Monday, 22 December 2014

Raila Odinga talks tough as US warns against new security laws


CORD leader Raila Odinga has vowed to go to court to block the Security Laws (Amendment) Act, 2014 assented into law by President Uhuru Kenyatta on Friday. Should the court bid fail, the Opposition leader says he will rally the country to oppose the law and ensure it is withdrawn without delay. And the US Department of State has also strongly condemned the manner in which the now acrimonious and hugely contested law was passed by Parliament on Thursday. The Bill was signed and assented into law on Friday by President Kenyatta, at a televised ceremony attended by Deputy President William Ruto and National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi. In a statement posted on their website, the US State Department which releases statements endorsed by the White House, said it remains “disappointed” at the events preceding the amendments. “We are disappointed, however, by the very limited time allowed for debate and consultation on the 2014 Security Laws (Amendment) Bill prior to its passage and enactment into law. We are also concerned about several provisions in the legislation, including those that appear to limit freedom of assembly and media, and access to asylum for refugees,” the statement reads. See also: Newly-enacted security laws are an affront to democracy Speaking in Nyatike yesterday, Raila observed that the process of debating the Bill was marred by scuffles between the Opposition and Jubilee allied MPs and passed amid chaos and protests. Raila spoke strongly against the new laws and accused the Jubilee Government of taking the country back to the days of dictatorship. He said it had taken a long time to achieve the constitutional gains the country currently enjoys and warned that such draconian laws would bring shame to democracy that was hard earned. He was speaking in Lwanda, Nyatike, Migori County during the burial of Mama Magdalene Anyanga, mother to Nyatike MP Omondi Anyanga. He congratulated the MPs who strongly opposed the Bill before it became law. “I commend the MPs for exhibiting patriotism. It was shameful for the Speaker to gag those who opposed the Bill and instead helped in passing what would take this nation back to dictatorship,” said Raila. The former prime minister added that such laws would only empower individuals in power at the expense of the nation.
“With this law, the Jubilee Government is geared towards killing democracy and oppressing people just like we saw in the era of Kanu; where people like me were jailed without trial. It is time the leaders woke up and rescued this nation from the hands of tyrants,” added Raila. The ODM leader was cheered when he told mourners it was time for Kenyans to send the Jubilee Government home because of its absolute failure to heed to the common man’s voice. “We have left Egypt and cannot go back. Such laws clearly indicate the government has failed in its mandate, and now it’s time they packed and left,” said Raila. He challenged the government to stop using instruments that would terrorise people who elected them into leadership positions and instead be inclusive in solving challenges facing the country. ODM chairman John Mbadi said the fight against dictatorship would not stop until the new law is withdrawn. He blamed the Speaker for failing to offer wise leadership in the House when the controversial Bill was passed. “We fought against the Bill and we shall not stop until autocracy and dictatorship go down. You cannot offer security where security is absent, how do you pass a Bill in a House that is completely in disarray?” said Mr Mbadi. See also: Newly-enacted security laws are an affront to democracy The legislator also challenged EACC chairman Mumo Matemo to work hard and stop corruption instead of meddling in political affairs. “You cannot threaten to send me out of Parliament on grounds of being indisciplined, yet the Speaker failed in his mandate and passed the draconian Bill. If the Government cannot understand what we are telling them on this Bill, then we shall use other means,” said Mbadi. Suna East MP Junet Mohammed dismissed reports by the Synovate opinion pollster indicating that majority of citizens supported the Jubilee Government. “This Government has failed in everything and reports by Synovate are devoid of facts. What do you say of the deaths the country has witnessed in the past few months in Mombasa, Mandera and Kapedo? Kenyans can never be happy with this Government,” said Junet. He added: “The Government has literary assaulted Opposition leaders, some of us were beaten and others like Simba Arati bitten; all these show inadequacy of leadership in this Government.” In its statement, the US Government, a key ally in Kenya’s war against terror and a huge trading partner is among the first western governments to condemn the newly passed laws. Kenya heavily relies on American support, both financial and logistical in its war against Al Shabaab and other terror groups whose actions, according to government, necessitated the passing of the new laws. The release also alluded to the possibility of constitutional as well as human rights abuses under the new laws.

“The US Government is firmly committed to supporting Kenya’s efforts to defeat Al Shabaab and to ensure security of all of its citizens. As a key partner in the global effort to counter terrorism, we expect the Kenyan Government to ensure that its counter-terrorism efforts live up to Kenya’s international commitments and its own constitution. Protecting Kenya’s constitution and upholding human rights, democracy, and international obligations are among the most effective ways to bolster security,” it read. Earlier in the week, a consortium of foreign missions based in Kenya also issued a joint communique on the new security bills. The joint statement was signed by envoys from the US, the United Kingdom, Australia, Netherlands, Germany, Denmark, France, Sweden and Canada. The envoys pushed for “careful” debate and review of the amendments. “We encourage Kenya’s elected officials to take the time to review carefully the Bill now before the National Assembly and to consult broadly to build consensus. It is important that the legislation, while strengthening security, respects human rights and international obligations,” read the communique. “Protecting Kenya’s Constitution and upholding civil liberties and democracy are among the most effective ways to bolster security.” Also of concern to Washington was the deregistration of more than 500 aid organisations by the NGO Council. “The US Government is also seeking further information about the December 16 announcement by the Kenyan NGO Board to deregister hundreds of NGOs for failing to file their audited reports and another 15 for suspected links to terrorism,” reads the statement. See also: Newly-enacted security laws are an affront to democracy “The 15 NGOs have not been identified. A strong civil society is vital to democracy, security, and prosperity. We urge the Government of Kenya to ensure the regulation of NGOs is transparent, fair, and grounded in clear criteria that do not limit free expression, association, or assembly.” Apart from deregistration, the Government also froze their bank accounts and revoked the work permits of foreign employees. “Investigations by local and international intelligence agencies have linked the 15 NGOs to criminal activities including terrorism. The investigations are being finalised and the people behind them will be prosecuted soon,” said NGO coordination board executive director Fazul Mahamed Yusuf at a press conference. Critics see this move as an attempt by the Government to control national discourse and shape policy, thought and direction of the hitherto liberal civil society. Among the banned organisations are some that have been at the forefront of providing healthcare in areas that have been neglected by successive governments over their inaccessibility. Meanwhile, in a statement sent by senior Director of Public Communication at State House Munyori Buku, the Government has said the US reactions on the security laws is a clear indication that the Obama administration decided to ignore the security laws itself and instead echoed views of noisemakers. “The US State Department statement on the security law Uhuru signed into law yesterday is clear indication that the agency decided to go with the view of the noisemakers rather than the Security Laws (Amendment)Act itself,” said Mr Buku.

He added that the Kenyan law passed and assented last week is better than the American Patriot and Homeland Security Acts that give rogue powers to security agencies.

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