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Kenya Legislators Opposing New Anti-Terrorism Measure

  • Peter Clottey

FILE - Kenya's president Uhuru Kenyatta.

FILE - Kenya's president Uhuru Kenyatta.

A group of Kenyan parliamentarians has voiced strong opposition to an anti-terrorism measure that supporters say would strengthen the government’s efforts to combat terrorism. Lawmakers are expected to debate the proposal ahead of a vote Thursday.

National Assembly Deputy Minority Leader Jakoyo Midiwo says opponents of the anti-terror bill will ensure it fails. He said there is no need for the measure, because there is an existing anti-terrorism law, which the administration has refused to enforce.

“It’s in public domain that the government is trying to bring some draconian laws. I don’t think they are anti-terror laws,” said Midiwo. “Kenya already has an anti-terror law, which has never been enforced since we passed it. This is just a bad law that takes us back to the dark days of KANU [former ruling party] to be precise. We will oppose it.”

The proposed bill would enable police to detain terrorism-related suspects for a year.

Supporters of the measure say there is a need to strengthen the current laws following recent escalation of violence by armed groups, including the Somali-based Islamist insurgent group, al-Shabab.

They say opponents of the proposal would be inadvertently supporting the terrorists, whom they say are trying to create chaos and instability in the East African country.

But Midiwo denied that assertion. He said the new measure would undermine civil liberties and contravene the constitution.

“What do they want to strengthen? Which part of the law has failed to work? Even if the government wanted to strengthen some law, the problem is the [measure] is unconstitutional. Terrorism does not supersede our constitution,” said Midiwo.

“It doesn’t happen anywhere where people behave lawfully. We want the government to use the existing law, which they have refused to use, to reform the police [service] which is exactly where the problem (is),” he said.

Midiwo expressed hope that opponents of the bill would garner enough support on the floor of parliament to derail it.

“We have lobbied enough and I think we would have enough support. If we don’t and if common sense does not prevail, we will see how it goes. But, I think it is now explained to the country what [President Uhuru] Kenyatta is trying to do,” said Midiwo.

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