It’s 24-hour security for 600 Kenyans under witness protection
More than 300 Kenyans have so far received special protection by the Witness Protection Agency (WPA) to shield them from threats posed by dangerous suspects.
In addition, more than 300 close family members and acquaintances of the witnesses have also been provided with safe refuge to avert retaliatory attacks.
Pius Mwamba, the WPA deputy director operations, says most of those under the program hold crucial information in cases involving terrorism, murder, corruption, robbery with violence as well as defilement.
“Among the protection measures we provide include physical and armed 24-hour protection, relocation, change of identity, in-camera hearings, use of pseudonyms as well as distortion and obscuring the identity of the witnesses,” he says.
The deputy director assures Kenyans that protected witnesses are guaranteed total security, regardless of the influence wielded by anyone they have damaging information against.
“We are highly independent and do not receive directives from any other office,” he said.
APPLICATIONS FOR PROTECTION
Mr Mwamba says witnesses should also not worry about loss of income since the agency provides allowances at least matching one’s income.
“If you earn half a million shillings, you will get exactly the same amount on top of the security provided. The minimum is Sh10,000 for those who are not employed albeit subject to taxation laws,” he states.
The agency has so far received more than 700 applications for protection, and Mr Mwamba feels the number can grow fast if Kenyans embrace the programme.
“Do not hold back if you have sensitive information. For one to qualify, we assess the nature of the offence and the threat as well as the weight of the evidence,” he says.
Yet, the protection on offer under the programme could be taken to a whole new level if a Bill proposing that witnesses be offered refuge in other countries is passed.
The Witness Protection (Amendment) Bill 2016, currently before the National Assembly, will pave way for reciprocal protection arrangements between Kenya and foreign countries, allowing WPA to have Kenyan witnesses protected under the witness protection regime of foreign countries and vice versa.