We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

The state really really is not your friend

The Kenyan government didn’t play much of a part in ending the three-hour bloodbath, McConnell reports. By the time security forces arrived, the attack was mostly over thanks to an “unlikely coalition of licensed civilian gun owners and brave, resourceful individual police officers [who] took it upon themselves to mount a rescue effort.” While this little band of saviors would ferry dozens of people to safety, when Kenyan forces did arrive, “it was only to shoot at one another before going on an armed looting spree that resulted in the collapse of the rear of the building, destroyed with a rocket-propelled grenade. And there were only four gunmen, all of whom were buried in the rubble, along with much of the forensic evidence.”

– Tristan McConnell

Read the whole thing.

Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on TumblrShare on RedditShare on Google+Share on VKEmail this to someone

12 comments to The state really really is not your friend

  • llamas

    Fascinating article, thanks for linking

    Some interesting parallels with the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. It so happens that I am in NOLA and will be meeting with several of the folks that I worked with closely doing business recovery after Katrina. I’ll link them this article, I suspect they will recall more parallels.

    llater,

    llamas

  • Militaries in Africa are more often than not simply criminals with uniforms (which is how somebody from ExxonMobil once described the Nigerian navy, tasked with stopping the crude thefts which was largely being carried out by that very same Nigerian navy). When I lived in Lagos there was an amusing incident involving an impromptu army blockade. A young woman driving a car tried to run the blockade and got dragged out of the car and pistol-whipped for her efforts. Turns out that this woman was the daughter of a Nigerian navy admiral and proceeded to call Daddy, who dispatched a group of armed navy personnel to deal with it. The result was a gun battle between the Nigerian army and the Nigerian navy at a busy crossroads in the middle of Lagos.

    Another story: a Nigerian colleague was driving to work and got pulled over by a threesome of dodgy policemen who threatened him and his friend with imprisonment for some invented infraction if they didn’t hand over money. My colleague’s uncle is a colonel in the Nigerian army, who dispatched a lorry-load of soldiers to the scene, who proceeded to beat the policemen unconscious.

    Another colleague had an uncle who was in the branch of the police which dealt with drug-busting raids. In one such raid he was shot in the back by one of his own men, who had almost certainly been paid to do so.

    Rough place, Africa.

  • staghounds

    The first rescuer in was Nura Ali, a Kenyan police officer who was dispatched to the scene as a robbery in progress with shots fired. He went in with no idea what was going on, past piles of dead and wounded, hearing shots still being fired. And before it was over, he was shot all to hell.

    The State may or not be your friend from time to time, and there was plenty of blame to go around at the top for foulups at Westgate. The looting was shameful.

    And plenty of the State’s faceless minions and lackeys took their responsibilities seriously that day. They, like all the ordinary citizens who stood up, deserve praise not sneering. People will amaze you with their self sacrifice.

  • Paul Marks

    This is true in much of the world.

    Sometimes government forces are efficient but oppressive – as in China.

    Sometimes they re oppressive and incompetent – as in Kenya

    Places where government forces are both efficient and (generally) unoppressive are fairly rate – Switzerland springs to mind.

    It has always been thus – government security forces have normally been oppressive and/or incompetent in most of human history and in most places.

    So how did the myth of an efficient and benevolent state take hold?

    In Britain (and later America) it seems to be related to the cult of Prussia – to Bismark and, before him, to Frederick the Great.

    The idea that the France of Louis XIV or the Spain of Philip II should be copied was never popular.

    However, the idea of the Prussian state as “liberal” and “enlightened” is still strong – even among people who should know better.

    The Prussian state protected the people from criminals and other threats.

    It educated the young (Frederick’s government schools).

    It stimulated trade and the economy – and developed culture and the arts.

    And on and on.

    Military success (of a Protestant ally) led to the myth of general success.

    Statism-from-above (the benevolent and efficient state) comes from this source.

    I wish the Empress Elizabeth had lived a few months longer.

    And that her Cossacks had hanged Frederick from the nearest tree.

  • And plenty of the State’s faceless minions and lackeys took their responsibilities seriously that day. They, like all the ordinary citizens who stood up, deserve praise not sneering.

    And I am happy to praise them as people acting on their own initiative bravely. However once the Kenyan state actually acted institutionally, it demonstrated that yes, the state really really is not your friend.

  • staghounds

    Well, I don’t see how being told by his dispatcher to go to the mall immediately and investigate, and then going to the mall immediately and investigating, is so much own initiative rather than acting institutionally but I suppose you are right.

    There’s room to praise and condemn where it’s deserved.

  • Barry Sheridan

    Fighting back, taking the law into their own hands, what is happening in the world. Have not the British left a better legacy in Kenya than that, surely these people know they are just supposed to wait until the government does something!

  • Nicholas (Rule Yourselves!) Gray

    What’s that saying- when every second counts, the police are only minutes away!?

  • A Swiss

    @Paul Marks

    Maybe this has something to do with that the state is mostly decentralised (about 20 : 40 : 40 % – federal, cantonal, community level) and all that direct voting of the members of the governments and all these (for the establishment) pesky initiatives and referendums?

    Also I would not trust the Swiss cops either – 80 % are ok, but about 20 % are uhm interesting.

  • Mr Ed

    On a smaller scale, an alleged example from some Scouse police officers, driving off when flagged down for help to deal with a thief, facing a misconduct hearing.

  • Jordan

    Well, I don’t see how being told by his dispatcher to go to the mall immediately and investigate, and then going to the mall immediately and investigating, is so much own initiative rather than acting institutionally but I suppose you are right.

    Considering he had to walk past a group of police officers who were cowering outside of the mall to get inside, I can see some initiative here…

  • Fighting back, taking the law into their own hands, what is happening in the world. Have not the British left a better legacy in Kenya than that, surely these people know they are just supposed to wait until the government does something!

    Well that’s the old school British and not the present day version.