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Security fears as lockdown looms

3 min read

As attention shifts to fighting Covid-19, there are concerns on the security agencies’ ability to deal with the expected spike in crime due to economic shocks.

Even worse is the fact that the Judiciary has scaled down its activities and most crimes will have to be dealt with at the police station level without clear guidelines on how this drastic plan is going to be executed and for how long.

The levels of crime in Kenya tend to be higher in densely populated places with many unemployed people, such as urban informal settlements.

However, with about 80 percent of Kenya’s total workforce employed in the informal sector, which they depend on for their daily wages, any economic disruption will immediately cut off their sources of livelihood.

The economy has started feeling the impact of the virus as businesses and workplaces start shutting or scaling down activity.

 The worst-hit are businesses that deal with large populations, such as the hospitality and entertainment industry.

It is expected that more businesses will be shut in the coming days and weeks as more cases get reported, which will force the government to announce even more drastic measures.

Yesterday, the government announced that it is considering a total shutdown if the social distancing it has recommended will not work as it should.

“This is not a joke. This is not a rehearsal,” said Health CS Mutahi Kagwe.

“Countries that have managed to contain the virus are those that have taken drastic action,” said the CS.

But even without a lockdown, Kenyans are already avoiding social places. Some are minimising expenditure as they figure out how long they can afford to live with no income if a strict lockdown is announced. This is denying a number of industries the revenue they need to survive

The ripple effect of this is that the people who depend on such businesses for a living do not have a source of income.

Various economic think tanks have projected that Kenya’s economic growth rate will conservatively take a 10 to 15 per cent hit and the effects will start being felt in a month’s time when companies start laying off staff.

As has been observed in the past, a spike in unemployment leads to an upsurge in crime.

And if a spike in crime happens when the courts are not taking in fresh cases, the government will be caught between a rock and a hard place on how to protect its citizens.

The government insists Kenyans have nothing to worry about security-wise, as resources and adequate personnel have been deployed to keep the country secure.

“The security of this country is a cardinal responsibility of this ministry and it cannot be compromised regardless of the situation,” Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiangi told the Nation yesterday.

“Our security apparatus is operating fully and shall continue to do so,” he said.

What is worrying Kenyans, however, is how criminals will be dealt with if the courts are almost not functioning at all.

As a sign of what is yet to come, Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko Tuesday suspended all arrests by City Hall’s enforcement officers, citing a risk of spreading the virus since suspects cannot be presented in court within 24 hours.

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