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Harsher penalties to deter fibre cuts

NAIROBI, Kenya Nov 11 – The government through the Attorney General’s office wants to amend the law to impose stiffer penalties on cable vandalism as a means to curb the threat which is on the rise.

The Ministry of Information and Communication announced the plan after cables belonging to Safaricom and Telkom Kenya were vandalized this week.

The Ministry said it had established that the recent spate of fibre cuts across the country was as a result of sabotage by some operators out to disrupt the operations of its competitors.

The Permanent Secretary Dr Bitange Ndemo said on Thursday, the law would be amended to fall under the Anti-Corruption and Economics Crimes Act where offenders could face life imprisonment if convicted and a fine of Sh1 million to deter future destruction.

“It has reached a crisis level… the cut of these cables we have now fully established is done in a very systematic way to disable certain organisations from carrying out their business fully,” Dr Ndemo said.

The PS pointed out that the vandals were now going after redundant lines which operators would use in case of a cut,  which has a serious impact on their business operations.

“There have been arrests of former employees as well as employees of other companies and that is where the security forces are beginning to investigate. This is someone who knows what precisely needs to be cut,” the PS said.

He said the law would be in place by the end of the year.

Calls for stiffer penalties for fibre cable vandals has for long been championed by Telkom Kenya. However, the latest spate of cuts has also targeted Safaricom who have been calling for harsher laws.

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On Wednesday, Safaricom reported four cable cuts along Thika Road and by Thursday morning it was still receiving reports of further cuts.

As a result of the cut, subscribers in the areas served by the cables have been unable to originate or even terminate calls on their handsets. Also affected is M-PESA services, access to data, top-up and other services.

“We initially thought that the incidences were as result of the ongoing road works, but the frequency at which they are occurring points to a planned and systematic execution, which makes us believe they are acts of sabotage,” Safaricom Chief Executive Officer Bob Collymore said.

Since 2008, Telkom Kenya has spent an estimated Sh2.5 billion in downtime and replacing cut links.

It is not yet clear how much Safaricom has lost.

Dr Ndemo said an operator found to be engaging the exercise risks losing their license if convicted.

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