Kenya eyes tougher security laws after Shebab killings

Somali Shebab insurgents have launched a string of attacks in Kenya (AFP Photo/Mustafa Abdi)

Nairobi (AFP) - Kenya's government wants to beef up security laws after a string of attacks by Somalia's Shebab insurgents, but media and opposition warn some proposals are too severe, reports said Wednesday.

The proposals include boosting the time police can hold terrorism suspects from the current 90 to 360 days, increasing sentences, and more powers to intercept communications, according to a draft seen by AFP.

The draft also proposes capping the number of refugees and asylum seekers in Kenya to 150,000, a dramatic cut to the currently more than 607,000 the country hosts.

New ideas also suggest jail terms of up to three years for journalists broadcasting reports deemed to "undermine investigations or security operations relating to terrorism," while those who use social media to praise or incite acts of terrorism could face up to 20 years in prison.

The changes, due for initial debate in parliament Wednesday, also propose setting up a specialised Counter-Terrorism Centre bringing together all the branches of the security forces.

Opposition lawmakers said they would oppose many of the proposals, with Orange Democratic Movement party chairman John Mbadi saying some were "draconian amendments", according to The Star newspaper.

Kenya's government has been under fire since last year's Shebab attack on the Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi, in which at least 67 people were killed.

Earlier this month Kenya's interior minister and police chief were removed from their posts after the Shebab carried out massacres in the northeast of the country.

Newspapers said that while action to increase security needed to be taken, some of the proposals were too severe.

"The very real and present dangers must not be used as an excuse to roll back the gains of a free and democratic society," the Daily Nation's editorial read.

The Standard newspaper warned the proposed bill would bring in "massive amendments... which if implemented could see the 'long' hand of government in all spheres of public life."