Lawmakers disrupt vote on Kenyan security law

Kenyan opposition lawmakers disrupted a vote to authorise tough terrorism-related measures that rights activists say threaten civil liberties and free speech, forcing the parliamentary speaker to postpone the session.

Lawmakers disrupt vote on Kenyan security law

World Bulletin/News Desk

Opposition lawmakers on Thursday brought a special session of parliament – that convened in order to reconsider controversial amendments to a security bill – to a standstill.

MPs opposing the amendments asked the assembly speaker for more time to study them.

When their request was turned down, they began chanting slogans and throwing papers onto the floor, forcing the speaker to adjourn the session.

When parliament resumed shortly afterward, all media personnel were kicked out.

At one point, fistfights reportedly broke out between proponents and opponents of the proposed amendments.

Two MPS have since emerged from the building with torn clothes. At least one of them appeared to be bleeding from the hand.

The government says the proposed amendments to the security bill –and allow terror suspects to be detained for up to a year without charge – will help Kenya fight terrorism.

Media personalities and human rights organizations have also criticized the amendments, which, among other things, would force them to obtain police authorization before publishing photographs of victims of terrorism.

President Uhuru Kenyatta has faced mounting pressure to boost security since an attack in September 2013 on Nairobi's Westgate mall that left 67 people dead. He has urged lawmakers to pass the amendments, which include extending the time suspects can be held without charge to 360 days from 90 days and facilitate government wiretapping.

The opposition, for its part, describes the bill as "draconian." 

"The dignity, the integrity of parliament is at stake. The cameras of the National Assembly will bear testimony to what I am saying," Aden Duale, the majority leader from Kenyatta's Jubilee coalition, said trying to calm the legislators.

Some had torn up parliamentary order papers that set the official agenda and scattered the pieces across the floor as they hugged each other and sang: "Msilale bado mapambano", Swahili for "Do not sleep, the struggle goes on".

Muturi ordered parliamentary guards to escort some opposition members out of the assembly, shouting "Order!, order!, even as mapambano goes on, there will be order".

It was not clear when or whether the vote on the bill would eventually take place.

Nine foreign missions in Kenya, including those of the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Canada and Australia, said in a statement on Wednesday they supported plans to improve security but said human rights should also be respected.

Güncelleme Tarihi: 18 Aralık 2014, 16:31