Actualise private security law through public, stakeholder participation

Private Security Regulatory Authority(PSRA) CEO Fazul Mahamed and Interior PS Karanja Kibicho before Parliament, 2019. [Boniface Okendo, Standard]

In 2016, Parliament passed the Private Security Regulations Act (PSRA) to create a legal framework for private security providers.

Private security actors provide vital complementary security services, including setting up alarm systems, security surveillance, rapid response, events and VIP security, private investigations, and secure transportation of money and other precious cargo.

After the Riverside Drive terror attack, Interior CS Fred Matiangi, and the CEO of the Regulatory Authority, Fazul Mohammed, intimated that plans were underway to arm private security providers, despite the law expressly prohibiting it.

The law needs to be amended, intense public participation, research, and stakeholder consultation conducted for this to happen. In addition, the law should clarify what calibre of firearms are to be entrusted to guards and create systems to ensure adequate training, proper chain of custody and accountability. 

It is noteworthy that PSRA makes it an offence for any person to engage in private security services for money without being registered. However, it may need further clarification regarding those it seeks to regulate because there are many informal security arrangements in poorer areas where residents, homesteads and neighbourhoods pay individuals or people to provide security where policing is perceived as out of reach or inadequate.

The Act clarifies that private security personnel enjoy the right to arrest emanating from the citizen's arrest and is limited to arresting a person committing an offence within the premises the guard is responsible. Upon such arrest, the arrested person must be promptly handed over to the police.

Likely drawn from counter-terrorism measures in the past decade or so, the law also gives private security personnel the power to search members of the public upon entry and exit of buildings.

Moreover, they have the power to temporarily withhold identification documents within the premises that they are protecting, including registering the time of entrance and exit of persons accessing the premises.

These provisions create serious rights to privacy, data protection and probable cause issues. It wrongly assumes that all people seeking to access buildings are all over eighteen years, and all have IDs. It also seems to operate under the premise that Kenyans must always walk with some form of identification by law.

It harkens to the dark colonial times where Africans were required to carry identification and permits as a prerequisite to existing in certain spaces. There have been horror stories regarding privacy and data protection of ladies receiving unsolicited sexual advances from security guards and allegations of personal information transferred to third parties.

In addition, there is credible evidence that political parties illegally obtained these registers and used the data to enlist members to meet registration quotas. Perhaps regulations should require the collection of minimal data sets such as ID numbers only.

As the law is implemented, the regulator and private security operators of all calibres must ensure that standards, regulations and procedures are followed to ensure that Kenyan residents are protected according to the Constitution.