Kenya: New Bill to boost witness protection agency
Posted by African Press International on September 15, 2016
PETER LEFTIE -1 | nation news Kenya. Alhamisi, September 15, 2016
Kenya’s fight against corruption and other serious crimes may get a leg up if a Bill to amend the Witness Protection Act is passed into law.
The Bill, which is currently in the Third Reading in the National Assembly, will introduce unprecedented security measures to ensure witnesses are accorded comprehensive safety, the status of the accused notwithstanding.
Among the main proposals in the Witness Protection (Amendment) Bill 2016 is the provision for reciprocal protection arrangements between Kenya and foreign countries.
This will give the director of the Witness Protection Agency (WPA) – in conjunction with the Attorney-General (AG) – the power to have Kenyan witnesses safeguarded under the witness protection regime of foreign countries and vice versa.
To this effect, the Bill, which was tabled by National Assembly Majority Leader Aden Duale, seeks to have the Foreign Affairs Cabinet Secretary sit in the Witness Protection Advisory Board, which is chaired by the AG.
Further, it will also be an offence for a person to intimidate, harass, obstruct, threaten, hinder or prevent a witness with intention to subvert the course of justice.
Anyone found guilty of the offence will be liable to a prison sentence of up to five years.
Unlike in the current scenario where the protection mostly ends after conclusion of cases, the Bill recommends that a person admitted into the programme shall be protected for as long as the danger or risk to their safety persists.
To further strengthen WPA’s muscles, the Bill proposes that the agency be funded out of the Consolidated Fund and receive grants and donations from other lawful sources.
WPA officials have in the past decried monetary constraints in doing their work.
Pius Mwamba, the WPA Deputy Director of Operations, says the agency has so far received over 700 hundred requests for protection, with more than 300 witnesses already admitted.
“Over 300 family members of these witnesses are also under protection,” he revealed.
Mr Mwamba said the witnesses – majority of them lined up to testify in cases involving terrorism, murder, corruption, robbery with violence, rape and defilement – will be offered adequate protection.
“Let no one fear, even if the evidence in their possession is against influential personalities in or out of government. We have well-trained and armed officers who will give you protection around the clock,” he said.
He, however, said the high number of suspects in serious offences being released on bond by courts has presented the agency with a unique challenge as this increases number of accused who are free to threaten, injure of even kill witnesses in revenge or to defeat justice.
“This has posed a major challenge even to the investigators. We have really tried to engage the Judiciary, advising judges and magistrates to exercise caution in their decisions when public interest demands so,” Mr Mwamba stated.
Edited by Philip Momanyi
African Press International, (API)