Fears new KDF Bill could drag civilians to military courts

By: ANDREW TEYIE

There are fears that the new government sponsored Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) Bill could drag civilians to military courts for trial for suspicion of involvement in terrorism.

A report of the Kenya National Assembly Directorate of Legal Service seen by the Nation is at a loss as to what the drafters of the Bill seek to achieve by amending section 112 of the KDF Act 2012 which deals with court martials.

“Clause 18 of the Bill seeks to amend section 112 of the Act to insert the punitive provision which was lacking.

“Does the new punishment seek to invoke the jurisdiction of a court martial for civilian suspects?” wonders the report.

In Kenya, court martials are reserved for military personnel while the rest of Kenyans are tried in civilian courts.

The Bill will kill the position of Defence Cabinet Secretary if enacted into law.

“The Bill proposes to amend section 10 for orderly and efficient Government of Kenya Defence Forces (KDF).

This amendment seeks to remove the role of Parliament in assigning the Cabinet Secretary defence functions; it removes the requirement for CS to report to the President and Parliament on compliance with policies and directions and also removes the requirement for the CS’s annual report to include itemised statements on utilisation of public funds,” says the Directorate.

The Bill also seeks to give the President powers to extend terms of service commanders for a period not exceeding one year.

Clause 32 of the Bill addresses the issue of the financial viability of retaining persons on the payroll beyond their retirement age and compensation for family members of defence forces personnel who suffer disabilities or death while in training.

“The amendment deletes the provision requiring the government to compensate families of KDF personnel in training”, the Bill says.

The Bill further wants the setting up of an auxiliary reserve force that will include the Kenya Forestry Services, Kenya Wildlife Services and the National Youth Service.

The Bill will also allow KDF to have its own separate vote.

However, the Bill is likely to encounter opposition from Parliament and members of the public who would be wary of KDF’s bolstered role.

The Bill has run into turbulence after opposition leaders claimed that it would reverse constitutional gains.

In the past, they have resisted a move to create the Nairobi Metropolitan Command.

The command was to be set up in Nairobi and Mombasa, where terrorism was highly pronounced. The Commands would have Special Forces officers.