President Kenyatta signs controversial anti-terror bill amid criticism

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta on Friday signed into law a controversial anti-terror bill that sparked brawls in parliament and charges that it violates basic freedoms.

Kenyatta said he was satisfied that the text adopted by the National Assembly on Thursday did not breach the country’s bill of rights.

“All concerns raised by the different stakeholders were addressed by the relevant parliamentary committees,” he told journalists, calling on all Kenyans to read the new law and decide for themselves.

“Its intent is one – just one – to protect the lives and property of all the citizens of this republic,” he said.

The new law gives authorities sweeping powers to crack down on terror suspects and curtail press freedoms in a country that has suffered a string of attacks by Somalia’s Al Qaeda-linked Shebab insurgents.


The controversial measures extend the time police can hold terror suspects from the current 90 days to nearly a year and increase the sentences they face.

Meanwhile, journalists could face up to three years behind bars if their reports “undermine investigations or security operations relating to terrorism”, or if they publish images of terror victims without permission from the police.

The government argues the measures are necessary to confront the militants and says that amendments to the original text, giving the courts more oversight over the police and intelligence services, make it constitutionally sound.

The opposition and rights groups, however, dismissed the amendments as sugercoating and said the law risked turning Kenya into a police state.

Divisions over the legislation triggered chaotic scenes in parliament Thursday.

Opposition MPs tore up copies of the legislation and traded punches with backers of the bill, forcing the vote to be repeatedly delayed.

Kenyatta condemned the conduct as “deplorable” and accused the opposition of “being oblivious to the threat that is upon our country at this point in time.”

Opposition coalition leader Moses Wetangula vowed legal action to have the legislation annulled.

“Civil society and ourselves will go to court to challenge the bill for being unconstitutional,” he said.

Western powers had also expressed concern over the measures.

In a rare collective statement on Wednesday, nine countries, including the United States, Britain, Germany and France, issued a statement stressing the need for the legislation to respect human rights.

The government of the East African nation has been under pressure to get tough on terrorism since 67 people were killed last year in a Shebab attack on the Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi.

Kenya’s interior minister was fired earlier this month after the militants carried out massacres in the northeast of the country.

The Shebab say the attacks are retaliation for Kenya’s decision to send troops into Somalia in 2011 to fight the militants.

The Kenyan troops are now part of an African Union force battling the militants and supporting the war-torn country’s internationally-backed government.–Sapa-AFP

Subscribe to the M&G

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years, and we’ve survived right from day one thanks to the support of readers who value fiercely independent journalism that is beholden to no-one. To help us continue for another 35 future years with the same proud values, please consider taking out a subscription.

Sapa Afp
Guest Author

Related stories

Extract: Gunning for Bessie’s head, from ‘The Terrorist Album’

Jacob Dlamini’s new book, The Terrorist Album, tells the stories of people saddled with that catch-all phrase during apartheid and how their presence on that list made them fair game

Covid-19 restrictions give rise to political tensions in Sierra Leone

The country has experienced violent incidents of unrest in recent weeks

Conflict is escalating in central Mali, says Human Rights Watch

Last year was the deadliest for civilians since the current political crisis began in 2012. And the fighting is also increasing in neighbouring countries

The changing face of Burkina Faso’s terrorist threat

Burkina Faso has been experiencing regular attacks led by armed terrorist groups from neighbouring countries. Surrounded by six countries, it is the northern part...

Terrorism used as excuse to suppress Kashmir

Within India, the Bharatiya Janata Party government is stoking Islamophobia by using religion as an instrument of identity politics

African leaders use anti-terror laws to silence journalists

Reporters in Eswatini, Egypt, Nigeria, Uganda, Ethiopia and Cameroon have been arrested
Advertising

Subscribers only

Covid-19 surges in the Eastern Cape

With people queuing for services, no water, lax enforcement of mask rules and plenty of partying, the virus is flourishing once again, and a quarter of the growth is in the Eastern Cape

Ace prepares ANC branches for battle

ANC secretary general Ace Magashule is ignoring party policy on corruption-charged officials and taking his battle to branch level, where his ‘slate capture’ strategy is expected to leave Ramaphosa on the ropes

More top stories

Journey through anxious Joburg

A new book has collected writing about the condition of living, yes, with a high crime rate, but also other, more pervasive existential urban stresses particular to the Global South

Football legend Maradona dies

The Argentinian icon died at his home on Wednesday, two weeks after having surgery on a blood clot in his brain

Covid vaccines: Hope balanced with caution

As Covid vaccines near the manufacturing stage, a look at two polio vaccines provides valuable historical insights

Under cover of Covid, Uganda targets LGBTQ+ shelter

Pandemic rules were used to justify a violent raid on a homeless shelter in Uganda, but a group of victims is pursuing a criminal case against the perpetrators
Advertising

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…