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EDITORIAL: New security laws risk turning Kenya into police state



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In the last six months, the country has witnessed a spiraling decline in security. More than 200 people including security personnel have lost their lives in various trouble spots which include Lamu, Turkana, Baringo and Mandera.
As expected, the spate of killings evoked angry reactions from the public who demanded that the government lives up to its obligation to protects its citizens. In reaction to the ghastly Mandera massacre where 36 quarry workers lost their lives, President Uhuru Kenyatta relieved the interior cabinet secretary Joseph Ole Lenku and the Inspector General of Police David Kimaiyo of their duties.
In a bid to strengthen the security situation, the cabinet proposed a new raft of measures in the Security Amendment Bill which is currently being debated in Parliament.
There is no doubt that Kenyans are increasingly getting jittery about the current situation and mounting calls continue to be made to the government to take up its obligation of ensuring the safety of its citizens.
But as the State responds to these calls, the measures are sending shivers that under the guise of fighting terrorism, hard won civil liberties which protect freedoms and human rights principles will be rolled back.
The proposals, some of which are borrowed from the infamous US Patriot Act include incommunicado detentions, denial of legal representation to suspects, unwarranted searches of premises, denial of the constitutional right to bail, curtailing of media freedom and allowing security organs to eaves drop on private conversations without authorization from the courts of law.
From current 24 hours where suspects are required to be produced in court, the Bill if it sails through will see detainees being held for 365 days and subjected to solitary confinement.
These proposals are contrary the Bill of Rights enshrined in the constitution and will effectively take Kenya into the league of police state.
In the war on terror, regrettably, the rights of suspects have been grossly violated. Many people are still agonizing on the torture and harassment which they were subjected to only to be released after being found innocent. With the proposed law, this state of affairs will only be made worse.
From the incidents of the police raids on mosques in Mombasa and Nairobi, it will be business as usual for police to storm mosques on the slightest suspicions of “looking for terrorists” and these actions will not only violate the sanctity of the mosque but threaten the freedom of worship.
There are no shortages of laws to reign against those who threaten the lives of innocent people through acts of violence. The main challenge has been corruption and implementation of the existing laws to curb this vice. High profile terror suspects such as Fazul Muhammad who was being sought for his role in the 1998 US embassy bombing bought his freedom from a police cell thanks to corruption.
In the recent attack in Mandera, the Deputy President William Ruto admitted that the government abdicated its role in providing the quarry workers security after they were told to leave the area after it became clear that they will be attacked.
What is required is a robust approach against corruption and to effectively use the existing laws to tame this monster and also work closely with local communities as this will help forestall acts of terror.
Taking a draconian approach will lead to human rights violations and this will ward off the critical support from the population which is a vital component in the war against insecurity.
Instead of policies which tend to will alienate the population, it is imperative that the government charts a path where the main focus is bringing on board citizens to actively participate in the war against the hydra headed monster which does not respect the lives of people.


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