In the wake of the terrorist attack on the Garissa University College where 149 lives were lost, and given the criticism leveled against the government over the

delayed deployment of the Recce unit, a case has now been made for the devolution of security functions. Some conservative legal analysts and politicians may still insist that security is a preserve of the national government, citing provisions of the Fourth Schedule of the constitution which outlines the distribution of functions between the national government and the county governments. However, when contributing to a special session of the National Assembly where lawmakers discussed and took stalk of the Garissa killings, one member recommended that the Recce unit should be expanded so that it is stationed in every county across the country. If this recommendation is adopted, then the country would have to avoid the kind of unfortunate situation that was witnessed when
the Recce Squad had to wait for seven hours before it could finally reach Garissa from Nairobi.

Logic shows that if a detachment of the Recce squad with equal manpower and equipment was already stationed in Garissa, the damage in terms of loss of life would have been minimal because the team would have responded immediately without losing crucial man-hours being transported from Nairobi. In this regard, one of the lessons from the Garissa attack is that security is such an critical issue that it cannot be left to one central command stationed in Nairobi waiting for instructions from the bogged-down decisions makers of the national government. In situations of emergency, it requires a system of command where decision makers in the proximate area in which the emergency has occurred to move quickly and make life-saving decisions. And this is why governors, as chief executives of the counties, are best suited to be given the mandate to command security operations in their jurisdictions.  But Garissa is not the only example that justifies the need for governors to take command of security matters in the counties. In 2014 when over 20 police officers were ambushed and killed by suspected Pokot raiders during a rescue and recovery mission in Kapedo area on the border of Turkana and Pokot countries, distress calls to their commanders went unanswered but West Pokot governor’s office was the first to respond to one of the distress calls that came its way.

In fact, it was the governor’s office that dispatched the first form of assistance to the scene. When inaugurating a team of county security officers recently, Mombasa governor Ali Hassan Joho said that in theory crimes such as terrorism, drug trafficking and other violent crimes are a preserve of the National Police Service. But the reality on the ground is that the governor’s office and his executive are nowadays the first people to be contacted whenever the common citizen is confronted with violent crime even before they contact the police. He pointed out that as governor he is more in contact with the people in his county than any other state officer. Said he: “If someone makes a distress call to the governor and it turns out that the person making the call suspects that a terrorist activity is likely to take place, does the governor ask that person to look for the anti-terrorism police? Certainly not. The governor can respond in an appropriate manner and then contact the police later. We don’t intend to take over the work of the police, but ours is to complement the work of the police and this is why we have equipped our officers with such skills because they can come in handy in emergency situations.” In this regard, the Garissa attack, despite being tragic and unacceptable, could just have made the best case for governors to take charge of security matters in their jurisdictions.

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