According to a report in Business Daily Africa, the Kenyan government is poised to push through a new amendment to the Information Act, aimed at clamping down on the upsurge in fibre-optic sabotage that has blighted the country’s telecoms sector in recent years; Safaricom and Telkom Kenya have been particularly badly hit by the vandalism of their respective infrastructures. In the amendment – slated to be introduced within two months – cable vandalism will be reclassified as an ‘economic crime’ – allowing the government to impose harsher punishments on culprits. Telcos found guilty of tampering with their rivals’ infrastructure will now be liable to a fine of KES10 million (USD119,000), life imprisonment and a revocation of their licence. It is believed that Safaricom and Telkom Kenya pressurized the government into altering the existing law that applies maximum penalties of KES100,000 or three years imprisonment, in the wake of renewed hostilities against their cables. Information permanent secretary Bitange Ndemo commented: ‘We are reading an act of sabotage in the manner in which the cables are being cut. Those doing it are cutting both the primary and the redundancy route, meaning these are people who would like to paralyse the activities of these companies. We are working with the Attorney General’s office on a miscellaneous amendment that will see the culprits face life imprisonment or pay a fine of KES10 million’. Telkom Kenya said that it lost around KES2 billion between 2006 and 2009 to corporate sabotage. Incoming Safaricom CEO Bob Collymore commented: ‘We initially thought that the incidents were a result of the ongoing road works, but the frequency at which they are occurring points to a planned and systematic execution, which makes us believe they are acts of sabotage’.
In related news, a Kenya Data Networks (KDN) employee who was accused by rival operator Telkom Kenya of vandalising its fibre-optic cables has been acquitted of all charges by the High Court in Eldoret. The unnamed employee – who was accosted on 7 October 2009 by Telkom Kenya staff – was arraigned in court on charges of sabotage and vandalism. The High Court found him innocent of all charges levied against him, owing to a lack of evidence. KDN Chief Marketing Officer Vincent Wang’ombe commented: ‘KDN is against any form of sabotage, and supports any plans by government to bring in harsher and stiffer penalties like longer jail terms for fibre saboteurs’.