The so-called “KDF Amendment Bill 2015” is the biggest threat to civil liberties and democracy in Kenya ever since the repeal of Section 2A of the constitution that had hitherto declared Kenya as a single party state.
Through the KDF amendment bill, Jubilee’s parliamentary dictatorship is seeking to invoke a law that would hand President Uhuru Kenyatta sweeping powers without safeguards that would effectively turn Kenya into a military state without any checks and balances.
The laws will will mark Kenya’s deepening descent into tyranny and will among other scary features effectively make the National Youth Service a key player in internal security and give the Defence docket a blank cheque to unilaterally spend tax payer money.
If these laws are enacted, it would be a severe blow to Kenya’s long and torturous reform journey and would inevitably portend dire consequences for multiparty democracy in Kenya and the entire region.
Here are some points form the proposed law;
1. The role of Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) in internal security could go a notch higher if a proposed new Bill becomes law.
2. The KDF Amendment Bill 2015, if enacted into law, will give express authority to the Chief of the Defence Forces to deploy KDF in civilian operations.
3. The move significantly shifts operational and command powers currently vested in the Inspector General of Police (IGP).
4. Similarly, the Defence Cabinet Secretary (CS) will not play a major role in the delegation of civilian functions to the Chief of staff.
5. The Bill, at publication stage, has the hallmarks of the composition of disciplined forces in Uganda, Rwanda, Ethiopia and Sudan, where there are no clear cut delimitation of the functions of the police and military.
In Uganda and Ethiopia, for instance, the Army is deployed during elections to man polling stations. The proposed law is expected to draw resistance from Opposition, human rights groups and even within government circles.
6. The Bill also envisages establishment of an auxiliary reserve force comprising Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS), Kenya Forest Service (KFS) and National Youth Service (NYS) to serve alongside the KDF.
“The president may in situations of emergency or disaster or during war, unrest, or disaster, order that the auxiliary forces comprising forest guards and NYS be employed to serve with KDF or otherwise in the defence of the nation whether within or outside,” reads the Bill.
7. Under the Bill, the KDF boss has immense powers to monitor implementation of policies, operations and directions issued to service commanders.
8. Under the new Bill, the President has the power to extend the terms of office for the chief, vice chief and service commanders of KDF for a period not exceeding one year.
9. The Bill also seeks to extend the retirement age of the KDF chief from 62 to 64 years.
“The President may, on the recommendation of the Defense Council, extend the term in office of the Chief of the Defense Forces, the Vice Chief of the Defence Forces or the Service Commanders for a period not exceeding one year,” reads the Bill.
The council will direct and oversee deployment of KDF as authorised under this Act and also develop criteria for the recruitment, promotion and transfer of members of the Defence Forces.
10. The bill abolishes requirement for KDF to advertise slots as per counties. It also insulates KDF operations, including appropriation of its budget and functions, from public scrutiny by denying Parliament the oversight role.
However, Parliament would oversight deployment of troops in various operations.
“The Bill proposes to amend section 285 of the KDF Act and repeal section 289 of the same law, which stipulates that KDF should not hold accounts separate from those by the Ministry of Defence,” reads the Bill.
This means that KDF will have its own vote independent of the ministry’s budgetary allocation as appropriated by the National Assembly.
The law currently requires the CS to table an annual report in Parliament and to the Executive, which includes itemised statements on utilisation of public funds by KDF, but the Bill proposes to quash this requirement.
11.In a bid to ensure activities of KDF remain a closely guarded secret, the proposed law seeks to repeal section 290 of the Act to avoid the publication of Defense Council matters deemed to be prejudicial to national security.