Nyumba Kumi initiative has been touted as one of most the effective programmes in tackling insecurity in the country. The concept which has for a long time been successfully used in neighbouring Tanzania, was hatched in the country as a measure to counter the frequent terrorist attacks.
The first terrorist attack in the country occurred on December 31, 1980 where the Norfolk hotel was attacked to retaliate for Kenya’s assistance to the Entebbe raid operation by Israeli forces. After that, there was a lull and quiet period until, August 7, 1998, when the American Embassy was bombed by Al-Qaeda terror group and 213 people lost their lives while many more were injured.
To this day the attack is still discussed as though it happened yesterday because the distress and impact were so great that the incident left an indelible mark of pain in people’s hearts. Despite the shock, other attacks followed within short intervals, and it became apparent to the security agencies that the country had become a target for terrorism.
Hence the Nyumba Kumi was devised to assist the government in intelligence gathering and to ensure that terrorists did not find it easy just sneaking in and slipping out of the country, as they planned the attacks.
In Nakuru County, the proposal was embraced exceptionally fast due to the impact of past tribal clashes, which boosted insecurity in the urban and rural areas. Since it was started in 2009, almost all the villages and estates have their neighbourhood security clusters of ten houses. A case in point is the Lanet area that has become famous because of their tweeting chief, James Kariuki, who has turned a once no-go-zone area into a secure place. He attributes that to the social media which he used skillfully to get intelligence on criminals and impending attacks.
However, what was just meant to augment security apparatus has brought an unexpected bonus of additional benefits because it has influenced social cohesion in the cosmopolitan county.
Jesse Karanja, the chairman of people’s Watch Lobby Group, said community policing is now an absolute necessity due to last week’s somewhat bolt from the blue attack on the DusitD2 hotel in Nairobi. He said after the calm since the nightmare of the Westgate terrorist attack in 2015, we had almost believed that the terrorists’ display of aggression towards innocent people had been contained.
The worst attacks have been concentrated in Nairobi, Northeastern and the Coastal region, but last weeks’ assault has spread fear to other towns in the country. However, Karanja said anybody dreaming of attacking Nakuru would be met with a rude shock because the residents will rise in unison and resist beyond the terrorists’ expectations. He said: “unlike other towns Nakuru is home and majority of the residents were born, bred and work or own businesses here, so for us, this is the only place we know as a dwelling and abode. Therefore we shall not fight as town residents but as a people invaded in their beloved ‘village’”.
Karanja said that even before the introduction of Nyumba Kumi, Nakuru, which is often referred to as a ‘village town’ due to the residents’ mannerism of almost knowing everybody, and shaking hands in greetings continuously, the town has always embraced collectivism. He said for a long time up to the beginning of the 1990s the town had just about 240,000 residents. Majority of the people being farmers simply lived in the farms and occasionally went to town to shop, and partly that explains why the town remained hygienic to the extent of being declared, the cleanest in East Africa. He added that the communism attitude made it easier for the administrators to institute the community policing.
However, he urged parents and schools to keep on drumming into the students the dangers of being radicalised. “Our only fear is that apart from being a multi-ethnic town, all the religions one can dream of are also in the town, and that might make it easier to radicalize our children since religion is our second nature.’’ But he wondered how a people who have grown, schooled and congregated together would easily turn around and butcher each other. He concluded that in the residents’ minds terrorism was a farfetched problem and their major concern was collapsed industries that have heightened unemployment.
A chairman of Nyumba Kumi at Kaptebwo Estate, James Nyanga’u, said the concept has always been in the town, having been introduced by the former ruling party KANU. “Truth be told the youth for KANU also doubled up as a vigilante group and an intelligence gathering outfit, which to this day makes it a customary habit of easily volunteering information to the security officials. Unlike Nairobi, here any fishy activities will be reported very fast,’’ he said. He concurred with Karanja that anybody dreaming of attacking their cohesive ‘town village’ will be met with unimaginable retaliation, that is if he is not smoked out at the planning stage.
However, despite the residents’ bravado and daring attitude towards the terrorists, the views of Prof. Babere Chacha, an expert in criminology was different. He said the crowded nature of the town, and the habit of hanging about in groups was an attraction to the terrorist who want to achieve maximum numbers with minimal force.
The town became crowded due to the frequent tribal clashes in the 1990s, which forced many people to shift from the rural areas to the town. Also, the post-election violence of 2008 saw many people trooping into the town from various parts of the country.
Philomen Aroni, a theologian said the terrorist attacks might soon be a thing of the past because the ‘handshake’ has changed the negative politics of the country, which made it easier for the terrorist to attack the country, as our leaders tried to undo each other in their egoistic politics of brinkmanship. He added: “the recent declaration by the President that development would be taken to every corner of the country despite how they voted, was at the same time the pronunciation and affirmation that, we are now totally united, and no ragtag organization can penetrate the country.’’ He added that throughout history gargantuan problems have always been ended by a people’s change of attitude. And that has evidently already happened.
By Veronica Bosibori