Heavy police presence at Parliament ahead of security law debate

Thursday December 18 2014

Police officers on patrol along Parliament Road

Police officers on patrol along Parliament Road in Nairobi on December 18, 2014. Democracy and the rule of law are now considered obstacles towards economic growth, Dolan argues. PHOTO | JEFF ANGOTE | NATION MEDIA GROUP  

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Dozens of police officers have been deployed outside Parliament and on adjacent streets following reports of planned protests over the controversial Bill on security.

Police in anti-riot gear were stationed at the entrance to Parliament and on Harambee Avenue and Parliament Road, as early as 5am on Thursday.

Budalangi MP Ababu Namwamba protested before the debate on the security Bill started that the officers' presence outside Parliament was meant to intimidate MPs.

“It is important for the dignity and freedom of the House to be maintained, we condemn any authority outside the House that is attempting to intimidate members,” he said.

Speaking during the "State of the Nation" program on Nation FM radio Thursday morning, TNA chairman Johnson Sakaja defended the deployment of security officers around Parliament saying, “Demonstrators cannot be allowed to close roads in Nairobi, that will be infringing on other people’s rights”.

Police officers on standby near Parliament on

Police officers on standby near Parliament on December 18, 2014. PHOTO | JEFF ANGOTE | NATION MEDIA GROUP

The Security Laws (Amendment) Bill of 2014 has generated heated debate among leaders and civil society.

Cord leader Raila Odinga has called for the rejection of the Bill, saying the proposed laws would empower police to make arbitrary arrests and could be used to persecute political opponents.

“Whatever the young men (President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto) want to do, (they are dragging) Kenya back to the dark old days, (something) all Kenyans must reject,” said the ODM party leader.

Lawyers added their voice on the issue and called for amendments to the security Bill, saying it infringes on rights guaranteed by the Constitution.

The Law Society of Kenya, in a memorandum to Parliament, wants some provisions of the Bill reconsidered and amended to conform to the Constitution, saying it has glaring gaps.

Diplomats from the US, Canada, Australia and the European Union on Wednesday supported the amendments to the security laws proposed by the government to deal with terrorism.

In a joint statement released to newsrooms from the US embassy in Nairobi, the envoys said they stood with Kenya in dealing with what they termed extraordinary security challenges the country has faced in the last two years.