State to gazette power substations as restricted areas in fight against vandals

 Energy Principal Secretary Gordon Kihalangwa during a media briefing on ongoing reforms in the energy sector, at Kawi House, flanked by sector players on January 21, 2022.

Photo credit: Diana Ngila | Nation Media Group

The government will designate select electricity transmission substations and power infrastructure as restricted areas in a fresh fight against vandalism.

Utility firm Kenya Power and the Kenya Electricity Transmission Company (Ketraco) have come under pressure in recent weeks following a spate of power outages blamed on the collapse of transmission towers due to vandalism.

Just last week, the entire country was plunged into a blackout following the collapse of four pylons along the Kiambere-Embakasi high-voltage transmission line in Imara Daima.

In a statement, Kenya Power said the towers collapsed due to vandalism. Vandals chip off big chunks of metal from the towers for sale as scrap metal.

This week, government officials including Energy Principal Secretary Gordon Kihalangwa toured parts of the Olkaria-Lessos-Kisumu transmission line in Navisha, where six pylons had been vandalised.

The government has now said it will gazette select power substations and infrastructure as protected areas that will see them heavily guarded by security forces.

Speaking at a press briefing on Friday, PS Kihalangwa said the move will reduce cases of vandalism and deliberate sabotage of critical power infrastructure.

Blackout was intentional

He said the government will ramp up monitoring of these installations including by use of helicopters, security agencies, community groups and individual citizens to secure the power infrastructure.

“We are going to designate power substations and some of the power lines as restricted areas to limit access for their protection,” said the PS.

“We are going to engage with other security agencies who will help (to secure the facilities) in addition to the equipment that we will be using to monitor these facilities.”

This comes as the government tightens screws on nine senior workers at Kenya Power who have been accused of economic sabotage, a serious crime, following last week’s countrywide power outage.

The court heard that the blackout was intentional and could have been avoided given that they were informed of the vandalism on December 9 but never acted.

Kahawa Senior Principal Magistrate Boaz Ombewa this week allowed police to detain Mr David Kamau, Mr George Kipkoech, Mr Julius Karani, Mr Geoffrey Kipkirui, Mr Anthony Gathii, Mr Martin Musyoki, Mr Joshua Wasakha, Mr Raphael Ndolo and Mr Peter Musyoki for 21 days.

The Protected Areas Act, 1949, which has been amended several times, gives the Cabinet secretary, through a gazette notice, the powers to designate areas or premises as protected areas to prevent unauthorised entry.

“If, as respects any area, place or premises, it appears to the Minister to be necessary or expedient in the interests of public safety and public order that special precautions should be taken to prevent the entry of unauthorized persons, he may, by order published in the Gazette, declare such area, place or premises to be a protected area for the purposes of this Act,” says the Act.

Some of the gazetted protected areas are the State House, State lodges, military barracks, police stations and police training centres, which are under heavy security protection.

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