By 2017, #MjiWetu Nairobi Kenya was ranked 48 out of 378 by crime index with a crime index of 63.89 and a safety index of 36.11. Compare this to the crime index of 86.61 (safety index of 13.39) for Caracas of Venezuela that prides herself for being the dangerous city in the world to live in- or to the crime index of 15.51 (safety index of 84.49) for Abu Dhabi, UAE, that prides herself for being the safest city globally. As much as Nairobi is not in top ten, twenty or even top thirty in the ranking of cities by crime rate, the fact that it is not at the very bottom of the list means there is a lot that’s still wrong with safety/security issues in Nairobi and by extension Kenya.
For a city like Nairobi to improve her safety standards, learning from cities like Abu Dhabi, Munich, Dubai, Taipei, Singapore and the many others with crime index below 20 is mandatory. The question Nairobi ought to ask these well performing cities in matters security is – “What did you do right?”
Even as we wait for #MjiWetu (Nairobi) and Kenya in particular to go into fact finding mission in order to improve our safety, we can in the meantime understand some of the major causes of crime and insecurity in general – where insecurity is defined as any phenomena that makes inhabitants of a particular residential area unsafe. BBC in their Bitesize educational article noted that “poverty, parental neglect, low self-esteem, alcohol and drug abuse are all connected in explaining why people commit crimes”, and offers two schools of thought on how crime can be dealt with – the individualists approach and the collectivists approach.
In the individualists approach, tougher laws with harsher punitive sentences that are implemented in the environment where the police and the judiciary have more powers should lessen incidents of crime. The collectivists approach however reason that the social conditions which create the conditions for crime need to be addressed. “So, better housing, better employment opportunities and a more equal society will make crime less of an attraction. If people are in work and are content with life, they will be less motivated to break the law”, says the article. Today, Governments attempt to approach security from both individualists and collectivists points of view – but how can residents of a town approach security?
In modern times several residential areas especially the gated communities have approached the security question by erecting barriers such as walls, installation of electric fences, high rise gates, and employing private security firms to guarantee their security. Other measures that have been implemented include installation of CCTV cameras, street light and other technological equipment meant to deter crime. These measures are however individualists and can work only up to a certain extent.
Two incidents have happened this year alone that can clearly demonstrate why these individualists measures can only go thus far. In late January, the media reported that a gang had broken into Amason Kingi’s (Governor of Kilifi County) home in Nyali, Mombasa and stole items including a laptop and a TV set. Hardly a week later, reports were everywhere that the house of Kisumu Deputy Governor Ruth Odinga was broken into by armed thugs and electronics stolen.
Still this year, robbers broke into our compound in Nakuru and stole electronics in my neighbor’s house. In my previous apartment, the robbers stole clothes and other items from the landlord’s house and a hen from my wife’s chicken cage. In 2014, thugs broke in my own walled compound and into the house and stole a TV, laptop, and a desktop phone. This happened a few months after a home theatre system I had sold to a close friend was stolen from him. He too lives in a gated community but in Nairobi. Many Kenyans in Kisumu, Eldoret, Nakuru, Nairobi and a few other towns have first hand experiences of thugs breaking into their residential estates and stealing an item or two – mostly electronics. Do you as a person have an incident you would like to share? Either in video or a creative post? You may share your experiences at www.mjiwetu.com and stand a chance to win a cash prize.
In my Nakuru neighborhood, the robbers have been identified as a group of jobless youth who are either unable to continue with their education after high school or straight from college and have been unable to secure jobs. In Kenyan towns therefore, joblessness hence financial instability is the greatest threat to security. The youth in these towns, since they have nothing to do, have a lot of idle time with which they use to study the neighborhood and plan for petty crimes mainly to steal electronics that offer them quick cash. The proceeds they get from the crimes goes into buying drugs, self grooming, and possibly food.
It is therefore natural to reason that if Financial and Food Security can be guaranteed in #MjiWetu, over 90% of crime shall have been dealt with. The question is, how can citizens (if we assume the government is unable to tackle these issues) assure Food and Financial security to their neighbors?
An immediate solution would be to strengthen chamas, encourage the community to do business amongst themselves e.g. by ensuring you buy mostly from the #MjiWetu local kiosk instead of shopping from a far flung shopping mall, and providing leads of employment opportunities to the youth who live in your neighborhood. Yes it is good to help a distant cousin who probably is already tending to herds back in the village, but by neglecting that college graduate who does nothing other than smoke cigarettes near your gate, you are putting your own security at risk.
But there is a problem. If Food and Financial security become guaranteed in major urban areas, an influx of rural-urban migration will occur which again will work to setback the gains made by securing financial and food stability in urban areas. To assure total and complete security in #MjiWetu therefore, food and financial security must be assured across the country.