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The East African : Dec 15th 2014
14 DRACONIAN BILL? Kenya’s security amendment Bill threatens hard-won freedoms The Bill is said to fall sho≥t of minimum constitutional ≥equi≥ements By TREVOR ANALO The EastAfrican K enyans will have to trade some of their freedoms for security if Members of Parliament pass new laws that will dramatically expand the president’s powers as the focus on the war on terror shifts from the shores of Kismayu to the streets and villages in Kenya. President Kenyatta says cur- rent laws prevent him from effectively responding to a war that is increasingly becoming unpredictable. But opposition politicians have accused the president of trading freedom for security, warning that hard-won liberties are “on the verge of being rolled back and our rights taken away,” as the president relies on his coalition to pass the new laws before parliament breaks for Christmas. “We [Cord] will challenge the new laws in the Supreme Court,” Farah Maalim, a member of ODM said. “We can’t allow the government to use the security situation to rewrite Kenyan laws.” During the debate on the eve of the country’s 51st Independence Day celebrations, opposition MPs said it was a sad day for the country as the state clawed back the hard-won freedoms enjoyed by Kenyans. “This Bill [Security Laws Ammendment Bill] will lead to the securitisation of our state; it is a return visa to the autocratic Jomo Kenyatta and Daniel Moi state that we thought we had buried in the dustbin of history,” said Ababu Namwamba, an ODM MP and chair of the Public Accounts Committee. The legislation was rushed through parliament with little public participation as demanded by the country’s Constitution. “The notice for public par- ticipation was very short,” said Regina Opondo, executive secretary for Constitution and Reform Education Consortium (Creco). “The drafters have failed to ensure the legislation meets the minimum constitutional requirements and that it should not infringe on our rights and freedoms,” she added. The omnibus Security Laws Bill amends more than 20 pieces of legislation ranging The notice for public participation was very short.” Regina Opondo, executive secretary ofr Constitution and Reform Education Consortium. CLAW-BACK PENAL CODE: Members of public give their opinions on the Amendment Bill, 2014 before the National Security committee Hall in Nairobi. Picture: Jeff Angotte from the Prevention of Terrorism Act, National Intelligence Service Act, Hotels and Restaurants Act to Radiation Protection Act. But the government insists the new laws are needed to bolster the security forces in the war on terror, saying the current laws have severely constricted the government’s ability to combat domestic terror. One of the new amendments in the Prevention of Terrorism Act is to increase the detention period of suspects from 90 days to 360 days — violating the Constitution, which requires a suspect to be charged in court within 24 hours of arrest. The Kenyan law provides bail for terror suspects. Terrorism will no longer be bailable and the Evidence Act has been reviewed to allow admission of digital evidence such as photographs and videos to ensure no evidence is dismissed on technicalities. Kenya’s spies will now have the right to intercept telephone communication and access calls, text and e-mail records without a court warrant. For the first time since the disbandment of the notorious Special Branch, the National Intelligence Service will not only have powers to arrest suspects, but also run covert operations and “take pre-emptive strikes” to foil terror plots. Inadequate inter-agency co-operation has been blamed for the country’s poor response to attacks. As a result, a new National Counter Terrorism Centre bringing together the military, the police and the spy agency will co-ordinate counter terrorism efforts between all security agencies. Other amendmentss remove -A person who intentionally insults the modesty of any other person by intruding upon that person’s privacy or strips such person, is guilty of a felony and is liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 20 years. NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE SERVICE ACT: -The intelligence agency has in the past complained about providing intelligence of impending attacks only for the police not to act on it. Now, the spy agency for the first time can arrest, conduct covert operations and make pre-emptive strikes to foil attacks. IMMIGRATION RELATED LEGISLATION: -Work permits to be approved by security of tenure for the Inspector General of Police and the Director General of the NIS to give the president a free hand in dismissing them for incompetence. However, some say this will re- move the independence of these institutions, which have in the past been abused for partisan political interests. Kenya’s civil society, who con- tinue to face accusations from the Kenyatta administration of being “foreign agents,” has not been spared. Civil society leaders have op- posed a new law that will see the government tighten its grip over the activities of about 350,000 not-for-profit organisations in the country. The Cabinet Secretary of Dev- olution will have discretionary powers to change the legal identity of an organisation. According to the amendment, “…the Cabinet Secretary may… review the classification of public benefit organisations.” This means the Cabinet Sec- multi-agency security team. REFUGEE ACT: -Asylum seekers to report on arrival as opposed to the current 30 days’ grace period to report. CRIMINAL PROCEDURE CODE: -Terrorism will not be bailable and the discretionary powers of the court when dealing with terrorism cases have been limited. EVIDENCE ACT: -Electronic and digital evidence such as texts, photographs and videos will now be admissible in the Kenyan courts. Courts can receive oral evidence through teleconferencing. RESTAURANTS ACT: -Compulsory for managers to record details of visitors and file the report to the police. retary could define an NGO as pro-opposition, giving the minister grounds to dissolve it, says Irungu Houghton, who works for the Society for International Development (SID). The media and social media users have also been targeted under the law. It will be a felony to publish “obscene, gory or offensive material which is likely to cause fear and alarm to the general public.” And this will attract a fine of either $11,000 for private individuals or $55,000 for media houses. Some laws have greatly in- fringed on civil and political liberties contained in the Bill of Rights. The Cabinet Secretary for Interior will have the powers to decide where and when public demonstrations would take place, and hold organisers of the protests responsible for any damage to public property. Opposition leaders say this law could be used to muzzle them as the next election in 2017 draws near. Martin Ngoga Picture: File The EastAfrican NEWS DECEMBER 13-19,2014 BBC ≥ejects invitation to Rwanda Commission By ROBERT MBARAGA Special correspondent The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) has declined an invitation by a Rwandan commission of inquiry to talk about its recently aired documentary, Rwanda’s Untold Story. BBC director-general Tony Hall was on Friday supposed to appear before the commission which was set up by the government to investigate accusations against the institution he heads. “BBC told us that they have started their own internal inquiry investigating the same, and thus would not appeal before any commission” said Martin Ngoga, who chairs the commission. The documentary sparked pub- lic outrage in Rwanda and led to the banning of BBC Kinyarwanda service broadcast. “It would have been better if they had worked with us, and their presence would generate a significant input because there are some questions we believe only they can answer,” Mr Ngoga said. Credibilty The committee, however, will not let the BBC’s absence stop it from continuing with its work and reaching a conclusion. “Their inquiry is not bad, but it will not benefit Rwandans and will not answer questions raised by the Rwandan public” Mr Ngoga said, adding that the move by BBC to launch an internal investigation is acknowledgement that indeed there is something wrong with the documentary. The commission’s credibility has again come under scrutiny after it turned down an offer by Professor Filip Reyntjens, a Belgian scholar, who was interviewed in the controversial documentary, to testify. The university lecturer told KPFA, an American broadcaster, that he offered to testify in the committee but his offer was rejected. Rwanda’s Untold Story, that was broadcast on BBC2, a channel not viewed in Rwanda, on October 1, investigated claims that incumbent president Paul Kagame was involved in downing a plane carrying president Habyarimana — an event which sparked off the 1994 genocide that cost the lives of one million Tutsis and moderate Hutus.
Dec 8th 2014
Dec 22nd 2014