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Wake up, state is pushing on multiple fronts to spy on Kenyans!

By Kodi Barth

Two separate stories. One alarming thread.  Both buried. Nobody is talking about the common, alarming thread.

And that is double alarming.

State to legalise phone, email tapping in dirty cash fight”, said a heading in the Business Daily on August 24.

The story by John Mutua blew the whistle that the parliamentary committee on finance is seeking to legalise the bugging of some “suspect” private communication.

Telephone calls and emails of Kenyans suspected to be dealing in money laundering and terrorism financing will be tapped if law makers approve changes to a Bill seeking to escalate the fight against terrorism and dirty money deals in the country,” the story said.

Who is to decide what communication is suspect for bugging? The police? And we should trust our civil liberties with the police? Talk about tasking the cat to guard the milk!

The next day, the Business Daily published a different finance story titled, “KRA to mine data from telco systems to net tax cheats”.

The August 25 story by Constant Munda said the revenue authority has already integrated its systems with telcos in order to “see” Kenyans’ mobile transactions in real time.

In other words, the state is getting inside your phone, in real time. “Real time” is repeated five times in that story.

Both these stories should wake you up at night in a cold sweat.

It is illegal to flippantly spy on Kenyans. Tax collection enforcement or clamping on money laundering my foot!

These two developments comprise a dangerous, slippery slope that could swiftly reverse hard fought civil liberties.

Progress never comes easy. History painfully teaches that real progress is incremental. Society will make two steps forward and three steps backward.

It took Kenya a quarter century to sit down and start the hard work of changing a bad Constitution. It started out with Vice President Jaramogi Oginga Odinga’s rebellion in 1966 and his “Not yet Uhuru” clarion call. It hit an inflection point in 1991, when President Daniel arap Moi’s hand was forced to repeal Section 2A, which had strangled Kenya under one-party rule since Independence.

It still took another two decades before President Mwai Kibaki lifted up a new Constitution, with pomp and circumstance, at Uhuru Park in 2010.

This Constitution guaranteed robust civil liberties. But something else is guaranteed: That retrogressive minds will still try to chip away at those liberties.

The two developments are such attempts. And media had the moral duty to raise the red flag. Shout it from the rooftops: That civil liberties are in real, mortal danger.

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