We are here to begin a critical conversation on the identification, articulation and pursuit of Kenya’s national security interests.
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, Ladies and Gentlemen 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, Ladies and Gentlemen, 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 first glance, national security interests appear to be easily identifiable, but allow me to probe deeper as we get underway with this workshop.
Before we can list the threats, as is so often the case, we must begin by fundamentally understanding our role as a government in securing the republic.
From this will flow the ability to direct all the elements of national power and the state in an effective, deliberate and focused manner.
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.
In the late 1880s in what was to be Kenya, there existed diverse communities under different forms of government. Some, but certainly not all, had encountered the British commercial interests then allowed to exploit the entity known as the East Africa Protectorate which had been carved up like a cake at a European conference in Berlin in 1884.
Formal colonization followed in 1920, less than a century ago. These communities all had different means to defend themselves through armed force; they all had territories that they defended either violently or through other forms of engagement with their neighbours.
What did they perceive to be the threat then that they would one day come under the violent rule of a King thousands miles away? How did their systems of governance respond to what we know today was a looming threat to their independence?
I ask these fundamental questions because while their responses were varied, with some immediately taking to the battlefield, and others seeking different accommodation with the colonizing forces, they all eventually became part of colonial Kenya.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
We must take this evocation of threat and bring it to the present day. Some of you are members of my cabinet while others serve under me as their Commander in Chief.
Our forefathers may not have written down most of their constitutions, but like us they had constitutional order. Like them, we have a constitution to defend, a people to protect, and a world of threats that we must identify, prioritise and act on. Like them, there are those who wish to exploit, dominate and destroy us, whether for commercial or ideological benefit.
For a large part of our independent era, we drove our development agenda from an economic growth model.
We have faithfully drawn great economic development plans – that have been adapted with great success by some other countries. These plans and strategies have been largely informed by economic and development imperatives and they have served us well.
However, it is true to state that Kenya is, today, defined by much more than an economic development model. In fact, economic development is one of the strands that should be part of a national grand strategy.
Such a strategy today would have to be informed by the real and present reality of pervasive security threats that are framed by a constellation of factors.
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.
When I speak to Geography, 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 phenomena; 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.
The sources and drivers of threat I have just outlined can only be sighted and tackled by a state that is able to perform a set of inter-related functions that impact on the way threats are identified and dealt with.
These functions are performed by each and every one of you whether you consciously perceive your ministry or institution as doing so or not.
At their most fundamental, they combine to allow the state to have ten bottom-line capabilities: a legitimate monopoly on the means of violence; effective administrative control; management of public finances; investment in human capital; delineation of citizenship rights and duties; provision of infrastructure; formation of the market;
The capabilities also includes the management of the state’s assets (including the environment, natural resources, and cultural assets); international relations (including entering into international contracts and public borrowing); and the means to enforce the rule of law.
In other words, the state’s functional capability is domain free. States exist in every form of ideology that drives the politics and ruling regimes of countries, be they democratic, autocratic, dictatorial, or even theocracies.
Their strength in regard to national security is a function of their ability to correctly identify threats – whether to a single ruler or a democratic multitude – and most importantly, how they then marshal their financial and human resources to act against the threats, in a disciplined and consistent manner.
Our day job, expressed in the simplest way, is to build a strong state whose actions will be guided and constrained by the spirit and letter of our democratic constitution.
This strong state, in being able to effectively carry out the ten functions I have outlined, can bring to bear all elements of state and national power to bear against threats to our security, protect our sovereignty, and drive our development agenda. I urge you to assess the extent to which we are able to carry out these functions in this meeting. That analysis will speak directly to our national security.
First, is the legitimate monopoly on the means of violence: our police and military forces must become the only actors with the legitimacy to wield violence. They must be ready, willing and able to secure the persons and property of all citizens. This is a key dimension of national security. The monopoly of violence also includes the analytical ability to perceive threats, and effective communication to shape perceptions of the state’s deployment of violence.
Our pastoralist conflicts for one, as well as the numerous militia formations in parts of the country are indicative that that we are still not where we should be in this regard.
Second. Effective Administrative control: is about the reach of government authority over the territory of Kenya. It calls for rules that allocate responsibility, a responsive flow of resources and a national administration that runs from the national level to the grassroots that can act on commands from above, take initiative where necessary, and feed important information to leadership.
Third. Management of public finances: In the final analysis, no state can be sovereign while it relies on an external source to fund its operations.
Fortunately, Kenya is not in this position but a large section of the most vocal civil society is hopelessly dependent on foreign funding, particularly from governments with interests that may conflict with our national security. How can the state’s pursuit of national security be protected from actors that may be drivers for other agenda?
Add to this the corruption that undermines security in direct fashion: shouldn’t there be areas of corrupt behaviour that are completely off limits on this basis?
Fourth. Investment in human capital: Failure to invest in our young people to enable them have a livelihood, they will be a direct security threat. In addition, their inability to participate in the economy limits the state’s income in the long-term and therefore its ability to deliver security.
Fifth. Delineation of citizenship rights and duties: Without a widespread perception, rooted in reality, of equality of opportunity obtaining, we will never exit ethnic politics and division.
We need national unity to have citizens who embrace their rights and duties in a way that does not produce permanent social or political ruptures. A concrete example is the need for all Kenyans who voted for the opposition to be served equally as those who supported Jubilee into power.
The issue of citizenship and nationhood is particularly critical now that we are implementing devolution.
In spite of the freedoms and guarantees written into our constitution, we have witnessed a huge appetite for the creation of ethnic exclusive zones. This can lead to fracture, violence and conflicts.
Sixth. Provision of infrastructure services: Transportation, energy and water are fundamental to the government’s ability to provide security, administrative control, and formation of the market, to all citizens. Any gaps in any of these could allow malign actors, like terrorist organisations or their sympathisers, room to operate in Kenya through the provision of basic services – leading to “capturing” our people.
Seventh. Formation of the market: This means the protection of property rights, enforceable contracts and transparent and enforced laws on corporate governance and conduct, land, and environmental management.
The large size of the informal market signals a refusal or inability to enter the legal realm the state oversees. This denies tax collection and by extension undermines state capability.
Eighth. Management of the state’s assets. This includes the environment, natural resources, and mitigating the negative effects of climate change. It is imperative to increase our forest cover, and increase our innovations to grow the green economy. Failure to regulate effectively leads to violent local and even inter-state conflict.
This invites us all to think carefully about the management of new resources such as the newly discovered fossil fuels and minerals.
Ninth. International relations: our diplomats are the first line of defence abroad. They identify threats, utilise the instruments of bilateral and multilateral diplomacy
to pre-empt or manage them. They advise on the external implications of treaties, and coordinate closely with other national security organs.
Tenth, and finally, the Rule of law: lacking it is like rot that over time eats away at the legitimacy and capability of states. The state is constituted by rules and laws; living by them, particularly in a democracy like Kenya, is a key signal to citizens and the world. Without a broadly observed rule of law, criminality and insecurity become rife.
The combination of these elements of state effectiveness is informed by the work of every institution gathered here and all add up to a strong state, able to deliver national security.
I urge you to respond robustly to these thoughts especially on threat identification, and the capabilities we need to strengthen or develop a new secure the republic.
In doing this, I urge that we always remember that there is no situation where we shall have all the resources we need to address the challenges. The fundamental issue therefore is how to calibrate available resources and elements of power, against clearly defined priorities to optimally attain the desired end.
These ten dimensions of state effectiveness speak to our highest strategic priorities. They should form the basis for our own evaluation of success.
Going forward, I shall assess the performance of each ministry within a strategic framework of each one of these indicators of state effectiveness.
The ultimate aim of this workshop is to allow us to pursue our national security interests in a strategic across-government manner.
Let me say very clearly, we will defend this country at all costs; there is simply no more important priority for us in government and as Kenyans.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
In conclusion, I regard this meeting as a critical starting point for our thinking and acting together. It will form a firm foundation for further engagement and dialogue on the essence of this country.
In the light of this, I shall in due course, assembly us all in a retreat during which I shall lay out my strategic thinking to locate my administration and the development agenda as encapsulated in the Jubilee manifesto.
May I now declare this high level seminar on national security strategy officially opened. Asanteni sana.
The President of the Republic of Kenya (PORK), Mr. Uhuru Kenyatta, delivered this speech last week at a high level meeting on National Security at the Kenya School of Government in Nairobi.