The Kenya Defence Forces (Amendment) Bill 2015 that seeks to amend the Kenya Defence Forces Act 2012 has wanting provisions. A study of the recently published Bill reveals key issues that are inconsistent with a free and democratic society. The Bill:
- Removes the legal requirement for Cabinet Secretaries to monitor defence matters and report the same to the President and Parliament;
- Removes the requirement for service commanders to commission research and benchmark against best practices on the Service;
- Removes the Director of Public Prosecution oversight role in punishing its members for civil offences committed outside Kenya;
- Removes medical and salary obligations rightfully accorded to KDF members deployed in missions whenever they are hurt or killed in the process;
- Repeals the requirement to publish and publicize annual reports arguing that defence matters could be prejudicial to national security.
The Bill’s provisions will affect all Kenyans. For instance, removing obligations to compensate or pay all dues for officers on duty is something their family members will feel.
However on the good side, the Bill contains some prudent provisions. The Bill:
- Lists auxillary reserves as being Kenya Forest Service, Kenya Wildlife Service and National Youth Service; and
- Streamlines the military chain of command;
As the National Assembly needs to interrogate it, when it is committed to the committee stages and also provide for adequate and robust public participation.
Specifically, the House needs to
- Do away with the provisions that infringe on the right to know the operations of KDF in a given year. They can restrict specific details but broader issues must be published and publicized. For instance, Kenyans need to know how many of their fellow citizens are involved and those who die due to involvement of KDF in Somalia.
- Ensure KDF members are accorded their rightful recognition and be paid if hurt in the course of duty and their families compensated as currently stated in the KDF Act 2012. In any case, the current Act should provide better guidelines on the matter.
- Have oversight on operations at all times including deployment of KDF members locally. This requirement needs to be reinstated.
- Get the Senates input. The memorandum of the Bill states that the Bill does not concern county governments. This rightfully is so but some of the provisions the Bill is seeking to amend, delete or repeal need Parliament’s involvement. The Constitution is clear that Parliament is both the Senate and the National Assembly, not one of them or in this case only the National Assembly.
This government Bill needs to be discussed robustly for a better document to be passed by Parliament.