By Eliud Owalo
It is about 4 years now since the promulgation of the new Constitution which entailed the enactment of several legislations to operationalize key provisions of the same. However, this legislative task has not yet been fully done in certain sectors including security reforms. It is indeed significant to bring this upfront since several public inquiries into the security sector such as the Kriegler Commission of inquiry proposed drastic security sector reforms which are not yet accomplished.
Accordingly, therefore, the current state of insecurity in our Country is partly attributed to failure to fully reform the security sector in a democratic and judicious manner.
This failure has persisted due to the parochial political considerations of the ruling elites on what such reforms should actually entail. Having said that, I now intend to focus more specifically on the flaws of the Security Laws (Amendments) Bill, 2014. Infact, this Bill is not intended to bring the required security sector reforms as are proposed in the Constitution, Kriegler report and Agenda 4 of 2008 National Reconciliation Accord (NARA). Instead, it aims at entrenching repressive and undemocratic laws and regulations in the Country.
First, the proposed amendments to the existing security laws are not only ill-advised, retrogressive and obsolete but also unconstitutional for it limits individual rights, press freedom, privacy, among others, in contravention of the supreme law.
It seems those championing the Bill tend to think that it will be the panacea to insecurity problem in the country while in fact the problem definitely lies elsewhere. Already, there are enough punitive security laws including those on terrorism which only need to be enforced effectively and efficiently. What seems to be a miss is an efficient, de-ethnisized and motivated security personnel.
The bill seeks to remove the powers of National Police Service Commission as regards the hiring of the Inspector General of Police (IG) and vest such powers in the President. In the same vein, it intends to remove the tenure of office of the IG. In this particular proposed amendment the presumption being made is that the President is capable of performing a better job in respect of hiring the IG relative to the National Police Service Commission.
It needs to be recalled and emphasized that the establishment of the National Police Service Commission (NPSC) was intended to, inter alia, bring independence, rationality, fairness, and National outlook in the hiring of the IG, something which cannot be possible if such powers were vested in a politician with subjective personal interests. In this regard, the current leadership of various security departments does not reflect National outlook and is reportedly creating a lot of internal resentments within the forces.
Third, the Bill outrageously intends to run contrary to the Constitution by suggesting that suspects should be held by police for at least one year. The Constitution clearly stipulates that suspects arrested by police should be taken to Court within 24 hours. Should this amendment be allowed, it will not only be unconstitutional but will go a long way in opening flood gate for all manner of possible abuses by security personnel who might now hold people incommunicado and arbitrarily for inordinate periods of time thereby occasioning awful violations. Such were the practices during the dark days of KANU era during which many Kenyans suffered greatly at Nyayo House Torture Chambers.
Fourth, the Bill may inadvertently adversely affect the hotel and housing industry by scaring customers from booking hotels for fear that their privacy will be intruded into. For the Bill requires hotels to provide details of all guests to police every week. Such details will include telephone numbers, sex of the guests, passports or ID Nos. and businesses. This will further affect the tourism sector which is already performing below optimal capacity. Furthermore, information regarding personal details of customers are likely to be abused by the police for purposes of extortion and corrupt deals.
Fifth, the Bill intends to unconstitutionally restrict access to information including through mobile phones, internet or publication. Should this be passed, it will imply that the citizens will be restricted to access only information vetted and approved by security agencies, regardless of the authenticity, veracity or quality of such information. Clearly, this will make nonsense of critical and frank reporting of events, facts and evidence as they unfold.
Further, the Bill proposes devastating punitive measures intended to shut the society from critical thoughts and independent inquiry into issues of public interest. It leaves one to wonder whether the intention of the Jubilee leadership is to transform Kenya into Stalinist Russia or North Korea.
Sixth,the Bill curiously proposes that terror victims cannot have their photos published without their consent or that of police. The implied consequence of this requirement will be that the citizens will be denied an alternative source of information regarding dead relatives, friends or acquaintances. It provides a blank cheque to the police for misinformation without any check. Past police activities in such environments are well known to most Kenyans.
In conclusion, the security laws (Amendments) Bill, 2014 coerces people to be responsible for the actions of others; restricts the right of the people to access information; takes away the right of the accused to know evidence against him; requires an accused person to disclose his witnesses and evidence; institutionalizes the military into civilian institutions; give the police powers to arbitrarily suspend driving license; brings back to Kenya the dreaded special branch; and limits the right of the media to give true and accurate information. Therefore,this Bill is not about the security of Kenyans.
It is not even about the political security of the Jubilee Government.It is not at all about Uhuru’s Party TNA.It is about the personal political security of President Uhuru Kenyatta. He wants to perpetuate himself in power against the will and wishes of Kenyans.Deputy President William Ruto is already out of Uhuru’s political equation.
According to Uhuru,it is either him or the highway.Uhuru wants to rule for as long as he wishes then handover to either Margaret Kenyatta or Anne Waiguru. With the ICC issue out of the way,you will now see an Uhuru who is worse than Moi.And as such the security laws (Amendment) Bill should be rejected in toto, for it intends to take the country back to the dark days of the autocratic and dictatorial KANU era.
Eliud Owalo is a management consultant and ODM politician.