Why security agents need an urgent refresher course on the Constitution

By: MAINA KIAI

After eight months, Muhuri and Haki Africa have finally been vindicated after being illegally placed on a list of so-called “supporters of terrorism.”

On Thursday, Justice Emukule ordered the unfreezing of the organisations’ accounts, and nullified the Gazette Notice that started this whole mess.

The regime knew from the beginning that the charges were false, but that did not matter.

For their goal was to silence the two organisations, and intimidate critical voices in the country.

To some extent, it succeeded for in the last eight months, the once vocal organisations have been so inundated and consumed with basic survival and defensive work that they have not been at their usual best in advocating for the rights of ordinary people on matters of land rights, extra-judicial killings, abuse of human rights in the war on terrorism, and abuse of power by the authorities at the coast.

But the regime also failed miserably, even with its last gasp attempt to stay Judge Emukule’s orders pending appeal.

It failed because it did not consider the resilience of these and other activists to resist, and the fact that the Constitution has changed things dramatically in Kenya, at least legally.

Unlike the 1980s, it is a bit harder to get a Judge, even a willing one, to rule so obviously against the Constitution and common sense.

And the regime failed to close down the organisations because it had not an iota of evidence.

The best they could make up — and only on social media — was that the organisations provided legal assistance to suspects of terrorism held at Shimo la Tewa prison.

ILLEGAL ARREST

This, despite the constitutional provision that everyone is innocent until proven guilty, something that this regime knows all too well, having shouted it from the rooftops in the ICC cases.

But somehow, for others, this does not apply, especially to those not singing the Jubilee tune.

Yes the organisations make the authorities work that much harder to get proper evidence in the war against terrorism.

And that is as it should be. For, left to their own devices, unaccountable and opaque, the authorities will increase our threat and risk levels by targeting the wrong people, perhaps deliberately, leading to more and more discontent and eventually extremism.

I am amazed at the foolhardiness in trying to shut down Muhuri and Haki Africa.

They conduct their activities above board and transparently, they offer themselves up to scrutiny, and have been consistently vindicated in the causes they have pursued.

And most importantly, they provide a much needed safety valve, a bridge even, between the authorities and the citizens who bear the brunt of the brutality of the terrorists on the one hand, and the state on the other.

Closing them down would only lead to more covert and dangerous forms of expressing frustration and anger. This is not rocket science.

There is a disease within the security establishment and, disappointingly, Cabinet Secretary Joseph Nkaissery has seemingly caught it.

His illegal order to the police to arrest journalists till they reveal their sources is exhibit one.

And his emotional outburst where he blamed everyone but the perpetrators for the corruption in Kenya is the second.

PERVERTED MENTALITY

For some reason, he appears to believe that the problem is not the massive and unaccountable corruption and waste in government; rather the crime seems to be the fact that it is being exposed.

With this sort of mentality, don’t hold your breath expecting our security and integrity levels to improve.

The disease derives from the power that security organs wield.

They can hound you, extort from you, harass you, declare you a terrorist willy-nilly and even kill you, and get away with it.

The disease makes them forget that there are laws that bind them precisely because they wield such enormous powers.

Thomas Paine once said that “A body of men holding themselves accountable to nobody ought not to be trusted by anybody.”

It is time for the entire security establishment to take classes on the Constitution.

SOURCE: DAILY NATION