Government must act: Not whether to but how to arm the guards

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A simple tour in the city will tell you who watch the city during the night and during the day.

Events of 21st September 2013 became the turning point of Kenyan security, the Westgate attack just like the 9/11 attack to the Americans came with safety and security consciousness to Kenyans.


It is after the Westgate attack that we’ve seen a great rise of men and women in different uniforms at every entrance with a rungu and metal detector, may be “ready” to detect, deter and defend or destroy any threat to the property and occupants.
The numbers have risen to over 300, 000 going by the membership of the Kenya National Private Security workers union (KNPSWU).
In Kenya’s homeland security there are five times more security guards than police officers, with the latter at only about 60,000.

A building without security guards in the current ‘security conscious Kenya’ is viewed to be unsecure, it is not a policy that every building must have a guard but it happens that even the critical infrastructures and government offices have at least two guards besides police. I would not be wrong to say that guards watch the city day and night, their role cannot be wished away, they provide security.

Scholars define Security as resilience against harm caused by others, while they further define resilience as the ability to endure strain.

Talk of enduring strain in security, a strain here would mean an insecurity incident.
Are our security guards well equipped to endure any strain?

It is a common headline on our media, “guards killed in a robbery”, ” guards killed in an attempted theft” or “guards killed in a terror attack”.

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The most recent that caught my eye was “Five guards hacked to death at Kilingili market Vihiga county”- 2nd March 2019, few weeks later
“Guard killed, another one injured in Mulwanda market” 22nd March 2019.
The first victims to be mopped out during most security incidents are security guards, that evident even in terror attacks- Westgate, Garissa University and even Dusit attack.

The effectiveness of a security installation is measured by the ability to implement the 3D concept of security to its entirelity which is to Detect, Deter and Defend/Destroy any threat to the property and the occupants.
A security guard is a physical security installation.

The questions therefore are;
can our security guards Detect? Probably yes, and probably no, it depends on the training and equipments they hold.

Can our security guards deter? Deterrence is viewed in two perspective;
Deterrence by threat of punishment which is simply the trade of fear in wholesale, threatening to hurt someone if he or she attacks. if you choose this route you must be in a capacity to act on your threat, your threat must be credible.
This is the route we unconsciously or subconsciously take when we have guards at the entrance.

Deterrence by denial which is a form of deterrence that also depend on fear but the fear of costs incurred during an act of aggression. It seeks to make aggression unprofitable by rendering the target harder to take, harder to keep or both.
If you choose this route the defender must have sufficient lethal capability at hand and be able to act at any sight of aggression.

Can our security guards be able to defend/ destroy? The answer is a question, if they can’t deter and their detecting capability are questionable, how can they defend the Properties or destroy the threats?

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An assessment on the effectiveness on above parameters is therefore a declaration of something either amiss or missing in the private security sector.

The move by Private Security Regulatory authority led by Fazul Mahamed and the ministry of interior to give private guards means of aggression is the much needed dose to the effectiveness of this very sector we have all prioritized to secure us and our property.
It addresses deterrence issue by giving the guards threat credibility, it is now a 3D and not a D (detect), an armed guard can now deter and destroy.

A question we must ask ourselves and evaluate the answer; what will a guard do after searching someone and detecting a weapon? Scream or use the rungu?

If we were not to ignore this sector we created to secure us called the Private security sector then the question of arming the guards is not on whether to arm them but how to arm them.

Arming guards can be counter reactive on the country, it can be a breeding stem to a rise in armed robberies or even an armed resistance, they have the numbers anyway.
We must look at frameworks and guidelines before training and arming, look at who qualifies to be armed and what weaponry should be given.

On an ideal situation only guards guarding critical infrastructures and high risk targets such as airports, powerstations, Railways lines and stations , busy shopping malls and complexes, government buildings , vip homes and cash in transit should be armed with artilleries.
A watchman guarding an ordinary home does not necessary need a firearm but he or she might need a taser gun, a bullet proof, a nice hard leather boot and some skills in karate and tae- kwondo.

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The fear of misuse of the equipments is always there even in the police service and Armed forces, the need to thorough vet and monitor is therefore live.
To effect this, there is need for a multi-agency department between the Private Security Regulatory Authority, National Intelligence Service and National police service to Vet, approve and monitor every guard holding an arm.

The fear of unknown should not deter Implementation of what is known can lead to effectiveness. It is already known that guards play a big role in National security, why not make them effective?

And the Holy book says, “When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own house, his possessions are safe.” Luke 11:21

By Kiyoh Nganga is a Criminologist and Security Expert- Armistice Security Consult International.

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