Why your chief could be in office illegally: Laws rendered useless and what they cover

A chief during a past meeting. [Job Weru, Standard]

Did you know that your chief could be in office illegally?

A case filed by the Law Society of Kenya (LSK) is challenging a move by the National Assembly to pass an amendment that allows the extension of certain Acts of Parliament.

The Acts were due to expire in 2023 but Parliament can prolong their life for a period of one year.

For them to be active again, then Parliament needs to redraft the acts and update them after getting views from different stakeholders including the public.

Among them is the Chiefs’ Act which commenced in 1937, and gave birth to chiefs and assistant chiefs.

Their role is to “maintain order in the area in respect of which he is appointed, and for such purpose, he shall have and exercise the jurisdiction and powers by this Act conferred upon him over persons residing or being within such area.”

According to the Act, a chief can employ persons to assist him in carrying out duties imposed on him by the act.

They are required to put measures prevent the commission of a crime by anyone in their jurisdiction and if unable to prevent it, they should order the arrest of the individual.

Also, they are required to order the arrest of a person who has committed a crime and if they get information that stolen property is within their jurisdiction, they shall arrest the person, seize the property and report it.

Another role is to prohibit the consumption of liquor, holding of drinks bouts, the cultivation of poisonous plants, carrying of arms, and acts that may cause riots.

They are also charged with preventing the pollution of water streams, regulating the cutting of trees and preventing the spread of diseases,

Chiefs are further required to destroy locusts, prevent anything that may cause damage to works constructed for the benefit of society and require proper burial of the deceased.

Another piece of legislation is the Witchcraft Act which was enacted by Kenya’s colonial masters in 1925 commencing the same year but has been revised several times.

“Any person who holds himself out as a witchdoctor able to cause fear, annoyance or injury to another in mind, person or property, or who pretends to exercise any kind of supernatural power, witchcraft, sorcery or enchantment calculated to cause such fear, annoyance or injury,” reads the Act.

The jail term for anyone found guilty of a range of offences under the act may attract a jail term not exceeding 10 years.

Another law is the Protection of Aircraft Act, which was assented to in 1970 and commenced two years later.

It was put in place to give effect to provisions of the Tokyo Convention on offences and other acts committed on board an aircraft and the Hague Convention for the suppression of unlawful seizure of aircraft.

It was also to give effect to the Montreal Convention for the suppression of unlawful acts against the safety of civil aviation, and for other matters connected therewith and incidental thereto.

It says that anyone who hijacks a plane whether in Kenya or elsewhere shall jailed for life.

Among the crimes listed in the Act are assault, destruction and damage of an aircraft, placing anything likely to destroy the aircraft and endangering the safety of the aircraft by supplying false information. Such offences attract a jail term not exceeding 14 years.

Another is the Methylated Spirits Act, which commenced in 1959.

It provides that rules for the formula of compliance shall be made and drafted by the Cabinet Secretary.

If one supplies or keeps for sale without following the law or receives or possesses, any spirits as or purporting to be methylated spirits not in line with the formula by the CS, is guilty of an offence.

Application for licenses ought to have been made to the licensing officer specifying where the sale will take place and the applicant ought to declare whether they have ever been convicted for violating liquor laws.

If found guilty of giving false information, one shall be fined a fine not exceeding Sh5,000.

The licences would be in place for a period of three years.

Another is the Betting, Lotteries and Gaming Act which was assented to on March 11, 1966.

It says that a person who bets in unlicensed premises would be fined an amount not exceeding Sh5,000, jailed for a term not exceeding six months or both.

Unlicensed bookmakers carrying out business not in line with the Act if found guilty would be fined an amount not exceeding Sh10,000, jailed for a term not exceeding one year or both.

It does not, however, apply to the employee of a person issued with a license during their term of employment.