By MOHAMED AHMED
The government plans to step up the war against terror cells, automate citizen services, launch a ruthless war on drug cartels, introduce digital driving licences and reduce the time taken to acquire crucial registration documents to one day.
These are part of the resolutions made Wednesday in Mombasa during a high-profile security meeting led by Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i.
Dr Matiang’i sent a warning to people protecting terrorists, saying nothing will stop the government from attaining its security objectives.
In a 10-point plan for his ministry, Dr Matiang’i said that he will concentrate on countering terrorism, police reforms, cleaning up the registry department, introduce instant fines for traffic offences, fight radicalisation in universities and continue cleaning up the transport sector.
The government has been under fire for the last few weeks over relentless attacks by Al-Shabaab militants who have left over 20 people dead in a span of one month.
The biggest headache to those in security circles now is the shift by recruiters of terrorists from targeting poor neighbourhoods to institutions of higher learning and young people from privileged backgrounds.
“While we have, and shall continue to have, respect for the rule of law and human rights; when clean up time comes we shall make no distinction between the enemy and those who harbour them,” warned Dr Matiang’i.
“We are driven by our sacred and cardinal responsibility to protect our people and defend our country. We will neither spare effort nor resources to attain our security objectives, this should serve as a clear warning to terrorists and their sympathizers,” he said.
The CS announced that all essential documents including passports, identification cards, birth and death certificates will be issued within a day.
The “same day” policy of issuance of the documents will apply to Nairobi starting July 1.
For those not within Nairobi it will take three days, after making applications, before they get their documents, he said.
Dr Matiang’i said that key document registration delays do not make sense because Kenyans’ data is readily available on government systems including Huduma Namba.
“This is how we will work going forward, by July 1 issuance of all those documents should be the same day service, unless you are applying from outside Nairobi,” said Dr Matiang’ i as he directed all immigration officers to report to county commissioners for efficient implementation of the reforms.
He asked Director-General Directorate of Immigration Services Alexander Muteshi to ensure that his staff implement the directive. “I will hold you personally responsible for this. Tell your officers that county commissioners are their bosses. That arrogance and idiocy should come to an end,” he said.
Dr Matiang’ i said that county commissioners will then be held accountable when immigration officials are found taking bribes or delaying to issue passports. To ensure the reforms work, the CS said that a hotline will be available to the public in two weeks’ time to call once they are frustrated by the immigration and civil registration departments.
“The information by the public will be shared with county commissioners so that they take immediate action. I will not be sad if these people (government officials) are arrested if they ask for bribes and stress wananchi.”
Dr Matiang’i accused immigration department officials of protecting those who frustrate Kenyans by delaying their passports; “we cannot make our people slaves in their country,” he said. He added: “We have been given the responsibility to serve them and not to enslave them.”
He said immigration officials who are part of the cartel engaging in “monkey business” will be arrested and charged in courts.
The CS said the reforms are a culmination of an operation he launched last year to eradicate cartels in offices that issue birth and death certificates.
Last October, Dr Matiang’i led a raid on ACK Bishop House in Nairobi where the civil registration department is based and found it “messy”.
The raid led to the arrest of some officials and suspension of two senior officers in a move that focused on cleaning up the birth registration office following years of complaints of corruption, inefficiency and frustration.
The CS also spoke on further reforms in the transport sector as he announced that motorists who flout traffic rules will pay instant fines. Dr Matiang’i said issuance of manual driving licences will be suspended by July 1. “We are going to start trials on instant fines immediately and by July 1, we will go fully on the issue of fines as we cease issuing manual driving licences. We are migrating to digital and that’s the way forward,” he said, adding that there were new plans to deal with wheeler-dealers in the transport sector.
These include efforts to stop runaway accidents. He said that some people have been operating fleets of unregistered buses.
Meanwhile, Dr Matiang’i said the government had suspended issuance of licences to firearms dealers in the country.
He said the move follows a crackdown on illegal firearm dealers and gun holders that started last year.
The CS said the order will stay put until a report on the crackdown is released. The matter will then be reviewed by the National Security Council.
“We had 33 dealers, we have managed to narrow them down to 15. We will continue to mop up all illegal firearms and clamp down on those who own firearms illegally,” said Dr Matiang’i. He said the government destroyed 8,628 illegal firearms and 370,000 ammunition in the operation launched last year.
The minister said that procedures instituted last year to guide the acquisition of firearms by civilians will continue to ensure only those properly vetted acquire them. At the same time, the CS announced that the war on drugs and organised crime will be intensified this year.