistance from some of the wardens, and probably the gunfire was ‘friendly fire’. And why shouldn’t the wardens help them escape at the right price? When you earn little money for in a difficult job, and look forward to very little pension as well, you may need to consider your options at making it, moneywise at least, in life. That is why the Kenyan security forces have so many rotten apples. While Hon. Moody Awori was busy trying to turn the Kenyan prisons into a chain of resort hotels funded entirely by taxpaying citizens in an effort to keep undesirables off of our lives, he forgot the officers who are supposed to make the system work. The prisoners now watch telly, and most of the officers who watch over of them can’t. Prisoners eat three meals a day and while this is an entitlement, most of the officers cannot afford to. The prisoners have a better life than the wardens in certain instances. No wonder some of the wardens pointed an accusing finger at the Kenya Human Rights Commission fo fighting for the rights and welfare of the prisoners only.

You do not lead by hitting people over the head - that's assault, not leadership.
--Dwight D. Eisenhower

Hon. Moody Awori tried to force the warders to do a good job on the terms they have always had. He refined the system so that there was no opportunity for the officers to make an extra cent on the side. Did Moody Awori get what he deserved? Is it fair that six prison wardens are suspended? [Out of context alert] was Matheri Ikere’s shooting fair to him and his family? I'm not touching those issues, even with a stick; mainly because I don't have sufficient information to comment. But, I’ll tell you this: it wasn't fair, 'cause fairness has nothing to do with cause and effect. You jump off a tall building, and you fall down to a certain death. You let prisoners escape, you face the axe, you kill Kenyans at will and you get shot. Anybody can solve that equation.

Another argument here is that by suspending the warders and eventually sacking them, and yet they are suspected of having links with the criminal underworld, isn’t the prisons department releasing another contingent of gun trained and dangerous people to the Kenyan public? They will most likely hook up with their pals in the underworld and form a formidable gang to terrorise Kenyans.

Or what do you think is going to happen?