Private security guards manning key installations will soon be given firearms upon the integration of their roles and that of the National Police Service.
Private Security Regulatory Authority Director General Fazul Mohamed said the decision has been approved by the National Security Advisory Committee and the National Security Council.
“Your work now is fully recognised and we are going to have a harmonised coordination between the private security officers and the national security organs,” he said.
He spoke on Friday in Nairobi during a meeting with leaders from various private security firms in the country.
Fazul said mandatory vetting will be undertaken in the next six months before the guards are given firearms.
"If you have a criminal record, we will know. We are engaging the National Intelligence Service and the Directorate of Criminal Investigations,” he said.
Currently, there are about 500,000 guards belonging to an estimated 1,000 private security firms.
Fazul said only guards manning installations like banks, malls and hospitals will be armed.
“We have seen, whenever there is a security incident in the country, the first line of defence is usually the private security officers,” he said.
“If we trust you to take care of such huge key strategic installations in this country, then we should be able to also trust you with firearms.”
He said Tuesday’s terror attack at the DusitD2 hotel and business complex on 14 Riverside could have easily been prevented had the security guards at the gate been armed.
The attack left 21 people dead and scores injured. Al Shabaab militants claimed responsibility.
“We [security guards] were unable to repel them. If we had armed any of the security guards, the level and rate of entry (by the militants) into the Dusit hotel would have been minimal,” Fazul said.
Private security guards have been asking for guns since the Westgate Mall attack in 2013.
The Kenya National Private Security Workers' Union secretary general Isaac Andabwa said arming guards would have saved the lives of many people that have perished at the hands of terrorists over the years.
“We are not saying that we give guns to all the 500 security guards, we are talking about strategic assignments – the malls and banks,” he said.
Fazul said it will also be mandatory for private security firms to provide insurance cover for its members.
He said the cover should include health and work injury benefits to cover compensation.
“What happens to guards who get injured or to those who lose lives?” he posed.
Fazul said the authority will also ensure the Employment Act, 2007, is fully adhered to by all companies concerning working conditions, minimum wage and overtime compensation.