Ekwee Ethuro orders police presence probed

Senate Speaker Ekwee Ethuro has ordered an investigation into why police have been barricading roads around Parliament Buildings, as senators’ anger over the inconvenience created by the tight security boiled over.

When the Senate opened for a special sitting to debate the controversial amendments to the election laws, police prevented motorists and pedestrians from using parts of Harambee Avenue and Parliament Road.

The barricade affected the senators too forcing Mr Ethuro to order removal of the barriers and authorising an investigation by Senate’s National Security and Foreign Relations Committee.

“This is not a police state. This is a democracy,” he said in a ruling after requests to adjourn over the police presence.

“The instructions were very clear that we don’t need any police presence. Even today when I came in and I saw (the police), I called the Cabinet Secretary for Interior (Joseph Nkaissery). The confusion may be on the basis of parliamentary precincts,” he ruled.

The Senate was supposed to debate the controversial amendments to the elections law passed last week by the National Assembly in a chaotic gathering that saw some MPs fight, others pepper sprayed and insulted or thrown around before a live parliamentary broadcast was shut.

Admitting the tension the National Assembly had created, Mr Ethuro had asked senators to debate the Bill in a “sober manner consistent with the tendency of the Senate as the House of Review.”

Since December 2014 when the National Assembly passed controversial security amendments, which were later partially overturned by the High Court, police have often camped at Parliament Buildings, filtering traffic flow. Initially, it was about protecting MPs from potential terrorists. But the barricades, senators felt, have morphed into keeping law and order among MPs themselves.

The Speaker further ruled that the entire session be broadcast and ordered the police to clear from the area after senators complained of harassment from the police, including being denied access to Parliament Buildings.

Both Majority Leader Kithure Kindiki and his Minority counterpart Moses Wetang’ula condemned the presence of the police saying it eroded the independence of the Senate.

“Why is the gallery empty? Why is Parliament barricaded?” Asked Mr Wetang’ula who added: “Is this part of Lang’ata Barracks or is this part of the Senate of the representatives of the people of Kenya?” Prof Kindiki said the Senate had no security issues to warrant the tight security.

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