KAIKAI KICKER: Turning to KDF soldiers a confirmation of failing civilian authorities

  • For its increasingly common interventions, KDF has been receiving mixed reviews.
  • Let us start with KMC, an institution butchered to pieces by a string of corrupt and incompetent civilian-led administrations.
  • KMC is today the poster child of military intervention with KDF winning accolades for doing simple things that KMC was never known for.

On my kicker, the Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) is set to take over the operations of yet another civilian authority - the scandal-ridden Kenya Medical Supplies Agency (KEMSA). The advance on KEMSA, and I use the word ‘advance’ in military terms, has predictably triggered yet another round of the usual low energy discourse about the role of KDF in relation to civilian authorities.

For its increasingly common interventions, KDF has been receiving mixed reviews. Let us start with the Kenya Meat Commission (KMC), an institution butchered to pieces by a string of corrupt and incompetent civilian-led administrations.

KMC is today the poster child of military intervention with KDF winning accolades for doing simple things that KMC was never known for like slaughtering animals for production and supply of meat. The production capacity shot up to standards all previous commissions could not even imagine and under KDF. KMC appears even from outside like a clean and well run place.

Then there is the refurbishment of the old gauge railway line to Kisumu and the revamping of a ferry named MV Uhuru at the port of Kisumu; the Kenya Navy restored the ferry at a cost of Ksh.200 million – civilian sharks had asked for Ksh.1 billion for the same job.

And so, there are some good stories to tell about the KDF intervention in what ordinarily should be civilian territory. For tonight, not much can be said yet of the military-led Nairobi Metropolitan Services (NMS) except a passing observation of the uneasy co-existence with the Nairobi County government; and the obvious signs of a problematic organ transplant at city hall.

As KDF now advances to KEMSA, if indeed that is the case, there is a need to address the legal questions around the growing culture of deploying KDF to save failing civilian institutions. Neither the Constitution nor the KDF Act envisaged these deployments and this poses serious questions of law. Article 241 sub article 3 specifies that the defence forces—

.      (A)  Shall be responsible for the defence and protection of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the republic; 

.      (b)  Shall assist and co-operate with other authorities in situations of emergency or disaster and report to the national assembly whenever deployed in such circumstances; and 

.      (c)  May be deployed to restore peace in any part of Kenya affected by unrest or instability only with the approval of the national assembly. 

The KDF Act follows the spirit of the Constitution even when specifying the scope of cooperation between KDF and other authorities. Section 31 (a) states that the defence forces—

     (a)  Shall assist and co-operate with other authorities in situations of emergency or disaster, and report to the national assembly whenever deployed in such circumstances;

Though I personally consider corruption a national disaster in Kenya, I feel KDF is being unfairly exposed to a legal and constitutional predicament.

Legal questions aside, the intervention of KDF saviours in civilian institutions should be seen for the statement it makes; an indictment of inept, indisciplined and corrupt civilian bodies and persons. 

In the case of KMC, the KDF intervention is working wonders. And for the many Kenyans outraged by corruption at KEMSA, few would mind letting KDF walk the entire military stretch, whatever that may include. 

That is my kicker