Showdown looms as Cord plots Parliament siege to block key Bill
What you need to know:
- “National Assembly Minority Leader Francis Nyenze, Cord MPs and senators will meet at Kamukunji to demand the inclusion of the Senate in reviewing the Bill.
- Cord co-principal Raila Odinga outlined 10 reasons he thinks the proposed law is dangerous and should be opposed if democracy is to prevail and the freedom and rights of the people protected.
- “The Bill introduces a new type of law that makes people responsible for the actions of others. For example, trade unions will now be liable to companies for economic losses resulting from strikes or to the government for causing traffic jams,” he said.
Opposition politicians have vowed to seal off Parliament Buildings tomorrow to stop MPs from passing a security Bill on terrorism, raising the possibility of a clash with police.
As a prelude to the siege on Parliament over the Security Laws (Amendment) Bill, which they describe as draconian, Cord leaders will today meet at the famous Kamukunji Grounds to rally the public behind the blockade.
The leaders are also planning a series of street protests and court action to block the enactment of the Bill because the “tyranny of numbers” will prevent a fair contest in the National Assembly.
Machakos Senator Johnson Muthama said Tuesday: “I want to tell Kenyans that on Thursday we will enter Parliament at 6am, we will also block Uhuru Highway. If they want to kill us, let them kill us because it is better than being a slave. Thursday is a big day for Kenya,” he said at Ufungamano House in Nairobi yesterday.
“National Assembly Minority Leader Francis Nyenze, Cord MPs and senators will meet at Kamukunji to demand the inclusion of the Senate in reviewing the Bill.
“There is no law, which affects counties, that can be passed without the input of the Senate,” he said.
Cord co-principal Raila Odinga outlined 10 reasons he thinks the proposed law is dangerous and should be opposed if democracy is to prevail and the freedom and rights of the people protected.
“The Bill introduces a new type of law that makes people responsible for the actions of others. For example, trade unions will now be liable to companies for economic losses resulting from strikes or to the government for causing traffic jams,” he said.
He added that the proposed law takes away the power to impose a curfew from the Inspector-General of Police and bestow it to the Cabinet Secretary. The decision, Mr Odinga said, would be on political grounds, not on professional security risk assessment.
He added that the Bill does not define what is “obscene”, “gory”, or “offensive” and therefore, interpretation would be at the discretion of the police.
“We saw our President protest strongly at the International Criminal Court at The Hague when the prosecution applied to Kenya to provide information. The President must also respect the same rights for the rest of Kenyans.
“The Bill limits the right of the media to give accurate information. The restrictions under the proposed law would have rendered last year’s coverage of the terrorist attack on the Westgate Shopping Mall in Westlands illegal.
“We would only have known what the police wanted us to know. The coverage of Mandera attacks would also have been illegal,” said Mr Odinga.
Siaya Senator James Orengo said the Bill should not be amended, but rejected, as the process through which it was published is unconstitutional.
BILL OF RIGHTS
“Parliament is trying to unconstitutionally pass 36 new laws in the guise of this single Bill. The government is deliberately violating the Bill of rights and eroding all the democratic gains we have made over the last two decades,” he said.
Constitutional Law Expert Yash Pal Ghai said the rash manner in which the Bill was prepared was suspect.
“The law has been amended under the Miscellaneous Amendment Act, but the contents of these amendments deny Kenyans key rights and freedoms. It is a big blow to the fundamental principles of our Constitution,” he said.
IN HIS OWN WORDS
10 Reasons why the security laws (amendment) Bill is dangerous:
1 It takes away the right to assemble, demonstrate, picket and present petitions to public authorities by giving the Cabinet secretary power. Trade unions can now be neutralised and political activity, the government would become dictatorial.
2 It introduces a new type of law that makes people responsible for the actions of others. This is what they mean when they say a person convicted of convening a rally, meeting or procession will be made liable for any loss suffered.
3 It takes away the power to declare curfew from the Inspector-General of Police and gives it to the Cabinet secretary. The decision to impose a curfew will not be based on a professional security risk assessment but on political grounds.
4 It restricts the right of the people to receive information if that information is considered “obscene”, “gory” or “offensive”. The Act does not define “obscene”, “gory”, or “offensive” and this will depend on police interpretation.
5 It takes away the right of an accused person to be told what evidence the prosecution has. We saw our President complaining that the prosecution was withholding evidence at the International Criminal Court at The Hague.
6 It requires an accused person to disclose his witnesses and evidence to the police. Our president protested strongly at the ICC when the prosecution applied to Kenya to give the prosecution information.
7 It institutionalises the military into our civilian life by putting them in the Firearms Licensing Board and Inter-agency security advisory committee. As Kenyans, we keep our military out of civilian affairs.
8 It gives the right to police to obtain information from landlords about tenants even in the absence of an investigation. Allowing this is only opening up a new plantation for them to harvest where they did not sow.
9 It brings back to Kenya the dreaded Special Branch in a more lethal formation. The National Intelligence Service now has power to search premises and take away property without having a warrant from court.
10 It limits the right of the media to give true and accurate information. The restrictions on media under the proposed law would have made the coverage of Westgate attack illegal.