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Kenya's controversial new security law leverages technology

Vince Matinde | Jan. 21, 2015
Some of the most economically developed nations in the world have for some time used technology for surveillance and intelligence-gathering to combat terrorism. Now, Kenya, which has been hit with terrorist attacks in the recent past, aims to enhance security via recent controversial legislation that includes key technology elements.

In a bid to try and get ahead of the data gathering, the drafters of the law included provisions for security agencies to obtain information by way of interception. For example, clause 69 looks to insert this amendment: "The National Security Organs may intercept communication for the purposes of detecting, deterring and disrupting terrorism in accordance with procedures to be prescribed by the Cabinet Secretary."

This provision caused an uproar, with people saying that not enough safeguards were put in place to ensure that power it is not abused.

Tom Makau puts the burden of using technology responsibly on the shoulders of the government: "The most important thing for the government to note is that technology cannot be used to fight or prevent crime in isolation, we need a functioning ecosystem of enough, well trained and equipped law enforcement units."

In any case, Kenya's efforts in fighting crime are currently focusing on technology. One of the biggest telecommunications company in East Africa, Safaricom, got a government contract to put up a surveillance system for the security agencies. These include hundreds of closed circuit television (CCTV) across Nairobi and Mombasa. The police will have a command center where they will monitor various parts of the country, in a bid to cut down on crime that has overtaken the region.

It's expected that if all these efforts are to be implemented with focus and precision, then technology can be relied upon to provide timely information and surveillance that will provide early warning system and prevent most of the terrorist attacks and make Kenya a safer place.


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