Looters should be shot, right? On sight — and out of sight. On the streets and in their beds.
Because property in Kenya takes primacy over life.
There is no point in wasting precious police time on the rigmaroles of arrest, trial, defence and conviction or acquittal.
You see, on Friday night, August 11, after the announcement of the presidential election results in Kenya, police were already in Kibera, reputed to have the highest concentration of wealth in Kenya because intelligence had shown that people envious of each other’s poverty would be looting and carting it away.
No arrests were made — neither in Kibera nor in Mathare; not in Kisumu or Homa Bay or Migori where grief over the election result was fuelling indiscriminate criminality right into people’s dreams.
It is difficult to arrest a grieving community of protestors who can turn into looters at a moment’s notice.
Despite the steady economic growth these past few years, which should have seen thousands move out crowded settlements into better accommodation, some people chose to wait for the election to do their worst.
These crowded places harbour grousing individuals with a criminal bent lugging grievance from birth, unlike in the suburbs that manufacture oxygen in the garden leaves and have secret alcoves for holding hard-earned wealth.
As it were, those celebrating the presidential results in jubilation posed no risk of looting, and no harm came to them — itself an object lesson to be happy in all things.
Security officers in Kibera, as in many other such places, fired teargas in the air in an attempt to force everybody to stay calm, and indoors, where multitudes had nightmares about dreadlocked militia in police uniform sorting them by tribe and slaughtering them.
At dawn the following day, just in case the teargas had worn off, police fired a few rounds of live ammunition in the air to discourage looters from venturing outside.
They then kicked down a few rickety tin doors that looked singularly unsafe in order to let in some sunshine.
Sunshine is a great antiseptic, so after it shone on Kibera, the police withdrew until nightfall.
Right behind them, anonymous volunteers carted unclaimed goods from kiosks to the waiting police lorries, which were driven to secret destinations for safekeeping of the lost property.
The numerous spent cartridges collected in the streets do not prove any of the 28 deaths the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights documented as occurring over the weekend from gunshots.
So far, the police are not aware of anyone who died from their weekend expedition.
LAW AND ORDER
If there is no body, the death can rightly be classified by the government as a fake.
The absence of evidence in the form of bodies in the mortuaries should suffice as proof of police professionalism in upholding law and order at a time when the country seeks peace and quiet.
Victims are the best witnesses to identify a shooter, and if they are not alive, the investigation is a dead end.
Given the number of guns in criminal hands, there is no telling who is responsible for each and every gunshot wound.
Videos of men in uniform kicking down doors could just as well be stage-managed fakes that do not merit a police response.
Since looting is the greatest menace facing Kenya — going by how many undischarged looters have been bundled out of the governors’ residences across the country.
Looting ranks up there with capital crimes, and must be punished by summary execution.
Unless people are carrying their loot by respectable means and in hard currency, they should be shot.
This is what the police mandate to protect lives and property means.
The writer is a Programme Advisor, Journalists for Justice. The views expressed here are his own and do not reflect those of JFJ.