By: Angela Maina @MountKenyaTimes
The Senate legal committee has approved Bills seeking to amend the elections act and remove a requirement that those vying for MPs and MCAs must have a degree.
The committee gave the Senator Kipchumba Murkomen and Ledama Ole Kina Bills a nod, saying they will ensure that no Kenyan is discriminated against as far as vying for positions is concerned.
The Senate Committee on Justice, Human Rights and Legal Affairs chaired by Nyamira Senator Okongo Omogeni however urged the duo to consider co-sponsoring their respective legislative proposals.
Meanwhile, the two proposals will be formally published by the Government Printer after the two legislators turned down repeated pleas by fellow Senators Naomi Waqo and Fatuma Dullo to build consensus.
“It will be a bit confusing (to consider both bills con-currently) because one is a step high and the other is a step lower…my fresh appeal is for the two to agree and I am sure they can build consensus,” Dullo said
Senator Waqo stated; “My concern is between now and the next election where the majority of the people in that dilemma may not be able to achieve the required degrees so that they can qualify.”
The Omogeni led committee agreed that the Bills should be expedited before the 2022 General Election.
Senator Murkomen sought to amend section 22 subsection 1 of the Elections Act by deleting paragraph B, which states that a person must hold a degree from a University recognized in Kenya in order to be nominated as a candidate for election.
Murkomen in the proposed amendment wants anyone who is able to read and write in English or Swahili language or, in the case of a person who is deaf, is literate in the Kenya sign language cleared to run for office.
The Elgeyo Marakwet Senator argues that the Act, in its current form, is discriminatory and restrictive because it implies that only those with degrees are qualified to serve in public office.
“The provision as contained in the Elections Act is not only restrictive but discriminates against persons who may not have a degree as it implies that only persons who have a degree have the capacity to serve in public office,” stated Senator Murkomen in his submission to the Senate.
Ole Kina’s amendment seeks to shield an MCA who does not hold a certificate of secondary education but has served for two terms, one term as a member of a county assembly under the Constitution of Kenya 2010 and another term as a member of a local authority, from the degree requirement.
“For me, I am looking at areas like in Kisii, or in Luoland or in Maasailand, where you will find that there is a lot of people who have served as councillors, they have a lot of experience and may not necessarily have a degree, but when it comes to Members of the National Assembly and the Senate, I think the degree might really help because of the technical issues that we deal with,” he said.
The amendments are premised on Article 38(3) of the Constitution, which provides that “every adult citizen has a right, without unreasonable restrictions, to be registered as a voter, to vote by secret ballot in any election of referendum, and to be a candidate for public office or office within a political party of which the citizen is a member and elected, to hold office”.
The amendments come days after Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) Chairman Wafula Chebukati announced that only those with degrees will be allowed to vie in the polls in compliance with the Elections Act.
“We follow the law and the Elections Act clearly states that all candidates in the six elective positions must have a university degree to be able to qualify to run for office,” Chebukati said, throwing a spanner in the works.
Enforcement of the provision was suspended in the 2013 and 2017 elections, with MPs at the National Assembly saying they can no longer push it forward any further.
Deputy President William Ruto has also backed Murkomen’s proposal, arguing Article 38 of the Constitution prohibits any unreasonable restrictions being placed on voters or candidates to vie or vote in any elections or referendum.
“To say that MCAs should have the same qualifications as MPs, governors and the President is not reasonable. What the law provides, in my opinion, is unreasonable restriction on the way of candidates who want to be elected to various offices,” Ruto said.