19 July 2011

Kenya: Witness Protection Agency Weak, Says Omar

The Witness Protection Agency needs strengthening if Kenyans are to have confidence in it, a Kenya National Commission on Human Rights commissioner has said. Hassan Omar said the agency currently has credibility issues and as a result only a few Kenyans are willing to be witnesses. "The programme is not working as it should. There are a lot of issues including that of its credibility that it needs to sort out first. All a potential witness is told is to record a statement with the police," he said.

The agency became an independent and autonomous unit in 2010 after amendments to the Witness Protection Act of Kenya, which was promulgated in 2006 and became operational in September 2008. The programme was initially under the office of the Attorney General. It is now in charge of its own staffing and able to mobilise and disburse its funding independently. Omar, who was speaking during the 3rd International Conference of Islamic Scholars on drug demand reduction, also hit out at the Internal Security ministry for not prosecuting police officers on drug barons' payrolls.

Assistant minister Simeon Lesirma yesterday admitted that a section of the police force is being compromised by drug barons in the country, but said the lack of evidence is preventing them from taking action. "We know that drug barons have a huge influence in the police force because the drug trade is a billion shilling industry, but we have no evidence of the same," said Lesirma.

Omar dismissed the claim as unsatisfactory. "If the drug business is a billion dollar industry, then the government should have billion dollar measures to curb it. There is need for extra forces, extra funds and extra efforts to fight drugs," said Omar. He said the government should force those mentioned in drug related cases to step aside from any public office they hold.

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