Witness Protection Agency receives vehicles to boost its operations

Witness Protection Agency receives vehicles to boost its operations

The protection of threatened witnesses in Kenya on Tuesday received a boost with the handing over of three vehicles and office equipment to the Witness Protection Agency (WPA) during a ceremony at the Milimani Law Courts.

The four-wheel drive pickups, 10 digital voice recorders and three office safes have been donated by the European Union and United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) for immediate use by witness protection officers who provide daily support to protected witnesses across the country.

Operating since 2008, the mandate of WPA is to provide special protection, on behalf of the State, to persons in possession of important information and who are facing potential risk or intimidation due to their cooperation with prosecution and other law enforcement agencies.

Speaking at the ceremony, the WPA Director and Chief Executive, Mrs Alice Ondieki, thanked the EU and UNODC for the vehicles which she observed will boost field operations and alleviate the current shortage of utility vehicles for Nairobi, Mombasa and Kisumu operational regions.

“The support received so far will enable the Agency deliver on its mandate to the wider justice, law and order sector and the public at large while playing its critical role of protecting witnesses,” Mrs Ondieki said.

The vehicles and equipment are the latest example of support for WPA through the Programme for Legal Empowerment and Aid Delivery in Kenya (PLEAD), a partnership funded by the EU that is improving the delivery of justice services and use of alternatives to imprisonment.

“The Agency performs a significant role in promoting the rule of law and enabling the administration of justice by protecting the safety and welfare of threatened or intimidated witnesses. It‘s satisfying for the European Union to provide these vehicles given the direct impact they will have on the mobility of Witness Protection Officers as they go about supporting their clients, as well as office equipment to support the Agency’s operations,” the EU Ambassador to Kenya, Mr Simon Mordue, said during the ceremony.

Research and consultations by UNODC identified mobility as one factor affecting the delivery of witness protection services in the community, mainly due to a lack of suitable work vehicles.

“The Witness Protection Agency operates in often challenging circumstances. UNODC works closely with the Agency to respond to their priority needs for technical and practical assistance, and we’re pleased to have procured these vehicles, voice recorders and safes that will have a direct impact on their service delivery,” the UNODC Regional Representative, Dr Amado Philip de Andrés, said.

Also through PLEAD, the EU and UNODC have recently assisted WPA to produce social distancing stickers and various general Information, Educational and Communication (IEC) materials, such as a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) booklet and flyer in English and Kiswahili.

Mrs Ondieki said these products will be useful in reaching out to the public and other stakeholders to outline available witness protection services.