As reported by KBC, Kenya’s new witness protection agency was officially launched on Friday. The news comes after months of debate over the need for improved witness protection in Kenya and the passing of the Witness Protection Amendment Bill in 2010. Public pressure for better witness protection in Kenya became particularly prevalent in the aftermath of widespread violence following the contested elections in 2007. The new agency means that witness protection will now be managed independently instead of operating as a unit within the Department of Public Prosecution.
Despite this positive step forwards, some are concerned that the new agency will be under-funded – it had requested 1.2 billion Kenyan Shillings to support its operations but was only allocated Sh300 million (equivalent to £2m GBP or $3.3m USD).
The Witness Protection Act aims to provide protection to people who have important information and face potential risk as a result of their cooperation with prosecution and law enforcement agencies. It is hoped it will help to tackle organised crime and corruption in Kenya.
The existence of adequately funded and managed witness protection programmes in Africa is fairly rare, with South Africa being the only other African nation to have a formal programme. If Kenya’s programme is successful maybe other countries will come to realise the benefit of an independent witness protection agency.