By Uhuru Kenyatta
There is no higher calling or responsibility that exists for us as the top public servants than to lead efforts to secure our people’s lives, property, the country’s territorial integrity, and the defence of our constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic, on which is premised every other economic, social and political aspirations we have as Kenyans. As provided for in our constitution, our people can participate in governance and help with security. But make no mistake: it is in the final analysis, our responsibility, as government, to clarify the security context within which we operate, cohere our national aspirations and plans, identify the elements of power and resources; and cohere to bring forth for the optimal outputs and impact to our nation.
This is what will reaffirm the identity, place and value of what is Kenya and secure the future of this nation for its people, as well as its position among the community of nations. The depth and honesty of our discussion today is critical if we are to arrive at the envisaged collective clarity. To this end, I want to provoke our thinking by posing some fundamental challenges. At the core of national security is the identification of threats and then the decisions and actions to pre-empt them, manage them or survive them, if necessary, without negatively impacting the state and nation of Kenya. The very existence of Kenya today is testament to how threat was perceived and dealt with, by our forefathers before we became a colony.
We must deal with threats that emanate from our geography; demography; economic conditions; politicisation of national security, or to be more exact, lack of elite consensus on national security; the pursuits of powerful global state and non-state actors; and the ineffectiveness or weakness in functions and capabilities of the state.
Let me outline them briefly, and hopefully you can all give them a fuller interrogation in the course of the day. As a country, Kenya is located in a troubled and fragile region in which inter-state war has been common; where the use of proxy forces is a defining phenomenon; which is home to multiple militant and terrorist organisations like the Al-Shabaab; and that is prone to vagaries of nature visiting enormous human and physical damages to our people and country. Our bordering Somalia, a warring South Sudan and our close proximity to other countries whose political systems are brittle means that the pursuit of regional stability has evolved to become a fundamental component of our national security.
By demography, I refer to the ‘youth bulge’ that is the reality of our time. On the one hand, large numbers of young people furnished with economic opportunity, and that buy into the Kenyan dream present immeasurable potential for growth. On the other hand, if not well managed, a large number of idle, frustrated youth pose significant risk for the survival of the state. They can be drawn to ideologies that undermine the legitimacy of the state and can be used to destroy our democratic dispensation. Our economic conditions are characterised by widespread poverty and marked inequality, made worse by limited livelihood opportunities and unequal global trading regimes.
We are working to fix all these challenges but it will be some years before we complete this work. In the meantime, it will mean that the politics of ‘sharing the cake’ by utilising ethnic mobilisation will continue and may lead to local conflicts with many fractures, that if unattended, will threaten us particularly during elections. I also referred to the politicisation of national security or to be more exact, the lack of elite consensus on national security.
Quite simply, you will have observed that even on clear national security issues such as fighting terrorism or our AMISOM deployment in Somalia, there are politicians willing to undermine these efforts for the sake of short-term expediency. Among us in this room as well, there is often lack of consensus on how to tackle clear and present dangers to the state and the country. It is no exaggeration that there may even be dire threats that some of us regard as mere irritants. Or threats that some of us think do not concern our dockets.
In fact, in many cases, each docket has worked as a silo without due regard to what the next is doing or the impact of its actions on the other. For some, security is a matter for the security sector alone, prudent utilisation of resources is for the Treasury, provision of infrastructure for transport and so forth. Nothing could be more defeating. And this is the reason of the attempt in Nanyuki to begin to infuse an all-government approach to programming. The Westgate attack, the ‘choices have consequences’ threats of 2013, our maritime disputes, poaching and drug trafficking, our fractured political contestation, all represent the pursuits of powerful global state and non-state actors. These include state and non-state financiers of terrorist networks and radicalisation, criminal organisations, large corporate interests and global powers that seek to assert their will for any number of reasons. This clearly means that internal security and foreign policy are inextricably linked.
Kenya is too large and strategically important to hide, hoping no one will notice us. We need ask ourselves what analytical capabilities we are bringing to bear, how our missions are connected to our internal security efforts, what the limits of our strength are and how to compensate for this, in order to drive our agenda, nationally and internationally.
Finally, I referred to the ineffectiveness or weakness in functions and capabilities of the state. This will lead me to the capabilities we are working to develop and deploy. Ladies and Gentlemen, let us foremost acknowledge that there are forms of corruption that are a direct threat to national security. From immigration to how our police and military forces are equipped, and provided for, the loyalty of our diplomats, to mention just a few, corruption quite literally kills by opening up the country to its internal and external foes. Added to this are departments unable to perform their duties, either owing to weak poor leadership, strategic guidance or lack of adequate resources. Weakness in the state is the leading cause of insecurity of all forms, and this brings us to how our daily work must begin to consciously focus on its value-addition to national security.
Uhuru Kenyata is the President of Kenya which, like Nigeria, is being ravaged by sectarian insurgency