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Duale, Kindiki defend decision to deploy military in banditry-ridden North Rift during session with MPs

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NAIROBI—Joint-Sitting comprising of the Departmental Committees of Administration and Internal Affairs and that of Defence, Intelligence and Foreign Relations took to task the Cabinet Secretaries for Defence and his counterpart for Ministry of Interior and National Administration over the National Police Service-Kenya Defence Forces joint operation to deal with banditry in the Northern Frontier counties without Parliamentary approval.

In a session co-chaired by the Committees’ respective chairs Nelson Koech and Gabriel Tongoyo, MPs sought to know why the CSs skipped the approval of the National Assembly as stipulated under Article 241 (c) of the Constitution before commissioning such operation.

The lawmakers accused the two for taking advantage of a lacuna in law as to what constitutes an emergency in enlisting the Kenya Defence Forces to support other security agencies in the war on banditry under the command of the National Police service without their nod. Members in particular took issue with the fact that KDF training and that of the National Police Service is so distinct and thus the CSs should have consulted Parliament on the modalities of engagement before the deployment.

In their defence, the two CSs explained that following the worsening security situation in six counties in the frontier over the last couple of months had resulted to a security emergency. They argued that the matter called for President Ruto to order a joint military-police operation.

The Cabinet Secretary for Defence Aden Duale revealed that he had indeed on 13th February 2023 written to the Speaker of the National Assembly Moses Wetang’ula informing him of the planned deployment in line with the law. He further disclosed that this followed a request in writing from his Interior colleague seeking KDF’s support in the operation to flush out bandits in the north at a time when the situation threatened to get out of hand.

“ Hon. Chairs, on 13th February, I wrote to the Speaker of the National Assembly informing him of the impending deployment of KDF to the operation. On 14th February the Speaker’s Office wrote back acknowledging that they had received the letter and informing me that the letter would be transmitted to the House,” he noted.

CS Duale informed the Committee that following the deployment of KDF, as necessitated by the emergency situation as contemplated in the KDF Act, the efficiency of the operation had increased.

He observed that if the National Security Council feels that the matter requires the KDF to take the mantle on the operation in the future, he would draft a Motion for justification to the House, and should the House approve the Motion as law demands, the KDF would fully deploy as was the case in Mt. Elgon years back.

On his part, the CS for Interior, Prof. Kindiki Kithure recounted to the Committee the background of the banditry menace noting that “the newness, the boldness and the impunity witnessed in the recent banditry cases was akin to terrorism.”

He stressed to the Members that the recent wave of insecurity in the six counties under the operation had gotten to threatening levels and thus qualified as an ‘emergency. He painted the grim picture of the insecurity situation he had witnessed in some hotspots, adding that they were nothing short of terrorism.

“The problem we are facing in the North Rift is dire. I submit to this Committee that if this matter is left unattended, it could mutate into a national crisis. It had reached a level where the terrorists think they can challenge the security infrastructure in the county,” he explained.

CS Kindiki told the joint-committee that though the heavy security situation in the bandit prone areas would outlive the current operation against banditry, it would not distract the government from other security priorities. He undertook that the government’s resolution to permanently end banditry in the North Rift is definitive, adding that the government has plans to implement the economic marshal plan for the area after the current operation.

Asked by MPs why the ministries had not involved the local leadership including religious leaders before commencing the operation, the two CSs revealed that they had intelligence “that some of the political and local leadership was involved in fueling the current situation.”

Present during the meeting were Members of both Committees and the top brass of the two ministries.

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