Tuesday, August 26, 2014

On peacemaking with Kenyan Police


Hal Pepinsky, pepinsky@indiana.edu,”peacemaking” at pepinsky.blogspot.com

August 26, 2014


     A Kenyan student has recently made contact with me, first asking for advice on a thesis, then asking about Ferguson, now getting personal.  Here (making allowances for his apparent cell phone transmission, is his suggestion and my reply.  I wish him well. First, his message, then my reply:


Hi Hal. Yesterevening at around 2030hrs, military time, I got into an
altercation with police officers on patrol who barricaded the road my
residence for reasons only knw to them. Funny enough,who seemed to  be
an officer of higher rank was there with them in his private car. They
were stopping anybody and ransacking them. So one of them slapped me
and said these words," Kijana acha kuleta ujinga ya wajaluo
hapa."(Meaning," Kid don't bring here the stupidity of the luo
people.") Hal, luo is a tribe in Kenya. (He is an  aquintance, so I
was suprised at his condact). I was on the receiving end, and even
lost my trench coat to him, claiming it is only worn by
'wakora'(devint).Fortunately, I recognized one with whom I had, not
long ago, shared some time with discusin students conduct and the
police, and called him by name. He called me  with my tribes name
'jaugenya' and intervened for me. I wz let go and my trench coat
returned. As I left, I had them say, "Bwana hapa kuna kazi." (Meaning,
 "Boys here there is "job")Even, after I left I  knew those coming
after me wld face it, especially that they won't have a tribesmate to
help.  Though the insidence is not entirely similar to the Fugerson
case...do you think a black would objectively evaluate the work of a
white police officer? Do you think a luo would objectively evaluate a
Kalenjin officer?My insidence was just a simple case of police
officers misbehaving......an issue that can be adequately handled by
professional Criminal Justice Administration and that kind of
misbehavior is rampant all over and speaks volumes about overall
weaknesses in Criminal Justice.For us Kenya, do you think the panacea
for this kind of rot can be sought in detribalisation of public


                John, I see this as a personal call for you to get peacemaking among the tribes in your neighborhood underway, in a conversation with the police, particularly those you know personally.  Who is an elder in your neighborhood?  Do you practice religion, could you go to your own local religious leader, and propose that s/he draw together other congregations, and women’s groups in particular, to initiate contact, perhaps with the officer who identified you to begin with, to get officers and the community regularly to know and talk with one another?  It’s a matter of organizing, the kind of work Barack Obama started with out of law school.  Step one is for elders to pull the community together across tribal lines, involving young people like you and your friends in the neighborhood.  Step two is to invite police into the community for community meetings.  Step three is to regularize the conversation.  You are peace.  Love and peace,  hal


  1. Today I apologized for perhaps having come on too strong, and John responding with these two messages, brave soul:

    Thanks Hal for that eye-opener. I already a member of community
    policing initiative at my institution, which ain't doing as I expect
    because perhaps maybe the course the leaders have taken is different
    from mine. But in this, I will go solo and take my chances.

    I am ok Hal. How are you? Sometimes I wonder if the problems we face
    back hear are new, but the fact that you gave me an eye-opener means
    that you also had once surfered from the same but someone courageously
    stood up to that effect. No, Hal, you did not lay much on me. I am
    coming up with a plan that would see me set off. And I hope I could
    always use your advice. Thank you.

  2. More from John today:

    From John to me, 8/29/14:
    Wow! Nice one! Since m considerablely far from home, I wil invite him
    to my hostel with like minded friend then I talk him to follow my
    From me to John, 8/28/14:
    It occurs to me that ultimately, personally, this conflict is between you and the neighbor who took your coat. A wild thought: Could you and your family invite him and his family to a reconciliation dinner? How could he refuse? You could let him know of your desire to have the police and the neighborhood to get more personally acquainted, and to work together to keep the peace. I think it would blow his mind. l&p hal