The Significant and Laudable CORD Resolution Against Nyumba Kumi

Cord Principals after the Joint PG Meeting

When the government formed a committee to oversee the implementation of the so-called Nyumba Kumi initiative, its Chair was named as former Provincial Commissioner Joseph Kaguthi, a child of the repressive KANU regime and a student of the unaccountable, colonial and corrupt Provincial Administration that brought untold terror in the grassroots. If anyone needed any proof that the bills of rights is under serious threat, then you got it right there! Thankfully the CORD joint gubernatorial and parliamentary group meeting held on 19 Nov 2013 has outrightly opposed this ill-conceived Nyumba Kumi initiative.

The formation of Nyumba Kumi implementation Committee which was supposedly prompted by the terrorist attack on the upmarket Westgate mall is in the pipeline. Many saw this Westgate attack as a gross failure of Kenyan security organs more so as a statement of a weak intelligence service. Others saw Westgate as a carefully planned inside job meant to justify Kenya’s push for deferral of ICC cases facing the President and his deputy. To its credit, CORD also gave the Jubilee President – Uhuru Kenyatta a 14-day ultimatum to immediately constitute a Westgate Commission of Enquiry. Sources say fearful NSI and KDF are blocking since it will force their guilty bosses to testify in an open hearing, possibly with extremely embarrassing revelations expected.

But let’s face it! Nyumba Kumi is illegal under the current constitutional system. It is obvious that it intended to tighten government grip on free movement, free speech and free association of its citizens. There is little doubt that Nyumba Kumi is nothing but mass surveillance which will ultimately lead to a totalitarian state where political dissent is mercilessly crushed in the name of safeguarding national security.

Nyumba Kumi comes hot on the heels two draconian laws being crafted by Jubilee government. One is the widely condemned Miscellaneous Amendment Bill 2013 which outlines changes to the ways NGOs can operate and the repressive the Information and Communication Amendments Bill 2013, which would give a government body powers to impose hefty sanctions on the media. The former law is still in debate stages in parliament, while the latter media law is awaiting presidential assentation. In all of these cases, the ultimate aim is to exert control. NGO’s act as watchdog especially on political class that often comes together on a matter of mutual interest. Media, although presently heavily partisan and compromised, is the voice of the people and all that is there remains as a means of highlighting societal ills. On top of this, police and judicial reforms as envisaged by 2008 AGENDA 4 have been sabotaged by impunistic forces within the system. (Remember they even sneaked in constitution clauses prior to printing of 2010 constitution!). To cap it all off; the OP, KDF, NSI and KPS still retain their large budgets that are mostly unaccounted.

CORD has likened Nyumba Kumbi to a police state, a situation often described as one in which the government exercises rigid and repressive controls over the social, economic, and political life of the people, especially by means of a secret police force. Nothing underscores the intention of the Jubilee government to make Kenya a police state more than the Nyumba Kumi initiative. This plan will find a responsive provincial administration ready to bond with!

Add this to the fact that despite constitutional demands and a court order that the Government should restructure the provisional administration to accord with and respect the system of devolved government established under the new constitution, this has not been done. Both Kibaki and Kenyatta regimes appear hell bent to retain the Provincial Administration and have crafted retrogressive laws to entrench relic provincial administration in the counties without any due respect to devolved units.

Nyumba Kumi is tantamount to mass civilian surveillance which is the pervasive surveillance of an entire population. Mass civilian surveillance is often wrongly justified as necessary to fight terrorism, to prevent social unrest, to protect national security. It has been widely criticized as an affront and violation of the bill of rights, an unwelcome infringement of citizen privacy and for limiting civil and political rights and freedoms. The fact of the matter is, while all citizens deserve security, it is the responsibility of government to provide that security without infringing on the rights of its citizens.

Picture this. The worst dictator of the last two centuries Nazist Adolf Hitler, had his own Nyumba Kumi initiative supervised by the then dreaded German Ministry for State Security, commonly known as the STASI (abbreviation German: Staatssicherheit, literally State Security). STASI was the official state security service of the German Democratic Republic or GDR, colloquially known as East Germany. It has been historically described as one of the most effective and repressive intelligence and secret police agencies to ever have existed. One of its main tasks was spying on the population, mainly through a vast network of citizens turned informants, and fighting any opposition by overt and covert measures including hidden psychological destruction of dissidents. Hitlers draconian laws and policies (which included a Nyumba-Kumi like initiative) resulted in World War II and sadly also in the deaths of at least 5.5 million Jews, and millions of other people whom he and his followers deemed racially inferior.

Kenyans must rise up and fight to protect constitutional gains of the 2010 constitution against the Jubilee onslaught. The answer to insecurity is police and judicial reforms, and full implementation of 2010 constitution.