Kenya Security Laws (Amendment) Act, 2014

President Uhuru Kenyatta assented to the Security Laws (Amendment) Act, 2014 (archived pdf here). Despite widespread opposition from a large section of the Kenyan public, amendments therein are now the law of the land. The law itself is a mixed bag. There are some good parts that are meant to streamline the criminal justice system. But there are other parts that will certainly be abused by politicians and over-eager security agents, and could lead to a drastic reduction of civil liberties in Kenya.

This is how the bill was passed:

[youtube.com/watch?v=lc0F7AG-3to]

Members of Parliament and Sergeants-at-Arms guard House Speaker Justin Muturi as he reads the motion to pass to the bill.

Civil Society groups in Kenya, and a section of Members of Parliament, have vowed to challenge the constitutionality of the Act in court.

Will the challenge succeed? The simple answer is I don’t know. The Kenyan Supreme Court leans to the right, and is likely to defer to the executive (and its allies in the legislature) on matters related to security. Plus my bet is that if you polled the law a good chunk of Kenyans would support it. It targets “terrorists” and “criminals.” The mainstream churches in Kenya have also come out in strong support, in no small part because suspected terrorists have made a habit of attacking packed churches along the Kenyan coast.

The judicial review process is unlikely to set aside the entire statute. The petitioners will be better served to focus on key clauses that are unconstitutional and ask the judges to strike those out. But I should reiterate that the judges are likely to defer to Parliament and the executive on this one.

From a legislative studies perspective, what is worrying is that in order to get the law passed  State House essentially told the National Assembly, “Trust me. I need these powers to secure Kenyan lives and property. And I will not abuse them. Trust me.” And then Parliament capitulated. There was no debate over the State’s total failure to use existing laws to prevent and/or deter crime. Or the corruption and gross ineptitude that ails the security sector. Instead the executive was rewarded with even more power, secrecy, and ability to silence criticism from the media. All open to cynical abuse.

What Parliament forgot is that that there are no good politicians; only constrained ones. And that if unchecked anyone and everyone will abuse power. It doesn’t matter whether they are Pol Pot or the Pope.

internally displaced people in Africa

There are other questions too. Should IDPs stay in rural areas or be resettled in towns? Providing the right amount of assistance is tricky as well. Too much, and an African government risks turning camps into subsidised slums. Too little, and people die.”

The above quote is from this weeks Economist Newspaper. As I have argued before, I think that the move to come up with a framework to protect IDPs on the Continent is a charade. I don’t get how the likes of Mugabe (one of the chief displacers of people on the Continent) are supposed to be entrusted with protecting the same people. Having UNHCR do the job sounds good but is riddled with huge moral hazard problems – as illustrated by the above quote.

Meanwhile, this is the kind of life that many an African autocrat (and soon the effects of climate change) forces his fellow citizens to live.

the au should get serious on somalia

The international community has neglected the people of Somalia for almost two decades. Throughout this period the country has been ruled by a bunch of thuggish clan-based warlords. Nobody really knows the exact death toll of the mess the country descended into after the ouster of strongman Siad Barre in the early 1990s. The only time the country came close to be governed by one central government was when Islamists under the Islamic Courts Union ruled large swathes of the country for most of 2006. However, the ICU’s links with Al Qaeda earned them the wrath of the US, which asked Ethiopia to invade and chase away the Islamists.

Now the country has an interim government that spends most of its time dodging militants and shifting from town to town. Somalia’s troubles are rapidly being transferred to the wider Eastern African region. Already the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya is stretched to three times its capacity, putting enormous strain on the Kenyan government and relief agencies. Piracy off the Somali coast is yet another direct result of the anarchy within Somalia. And perhaps most worrisome of all, the threat of terrorist attacks on capitals in the region –  by al-Shabab – is causing many security agents in the region sleepless nights.

It is time the African Union took the Somali peace initiative more seriously. For starters it should urge Eritrea to stop funding the Islamists and then step up its own peacekeeping operations in the country (by sending in more troops). After security – or some semblance of security – has been restored then it should aggressively pursue a pragmatic solution to the country’s conflicts, even if it means splitting it into two like those in Somaliland will most likely want.