Africa

Kenya security bill: MPs brawl as measures approved

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Media captionThe scuffles were shown live on Kenyan television

Kenyan lawmakers traded blows and the deputy speaker had water thrown on her during a chaotic parliamentary session which approved changes to a tough new security bill.

Opposition MPs shouted and ripped up copies of the bill, warning that Kenya was becoming a "police state".

Four lawmakers were assaulted and another two engaged in a fist-fight.

Parliamentary officials adjourned the debate twice, before the controversial changes were pushed through.

The government says it needs more powers to fight militant Islamists threatening Kenya's security.

The al-Qaeda-linked al-Shabab group has stepped up its military campaign in Kenya, killing 64 people in two attacks in the north-eastern Mandera region since last month.

TV feed cut

The governing Jubilee Coalition MPs approved the changes despite howls of protest from the opposition in one of the most chaotic parliamentary sessions in Kenya's history, reports the BBC's Emmanuel Igunza from the parliament.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Some people protesting about the bill were arrested by police
Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Activists accuse the government of threatening civil liberties

Security staff and MPs surrounded Speaker Justin Muturi as voting got under way, our correspondent says.

Earlier, opposition MPs mobbed his rostrum and threw books, documents and other projectiles in a bid to block the vote, AFP news agency reports.

But the two sides set aside their differences to endorse President Uhuru Kenyatta's nomination of former army general Joseph Nkaissery as interior minister.

His predecessor was sacked after the Mandera attacks.

At one point, live television broadcasts of the debate were cut as the session degenerated into chaos, our correspondent says.

'Draconian'

A group of pro-government MPs accosted opposition senators who were in the public gallery and tried to eject them, he says.

In the ensuing commotion, one of the senators had his shirt torn, while outside the parliamentary chamber an opposition and pro-government MP threw punches at each other, our correspondent adds.

Image copyright KTN Kenya
Image caption Al-Shabab has increasingly targeted Kenya

Opposition MPs threw water on Deputy Speaker Joyce Laboso, who ordered two of them to be thrown out.

MPs chanted "no way" and "the struggle continues" as they tore up copies of the bill.

Correspondents say there was a heavy police presence around parliament after activists called for protests to show their opposition to the bill.

MPs were recalled from their Christmas break to approve changes to the bill passed last week.

The bill was denounced by the opposition as draconian. They fear that the proposed amendments will make it even worse.

It gives the security and intelligence agencies the right to tap communications without court consent and requires journalists to obtain police permission before investigating or publishing stories on domestic terrorism and security issues.

President Uhuru Kenyatta has defended the bill, saying it is important for the country's security needs.

Correction 5 January: We have amended this story to remove reference to a clause allowing terror suspects to be detained for a year, as this was altered before the bill was passed by parliament.

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