Security alert in vote hunt
By CYRUS OMBATI
As the battle for votes ahead of the August 4 referendum heightens, security agents have been put on high alert countrywide.
And to underline how serious the Government is taking the issue of security, The Standard On Saturday has learnt that nearly Sh2 billion is planned for security forces across the country in the run-up and aftermath of the referendum.
The security antenna was raised after Monday’s High Court ruling that decreed that the inclusion of the Kadhis’ courts in the current Constitution was illegal.
Security sources that cannot be named told The Standard On Saturday that tension had been rising even before the Kadhis court ruling on Thursday, and that a series of security meetings have been held ever since. Intelligence agents in both the police and the military have also wasted no effort in sniffing out potential trouble spots.
It has emerged that senior police officers and personnel from all security arms of government, including the Provincial and District Commissioners, have been asked to deal with political hate speech.
Addressing the Press in Nairobi Friday, Internal Security Minister George Saitoti assured Kenyans that adequate security would be provided to everyone during the referendum.
“We are aware that some elements are already threatening certain communities to vote in a particular way come the referendum and they will not be tolerated,” said Saitoti after meeting the administrators from across the country.
The forum followed another high-level security one in Nairobi the previous day, hosted by Saitoti and his Defence counterpart Mohammed Yusuf Haji.
Those present at the National Security Council meeting included Chief of General Staff Gen Jeremiah Kianga, his deputy Gen Julius Karangi, Head of Public Service Francis Muthaura, Internal Security Permanent Secretary Francis Kimemia, Commissioner of Police Mathew Iteere, National Security Intelligence Service Director-General Maj-Gen Michael Gichangi and Foreign Affairs PS Mwangi Thuita.
And yesterday, Saitoti briefed all PCs and DCs converged at the Kenya Institute of Education on the security measures to put in place ahead of referendum.
Nothing to chance
“The security agents led by the NSIS are leaving nothing to chance and that is why a huge security operation is being put in place,” said a senior police officer.
Police are trying to forestall a 2008 post-election scenario that degenerated into violence and claimed over 1,300 lives. The security agencies were widely blamed for not taking early measures and instead responding with a heavy hand that left many questions begging.
Yesterday, it emerged that security agents will infiltrate and monitor the ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ campaigns to stem public incitement and hate speech.
The Sh2 billion figure to provide security was agreed on during a meeting of top police commanders in Nairobi last Friday.
The meeting, under the chairmanship of Police Commissioner Mathew Iteere, was called to discuss operational strategies and drew officers from all provinces and different formations.
Each of the commanders gave their budgetary requirements and their operational plans.
The money will be disbursed from funds to be allocated to the Interim Independent Electoral Commission (IIEC) for the referendum.
The operational cost is expected to cover the next three months.
Those present at the Vigilance House meeting included Deputy Commissioner of Police Francis Okonya, Deputy CID Director Peter Eregae, GSU Commandant William Saiya, Director of Police Operations Julius Ndegwa, Director of Reforms Jonathan Koskei, Director of Personnel Charlton Mureithi and Commandant of Police College Peter Kavila.
Other PPOs present were Anthony Kibuchi (Nairobi), Kingori Mwangi (Western), Francis Munyambu (Rift Valley), Marcus Ocholla (Eastern), Njue Njagi (Nyanza), Kaua Mbijiwe (Central), Leo Nyongesa (Coast) and Philip Ndolo (North Eastern).
It was not clear if the money will cover expenses of the Administration Police and other agencies that will also take part in the exercise.
And at yesterday’s meeting, Saitoti told the PCs and DCs that the position of the provincial administration in the proposed constitution has been a subject of distortions and misrepresentations.
He urged them to participate in the ongoing civic education exercise and demystify distortions on the contents in the proposed constitution.
He said the referendum was a people-driven exercise whose objective was to give Kenyans an opportunity to decide how to vote for without being coerced.
“As coordinators of Government business in the field, your role is to ensure Kenyans exercise their democratic rights freely in an environment of peace and order,” Saitoti told the 250 District Commissioners, 25 Regional Commissioners and eight Provincial Commissioners.
The referendum will be a major test for Iteere and his team, which has been in office for barely a year. His predecessor Maj-Gen (rtd) Hussein Ali was hounded out of office after the police were roundly condemned for using excessive force during the post-election violence.
Iteere is keen in ensuring his force is not blamed in the coming period and has also told the commanders to ensure they handle the process with caution.
He believes curbing hate speech would be the key to stemming violence. The National Cohesion and Integration Commission met Iteere last week and asked him to help them address hate speech during the campaign period.
The officials also expressed fears that the recent court ruling on the Kadhis’ courts may lead to religious tension.
The judgment rattled many in Government, prompting the postponement of a planned security meeting on Tuesday to allow for further gathering of intelligence.
Additional reporting by Mutinda Mwanzia