By Juma Kwayera
Hopes that the eagerly anticipated declassification of State secrets is unlikely to materialise after stakeholders failed to speed up the enactment of the Freedom of Information Bill.
The Bill is critical to the actualisation of the integrity and leadership provisions that set the benchmarks to be met by public office seekers. In the absence of the Bill, there are fears the credibility of leaders cannot be ascertained, as crucial information is inaccessible.
Renewed interest in the Bill comes on the back of allegations by a former advisor of Prime Minister Raila Odinga on coalition affairs, Miguna Miguna, in his memoirs. Peeling Back The Mask: A Quest for Justice in Kenya makes allegations touching on the integrity of the PM’s office that can only be laid to rest if laws in freedom of information as provided for in the Constitution are enacted.
Until the freedom of information law is enacted, which would automatically declassify State secrets and any other information in Government custody, such records would remain inaccessible by the public, according National Archives Curator Angote Atsangu.
Mr Atsangu says the law is critical in laying the truth bare and would inform vetting of public officers and laws on data protection and intellectual property rights.
Former Subukia MP Koigi Wamwere says the laws are urgent as records of a number of activists detained under past regimes need to be made public to avoid confusion about the aspirations of the revolutionaries and ordinary criminals.
Says Koigi: “In the circumstances under which we fought for political pluralism, it is likely we have broken the law. But freedom of information laws should be enacted so that the public can access intelligence records and determine whether we had dictatorships in Kenya or not. The public needs to differentiate between heroes and villains. These are patriots who broke the law to fight for the freedoms and civil liberties the country enjoys at present.”
The group that incurred the wrath of successive Kanu regimes include Raila, Chief Justice Willy Mutunga, former Butere MP Martin Shikuku, former Kitutu Masaba George Anyona and Lands minister James Orengo.
Sought to shed light on the status of the Freedom of Information Bills, Attorney-General Githu Muigai, Justice Minister Eugene Wamalwa, his Assistant William Cheptumo and CIC chairman Charles Nyachae would neither answer calls nor respond to text messages.
But a member of parliamentary Constitutional Implementation Oversight Committee George Nyamweya laments: “We have made everything technical to the point some of the laws being hurriedly enacted are in conflict with the Constitution.” Nyamweya wants the process to be slowed down until “we get the basics” right.