By Chris Maina-Nyangweso
Eight activists from Bunge la Mwananchi who were arrested for peacefully assembling outside parliament when Jubilee government lawmakers passed the draconian security bill will today be arraigned in court.
The eight, led by veteran activist Gacheke Gachihi will this morning be arraigned at Milimani law courts. It is not yet known whether they will be charged with sections of the offensive new law which criminalises peaceful assembly of Kenyans without a permit from President Uhuru’s government.
In solidarity, thousands of Kenyans are expected to throng the court premises in open defiance of the new law as opposition CORD lead a battery of lawyers to file a petition at the high court to challenge several provisions of the law.
President Uhuru hurriedly assented to the new law, and furiously told those bereaved to go hug the nearest transformer. Mark my words. The bad law, passed in an unruly parliament presided by a drunken speaker, who is, like the president, unapologetic, is said to contain provisions borrowed from Uganda and Syria, murderous states to copy anything from, for your own people, not unless you want to be a dictator whose word and fiat is final, like Museveni and Assad.
Yesterday evening, at least 10 lawyers were doing the final touches on the petition which may end up at the Supreme Court of Kenya. Broadly, CORD leader Raila Odinga outlined 10 reasons why the new law must be nipped in the bud, before it is used on Kenyans with the ruthlessness of a KANU state a decade ago.
Here are the 10 reasons:
1. It takes away the right to assemble, demonstrate, picket and present petitions to public authorities. By giving the Cabinet secretary power to decide where and when people can assemble, demonstrate, picket and present petitions, trade union activity can now be neutralised, political activity can be controlled and government will become dictatorial.
2. It introduces a new type of law that makes people responsible for the actions of others. This is what they mean when they say a person convicted of convening a rally, meeting or procession will be made liable for any loss suffered. Trade unions will now be liable to companies for economic loses resulting from strikes or to the government for causing traffic jams.
3. It takes away the power to declare curfew from the Inspector General of Police to Cabinet Secretary. The decision to impose curfew will now not be made based on a professional security risk assessment but on the political grounds since the Inspector General has roles placed on him by the constitution but the Cabinet secretary has none.
4. It restricts the right of the people to receive information if that information is considered obscene, gory or offensive. The Act does not define what is â€œobsceneâ€, â€œgoryâ€, or â€œoffensiveâ€ and this will now depend on the police. The Constitution has already stated what information is forbidden and the amendment is trying to add more restrictions.
5. It takes away the right of an accused person to be told what evidence the prosecution has. It is a basic right for an accused person that he must be informed what evidence will be used against him before the trial. We saw at the International Criminal Court at The Hague our President complaining that Prosecution was withholding evidence. He now must uphold for Kenyans the rights he was demanding when he was himself an accused person.
6. It requires an accused person to disclose his witnesses and evidence to the Police. It is another basic right for the accused that he cannot be compelled to disclose anything to the prosecution. We also saw our president protest very strongly at the ICC when the prosecution applied to Kenya to give the prosecution information. The president must also respect the same rights for the rest of Kenyans.
7. It institutionalises the military into our civilian institutions by putting them in the Firearms Licensing Board and Inter-agency security advisory committee. One great tradition of Kenya is that we keep our military out of civilian affairs. It is one of the reasons we remained stable when other Africa countries experienced military coups. Even today, countries that allowed the military into civilian affairs are the most unstable in Africa including Egypt, Nigeria, Uganda, North and South Sudan. Civilian authorities need to be replaced using civilian methods while military can only be removed by military.
8. It gives the right to any police officer to obtain information from landlords about tenants even without requiring the existence of an investigation against the tenant and suspend your driving licence. We know our police men and we know that allowing them to check on landlords is only opening up a new plantation for them to harvest where they did not sow. Susension of driving licenses is also a new cash cow for the police. All public service vehicle drivers and owners can expect the worst when police acquire this power.
9. It brings back to Kenya the dreaded special branch in a more lethal formation. The NIS now has power to enter and search premises and to take away any property that they want without having to get a warrant from court or being accountable to anyone. The decision is entirely that of the NIS officer.
10. It limits the right of the media to give true and accurate information. The restrictions on media under the proposed law would have made the entire media coverage of Westgate attack illegal. We would only have known what the Police wanted us to know. The coverage of Mandera attacks would also have been illegal.