Kenya spy agency on the spot over illegal edit

Wednesday May 12 2010

Mr Odhiambo Oyoko, a civic educator from North Nyanza, reads through the curriculum to educate voters ahead of the referendum. The IIEC framed the referendum question May 13, 2010 and reads: Do you approve the proposed new Constitution? Photo/FILE

Mr Odhiambo Oyoko, a civic educator from North Nyanza, reads through the curriculum to educate voters ahead of the referendum. The IIEC framed the referendum question May 13, 2010 and reads: Do you approve the proposed new Constitution? Photo/FILE 

By BERNARD NAMUNANE

The conduct of Kenya's Security Intelligence agency was on Wednesday called into question as the ‘No’ camp demanded the suspension of the referendum over illegal changes in the proposed constitution.

Attorney General Amos Wako revealed on Wednesday that he had turned down requests by the National Security Intelligence Service (NSIS) to make amendments to the version approved by Parliament.

Changes sneaked in

Nevertheless, after his office and the Parliamentary Select Committee satisfied themselves that the final version to be published had only editorial corrections and no fundamental amendments, copies surfaced from the Government Printer that reflected the changes sought by the Intelligence agency.

The Daily Nation revealed exclusively on Monday how the copies distributed last week at the official launch of the proposed constitution presided over by President Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga contained changes sneaked in that had not been approved by Parliament.

The correct version of Article 24 (1) (d) reads: “The need to ensure that the enjoyment of rights and fundamental freedoms by any individual does not prejudice the rights and fundamental freedoms of others.”

The altered one reads: “The need to ensure that the enjoyment of rights and fundamental freedoms by any individuals does not prejudice national security, the rights and fundamental freedoms of others.”

On Wednesday, Mr Wako, speaking from his office, said he had asked the police to investigate how the changes were made between the time the final manuscript left his office and the time the Government Printer got to work.

Unanimously rejected

The NSIS, Mr Wako revealed, also approached the Parliamentary Select Committee on the constitution review to alter the document by including the agency in exemptions on rights and freedoms that were extended to the military and the police force.

“As far as Article 24 (5) was concerned, the NSIS approached me and the PSC. They wanted us to amend Section 5 to include them alongside the Kenya Defence Forces and the Kenya Police Force,” he said.

The matter was discussed and it was decided that the amendments sought went beyond the mandate given by the Review Act. “Because it was not just an editorial matter, I left it to the PSC to give guidance and when we discussed it, the matter was unanimously rejected,” he said.

The AG spoke in his office as he disclosed that “close to 20,000” copies of an altered version had been printed by the Government Printer and were quickly stopped after the Committee of Experts notified him of the anomaly. Surprisingly, he said, the first copies to roll off the Government Printer were the correct version, but somewhere along the way, an altered version was introduced.

Mr Wako said his office sent to the Government Printer camera ready artwork, so a typographical error was out of the question. “ I supplied it in camera ready form, meaning there would be no alterations but the printer prints out two versions. It can only mean that somebody malicious, possibly with ill intention, mischievously inserted the words ‘national security’ in Article 24 (1) (d).”

Mr Wako directed police to investigate the matter and also asked the Government Printer to conduct an internal inquiry. Asked who he thought was responsible, the AG said: “As journalists, you can investigate the matter. Your guess is as good as mine,” he said.

The Government Printer, Mr Gitonga Rukaria, could not be reached for comment on Wednesday as calls to his number were not answered. Earlier, Higher Education minister William Ruto and six MPs spoke of a government conspiracy to confuse the public to endorse a faulty constitution.

They said the printing of two versions of the documents for the referendum raises questions of legality and legitimacy of the review process. “We call for the suspension of the entire constitutional review process including the referendum until the issues are sorted out legally and constitutionally,” he said.

He sought to know which version voters will give a verdict on during the referendum that is to be held by August 6. Mr Ruto warned that if the government failed to halt the review process, it was likely that “some Kenyans” could seek the intervention of the Interim Independent Constitutional Dispute Resolution Court.