25 July 2012

Kenya: MPs Will Debate Crucial Security Bills Next Week

Photo: The Star
Parliamentary chambers: Members of Parliament are expected to debate the National Intelligence Service Bill 2012 during it's second reading in the House.

Parliament's focus is set to shift to the country's security as it debate three crucial Bills related to the National security when MPs resume sittings next week. The debate on the Bills and envisaged reforms at the security organs comes at a time the country is facing terrorist threats posed by al Shabaab group. The lawmakers are expected to start debating the National Intelligence Service Bill, the National Security Council Bill and the Kenya Defence Forces Bill. According to constitution implementation timelines, the three Bills are supposed to be enacted by August 2012.

The Kenya Defence Forces Bill, 2012 seeks to give effect to Article 239(6), 241, 238 and other relevant Articles of the Constitution. The National Security Council Bill provides for the functions of a council that will exercise supervisory control over all national security organs. National Intelligence Service Bill on its part is aimed at making the operations of the current National Security Intelligence Service (NSIS) more open in line with the constitution. Once enacted, the agency will be formally renamed National Intelligence Service (NIS).

To increase the role of other organs in the operations of the new NIS, it has been proposed that MPs set a new committee that will exercise oversight powers over the administration, expenditure and policy of the service and report to Parliament. This is aimed at giving the MPs, who act on behalf of the public, a chance to scrutinise the operations of the NIS, including its expenditures, for accountability purposes.

The Bill is aimed at operationalising Article 242 of the constitution which provides for the creation of an agency responsible for security intelligence and counter intelligence to enhance national security in accordance with the constitution. The Bill seeks to ensure that officers working for the service adhere to Chapter 4 of the constitution on the Bill of Rights.

The chapter grants freedom and rights to ordinary citizens in the manner in which they are governed and treated by various arms of government. The Bill provides that any officer of the Service, who subjects any person to torture or to any other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, commits an offence and shall on conviction be liable for imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years or to a fine not exceeding Sh300,000 or both.

And to ensure further accountability of the service and the adherence to the rule of law, the Bill proposes that a special council be created where members of the public can lodge complaints and grievances touching on the intelligence agency. Members of the Complaints Council will be appointed by the President on the recommendation of the Judicial Service Commission.

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