Pandemic a test to personal, national security


By MAXWELL MASAVA
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As Covid-19 rapidly spreads across counties, the country faces unprecedented challenges, including in the security sector.

Due to the mitigating restrictions to check its spread, social distancing being prime, for the National Police Service and private security players, it is not business as usual.

As a containment measure, the government has declared a countrywide night-time curfew and partial lockdown in Nairobi, Mombasa, Kwale and Kilifi counties. This, effectively, is the largest ever security operation in post-independent Kenya.

Social distancing challenges how we work, learn and play. Even for conventional policing, things must change. Police officers, like anyone else, should be protected from the virus.

With handwashing and hand sanitising being emphasised at entrances, there is a risk of security officers dropping their guard. This may need a radical change of strategy and methodology — perhaps shifting to virtual surveillance.

Some employees are working from home for the first time as businesses opt for the arrangement to enable continuity and safety of staff.

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But it is a prime time for cyber-attackers. The attacks can be in the form of malicious software (malware) on personal computers or phishing emails to intercept sensitive communication.

It’s also crucial for members of the public to be cautious as criminals are using the pandemic to scam them through circulation of phishing emails purporting to sell non-existent items and messages that are accompanied by links that purport to offer free goodies.

For Kenya, the Al-Shabaab insurgency remains a potent force in Somalia. Security agencies should up surveillance and not drop their guard. Equally, the citizenry should volunteer any information.

Besides the pandemic being one of the biggest health challenges Kenya has faced in a generation, the World Food Programme (WFP) estimates that 20 million people are food-insecure in the region and this is likely to increase to 34-43 million in three months.

The pandemic has already disrupted various food supply chains. Though there is free movement of food supplies, food access and consumer prices are affected. Partial and total closure of markets have directly affected food security.

Criminals may take advantage of doorstep deliveries of food by supplying products laced with sleep inducers and/or drugs that stupefy, hence rob households.

The strict measures to counter the spread of the virus, as necessary as they are, also have a particular impact on women and girls, including elevating the risk of sexual and gender-based violence.

Recently, the National Council on Administration of Justice reported a significant spike in sexual offences in many parts of the country in the first two weeks of the curfew.

In some cases, the perpetrators were close relatives, guardians and/or persons living with the victims.

The courts ought to consider giving directions on early hearing dates in such cases. Violence is a daily reality for women and girls.

According to official data, 45 per cent of women and girls aged 15 to 49 have suffered physical violence and 14 per cent sexual violence.

The restrictions imposed in response to the Covid-19 pandemic are likely to make it harder for survivors to report abuse and seek help and service providers to respond efficiently.

We all ought to be vigilant.

Mr Masava is a communication specialist and comments on topical issues; [email protected]


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