Nairobi — President Mwai Kibaki has assented to two crucial bills, including the Prevention of Terrorist Act 2012 which gives law enforcers more powers in fighting terrorism in the country.
Under the new Act, persons found engaging in terrorism activities leading to deaths of other persons will be imprisoned for life while activities which do not result to deaths will attract jail terms of up to 30 years.
Those convicted for assisting in the commission of terrorist acts and those found in possession of property intended for the commission of the acts are on conviction liable for a term not exceeding 20 years.
The Act which drew sharp criticism from members of the Muslim community also provides stiff penalties for the offences of membership to terrorist groups, recruitment as well as training.
The current laws do not specify punishments for persons engaging in terrorism activities, making it difficult for law enforcers to fight terrorism--particularly now that Kenya is faced by threats from the Al Qaeda-linked Al Shabaab.
"The Act also provides stiff penalties for the offences of membership to terrorist groups, recruiting to terrorist groups and training and directing of terrorist groups and persons," a statement from the President's office said.
Muslim leaders had opposed the enactment of the law for fear of being targeted.
Other lobby groups had also raised concerns with the legislation, saying it would infringe on the right to freedom of speech and expression as well as basic rights of persons.
"There are three or four clauses in Part 4 that need further interrogation. One of them is the right to remain silent. It has been arrested by the need of an investigative officer to approach the Court and get an order for a suspect to answer questions mandatorily and provide documents," argued the Law Society of Kenya Chairman Eric Mutua, last month.
The President also assented to the National Transport and Safety Authority Act, 2012 which will set up the National Transport and Safety Authority.
Once established, the authority will be tasked with harmonising transport functions that are currently undertaken by five bodies within the industry.
"The Authority will harmonise transport functions currently being discharged by the Transport Licensing Board, the National Road Safety Council, Registrar of Motor Vehicles, the Motor Vehicle Inspection Department and the Road Department of the Ministry of Roads," the President's statement said.
The Authority would be managed by a Board--including a Chairperson, two principal secretaries from the ministries of Transport and Finance as well as the Attorney General and the Inspector General of Police who is yet to be appointed.
The Authority would also be tasked with advising and making recommendations to the Cabinet Secretary for transport, implementing policies relating to road transport and safety, planning, managing and regulating the road transport system and ensuring the provision of safe, reliable and efficient road transport services.
"It will also establish a County Transport and Safety Committee in each County to champion road safety and oversee the management and regulation of the road transport system by the Authority at the County level," he added.