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Tough new laws for war against terror

Thursday December 4 2014

President Uhuru Kenyatta at a past event.

President Uhuru Kenyatta at a past event. Terrorism suspects may be held by police for longer periods before being taken to court, held incommunicado and denied bail once charged if tough new security laws are passed to aid the war against terrorism. FILE PHOTO | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

CAROLINE WAFULA
By CAROLINE WAFULA
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JOHN NGIRACHU
By JOHN NGIRACHU
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Terrorism suspects may be held by police for longer periods before being taken to court, held incommunicado and denied bail once charged if tough new security laws are passed to aid the war against terrorism.

The proposals have been made by a team appointed by President Uhuru Kenyatta in the wake of two successive terrorist raids that killed 64 people in Mandera County.

The changes will, among other things, allow the police to take far-reaching measures to combat terrorism, including giving them more powers to search premises.

If adopted, they will also pave the way for the removal of security of tenure for top security officers such as the Inspector-General of Police, his two deputies and the intelligence boss.

A team of MPs and another comprising security chiefs have been working on Bills that will lead to the changes to be presented to Parliament for approval.

President Kenyatta last evening received a report on the amendments agreed on by the two teams.

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“The President has received the report and will apply his mind before submitting his recommendations to Parliament through the laid down procedures,” said State House spokesperson Manoah Esipisu.

The President had on Tuesday asked MPs to delay their Christmas break to debate and pass the laws. They will also vet his nominee for Cabinet Secretary for the Interior and Coordination of the National Government, retired Maj-Gen Joseph Nkaissery, who is Kajiado Central MP.

The ODM legislator was on Tuesday nominated to replace Mr Joseph ole Lenku.
Parliament has the next 14 days to consider his nomination.

Mr Lenku’s fate still hangs in the balance because the President did not outrightly say that he had sacked the Cabinet Secretary who, like Inspector-General of Police David Kimaiyo, had been under public pressure to resign or be sacked over security failures.

Although Mr Esipisu’s press release did not provide details, the Nation learnt from an MP familiar with the discussions that Mr Kenyatta would ask Parliament to approve changes to the National Intelligence Service Act, the National Police Service Act, the National Police Service Commission Act and the Prevention of Terrorism Act.

CRACK THE WHIP

Removing security of tenure for security chiefs is expected to give the President a freer hand to crack the whip on those who fail to do their job.

Changes to the Prevention of Terrorism Act are expected to set new rules on the handling of suspected terrorists, including allowing the police to hold them for longer than the current 24 hours before taking them to court. Police could also be allowed to hold terror suspects incommunicado.

It will also be harder for suspected terrorists to get bail, which the police argue sets dangerous suspects free to commit other acts of terror or evade court or even flee the country.
The House has passed the Persons Deprived of Liberty Bill but it was not clear whether it, too, will be taken back to the House for further amendments.

Ordinarily, Bills on publication have to wait for 14 days to mature and then be scrutinised by committees before they can be debated in Parliament.

However, the President’s wish that the Bills be fast-tracked might not be easy, especially if some of the tough proposals flout constitutional guarantees on civil rights.
“They might have to wait until February. All these stages take time,” an MP said.

FREE HAND

Members of the Administration and National Security Committee have suggested changing the National Police Service Act to provide for clarity on who would become a commander in cases where the regular and Administration Police bosses in a county are of equal rank.

This year, the National Assembly changed the National Police Service Act to give the President a free hand in the appointment of the Inspector-General.

He is now expected to name a panel to select Mr Kimaiyo’s replacement. The panel will pick three finalists and submit their names to the President, who will then nominate one for vetting by Parliament.

On Wednesday, the Head of State officially presented his nomination of Maj-Gen Nkaissery to Parliament for MPs to start the vetting process.

The vetting starts when the Committee on Appointments invites public submissions on the nominee. The team then meets the nominees for interview and scrutiny of their documents before compiling a report on their suitability for the position. The report is then submitted to the National Assembly where MPs take a decision.

Mr Justin Muturi, the Speaker of the National Assembly, referred the President’s message to the Committee on Appointments Thursday.

Although smooth-sailing was expected for Maj-Gen Nkaiserry, the red flag has been raised over adverse mentions in the Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission hearings, where he was accused of human rights violations while leading military operations against cattle rustlers and bandits in West Pokot and other parts of northern Kenya.