, NAIROBI, Kenya, Apr 6 – Parliament began debate on the amendments to the Witness Protection law, which seeks to create an independent Witness Protection Agency.
While moving the Bill, Attorney General Amos Wako said once enacted the Agency will effectively disband the current system where the programme falls under the State Law Office.
Mr Wako said the witness protection programme is aimed at securing the testimonies of threatened and vulnerable witnesses in criminal cases.
“Under the current legislation most of the major decisions are made by the AG, I am very pleased to say that the AG is being deleted from the entire Act and in substitution you are going to have WPA (Witness Protection Agency) performing those tasks,” he said.
The AG said the amendments seek to address four key weaknesses which had made it difficult to operationalise the current Kenya Witness Protection Unit.
He said the if passed the agency will have the capability to undertake covert functions to protect potential State witnesses such as being able to use secret bank accounts or enter secret deals with other international agencies to relocate witness.
The agency will also draw its funding from the Consolidated Fund after complaints arose that the proposed Sh30 million would not be enough for its annual activities.
Justice Minister Mutula Kilonzo, who seconded the Motion, said the programme would assist in combating serious crimes like corruption, money laundering and war crimes.
It further vests in the High Court the authority to order new entries in the register of births, deaths or marriages.
Nominated MP Millie Odhiambo urged fellow MPs not to confine the Bill by relating it to the protection of the post election violence witness.
She said the Bill should also look into protecting victims of gender based violence who are usually intimidated into silence by perpetrators.
Foreign Affairs Minister Moses Wetangula highlighted the importance of the programme by reminding the House of how 15 witnesses in the late Dr Robert Ouko murder went missing before they were eventually found murdered.
Mr Wetangula and Garsen MP Danson Mungatana called for tougher controls to ensure that the programme is not infiltrated by joy riders claiming to possess vital information so that they can enjoy state generosity
According to the AG, the amendments were proposed with the help of officials seconded from the International Criminal Courts and the US Department of Drugs and Crimes.
The Kenya Witness Protection Unit, comprising officers from the State Law Office, the Directorate of Public Prosecutions, National Security Intelligence Services, Immigration, the police, the Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission and the office of the President was launched in March this year as part of reforms in the justice system.