Refusal to accept poll results an offence, says Interior team

Tuesday March 21 2017

 

By FRED MUKINDA
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By BERNARD NAMUNANE
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Police officers will arrest anyone who refuses to accept the results of the August elections, calls for mass action, or carves out parts of the country as their exclusive political zones.

These are some of the recommendations in a government document seen by the Nation on Monday, that also criminalises “incitement, zoning areas exclusively as belonging to particular candidates or parties, engaging organised criminal gangs to intimidate opponents, bribery of voters, disruption of opponents’ campaign meetings, and encroachment by people living near forests.”

After voting, likely offences are listed as “refusal to accept results, incitement and calling for mass action, disruption of counting of votes, announcing incorrect results, arson, vandalism and interference with government installations within forests — like water resources, communication installations and power lines”.

Parts of the Rift Valley, Coast, Nairobi, Kiambu and Kisumu have been identified as potential electoral violence hotspots and security agents will meet in Nairobi on Tuesday to map out a strategy to contain any flare-ups before they degenerate into full-scale violence.

Among the plans they are proposing is the recruitment of additional police officers to grow the force to 100,000, digital surveillance of key towns and cities, arming and equipping of security personnel, as well as enlisting of special agents from other arms of the country’s security services.

PEACE WILL PREVAIL

Interior Affairs Principal Secretary Karanja Kibicho and National Police Service spokesman George Kinoti, in separate interviews on Monday, said top security organs were already aware of these threats, but assured that peace will prevail in the lead up to, during, and after the August elections.

“We have put in place elaborate operations plans which will be executed by our security agencies,” said Mr Kibicho. “From the security point of view, we are paying a lot of attention to the elections.”

Mr Kinoti said the plan is broken into “specifics” that respond to challenges unique to each county or a cluster of counties.

The plan was initially revealed to county commanders and their deputies at the annual Inspector General’s conference in Nairobi on December 14 last year.

“Since then there have been timely reviews because security issues are never static,” said Mr Kinoti. “The county commanders and their deputies have been involved in these reviews because we shall depend on them for implementation, and they are also familiar with challenges on the ground.

“Safe, secure and peaceful electioneering period is top on National Police Service agenda.”

It is understood that Naivasha, Burnt Forest, parts of Uasin Gishu, border points of Nandi and Kisumu counties, Trans-Mara, Mombasa, and parts of Lamu have been marked as potential violence hotspots.

FRESH RECRUITS

In Nairobi, Kibera and Mathare slums, Kariobangi and Dandora are on the list, as is Kiambu and Kisumu. Just last week, a man was killed after rival political gangs clashed in Mathare 4A.

“Some of the hotspots are known to you (media) and that is why we have special plans for operations in those areas,” he said.

Dr Kibicho said a code of conduct is also in place to guide law enforcement, “in accordance with the Elections Act”.

In anticipation of the enormous challenge, the service will, among other measures, be banking on an increase of the number of police officers to nearly 100,000. Some 10,000 recruits graduated from police training colleges this month and were immediately deployed to boost security across Kenya.

Besides the fresh recruits, Inspector General Joseph Boinnet also has a pool of officers he can draw on from other security agencies.

“Whenever need arises, the IG is empowered by law to gazette special police officers. Normally, they come from auxiliary services and are placed under the existing police command to ensure all areas where election activities will be taking place across the country are covered,” said Mr Kinoti.

Traditionally, the police boss appoints special police officers from Kenya Wildlife Service, Kenya Prisons Service, Kenya Forestry Service and the National Youth Service.
Police mobility — on land and air — has also been boosted to proportions never seen before in the history of independent Kenya.

SURVEILLANCE CAMERAS

Last month police received 525 new vehicles, including Armoured Personnel Carriers (APCs). The delivery was one of the three batches leased from car dealers, increasing the number of police vehicles by 2,720 since 2013.

On aerial transport, the police Airwing expects delivery of new MI6s helicopters plus other troop carriers that were overhauled and delivered to Kenya last year.

The Airwing is expected to have seven serviceable choppers by July, a month before the election date. The airborne unit had only one serviceable helicopter in 2013.

Also, the new Integrated Command and Control centre at police headquarters will be used to cover elections for the first time. For Nairobi and Mombasa, where there are surveillance cameras mounted on streets and other public places, the captured images and footage will be monitored at the command centre in real time.

All police formations, including General Service Unit, Administration Police and the Directorate of Criminal Investigations, will be deployed to polling stations and other areas where there will be election-related activities.

National Intelligence Services will also be relied on by police to give actionable reports to forestall violence, and the law also mandates the Kenya Defence Forces to step in an offer assistance to civil authorities.

“The red tape normally associated with tasks assigned to different agencies has been eliminated,” said Mr Kinoti. “We have taken a multi-agency approach where all units will gather, analyse and act on reports promptly and as a team.”