Kenya

Young Nairobi County constables replace old kanjos

Young Nairobi County constables replace old kanjos

The lasting image of old kanjo askaris in scruffy drab grey uniforms struggling to chase after hawkers out of breath or aboard their rattletraps is gradually being replaced.

Photo credit: Dennis Onsongo | Nation Media Group

For years, the Nairobi inspectorate and enforcement department has gained notoriety for its dalliance with the oldies.

From the officers, popularly known as kanjo askaris, to the inspectorate vehicles that are now nothing more than rickety jalopies, the two have their best years behind them.

But behold, this lasting image of old kanjo askaris in scruffy drab grey uniforms struggling to chase after hawkers out of breath or aboard their rattletraps is gradually being replaced.

You have most probably seen young recruits, mostly in their thirties or so, dressed in spanking new uniforms patrolling the streets of Nairobi.

But this journey began in March 2020 when City Hall announced the recruitment of 800 new county constables.

Applicants for the county constable position were to possess a Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE), be aged between 18 and 35, be physically and medically fit and have no criminal record or pending criminal charges.

And late last year, the new officers were co-opted into the Nairobi Metropolitan Services (NMS) and deployed to Nairobi’s city centre to replace their aged counterparts.

The new county constables have been rocking sharp new navy blue uniforms, replacing the drab grey old uniforms their predecessors wore.

This is after the county government allocated Sh100 million for the purchase of new uniforms for more than 1,000 lower-cadre recruits.

The department has over 2,000 officers. The contract for the new uniforms is reported to have been awarded to Manchester Outfitters.

Maintaining law and order

In 2016, City Hall had intimated that the new uniforms would include numbers, similar to those of the police, identification badges and boots.

The journey began in March 2020 when City Hall announced the recruitment of 800 new county constables.

Photo credit: Dennis Onsongo | Nation Media Group

“Purchasing uniforms for the officers will promote a positive image and better recognition by the public as well motivate the staff,” a City Hall plan said.

The enforcement officers are tasked with maintaining law and order by guarding high-class metro transport parking bays and terminals, dealing with public safety, the safety of markets and promoting trade and industry.

The inspectorate department has been undergoing an image sprucing up, and last month City Hall Security and Compliance Chief Officer Mark Leleruk said they had embarked on professionalising the department.

Part of the ongoing reforms of the unit includes giving the officers respectable titles in a bid to rid the department of the bad reputation that continues to plague it.

He admitted that the level of professionalism among the officers is low and thus the need to replace the old titles with the officers henceforth to be known as county constables.

Corruption and brutality

This, said the chief officer, is intended to rebrand the unit and get rid of the culture associated with corruption and brutality the officers have been known for.

Already, over 1,000 officers have been taken for training by the National Police Service (NPS) at Kiganjo Police Training College and Administration Police Training College, Embakasi.

“We need to professionalise the sector. We are equally embarrassed. The level of professionalism is low; we admit it,” Dr Leleruk said.

You have most probably seen young recruits, mostly in their thirties or so, dressed in spanking new uniforms patrolling the streets of Nairobi.

Photo credit: Dennis Onsongo | Nation Media Group

“To achieve this, we want to introduce a new culture of integrity and professionalism with career courses like non-commissioned officers and development courses for corporals and sergeants.”

“We will also have graduate inspectorate courses. We intend to rebrand and get rid of the culture associated with corruption and brutality especially when dealing with hawkers. We will also replace the current titles and call them constables and other respectable titles.”

In October 2021, the city-county government further announced another phase of recruitment of inspectorate and enforcement officers, setting aside Sh180 million for it. In the advertisement, the applicants are to be aged between 18 and 26.

More than 50 years old

And on December 1 and 2, NMS interviewed 2,113 shortlisted enforcement constable applicants, out of whom 700 officers will be absorbed.

The successful constables will be engaged on a three-year renewable contract in a move aimed at reinvigorating a unit that is grappling with overage staff.

Nairobi City County Public Service Board chairperson Thomas Kasoa says three-quarters of the Ann Kananu-led administration staff are more than 50 years old.

This has been exacerbated by a lack of recruitment, with most sectors in the county government having last recruited about 20 years ago.

“The last major recruitment was done almost 20 years ago. Those people are now over 45 years old and if we don’t have a succession plan in terms of human resources, then the county government will soon grind to a halt,” warned Mr Kasoa.

“This is the right time that the [county] assembly should come up with a succession plan in terms of recruitment because the biggest challenge we have is an ageing workforce.”