The Star (Nairobi)

7 June 2014

Kenya: Exceptions Must Be Made When Fighting Terror

editorial

Ever since Kenya found itself on the receiving end of the vicious attacks of the Al-Shabaab militia, we have had to ask ourselves some very tough questions.

One of these questions, which has led to consultative meetings between the security chiefs and the top management of the judiciary, is this: If there is a great probability that a suspect under arrest will either flee the country or perpetrate an act of terrorism if set free on bail, should this bail be automatically denied?

And is the judiciary proving to be an obstacle to the fight against terrorists when it allows suspects out on bail, who then either flee or launch fresh attacks?

Now we have yet another set of compelling questions to consider, given that the Parliamentary Committee on Administration and National Security has called for the immediate suspension of the Sh15 billion contract for a national surveillance system awarded to Safaricom.

The argument made against this contract is that it was single sourced. No doubt whatsoever was expressed as to the urgent need for this system to be set up, nor yet as to Safaricom's ability to superbly implement this surveillance project.

Further it is well known that it is precisely such surveillance systems which are to be found in major capital cities all over the world, and that they have proved to be very effective in detecting the presence of those who seek to launch terrorist attacks, as well as in revealing who was where, and doing what, where such attacks have occurred.

So, if the largest corporate in Kenya, with an impeccable track record for service delivery and innovation is now being prevented from creating a surveillance system that the country most definitely needs, we have to ask ourselves if indeed we have a structural problem here.

Constitutional hecks and balances are all very well, and absolutely necessary for the functioning of a democracy. But such checks and balances should not serve as a barrier to the implementation of a desperately-needed security project.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: "Theories are always very thin and insubstantial, experience only is tangible." Hosea Ballou, a US theologian died on June 7, 1852.

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