Polls agency degree requirement ruffles feathers in Parliament
Mercy Mwai @wangumarci
Deputy President William Ruto was yesterday leading efforts to save political careers of more than 40 MPs and thousands of MCAs who do not have university degrees.
Ruto spoke as several Members of Parliament raced against time to complete their degree courses in various disciplines ahead of the August 2022 General Election.
Several lawmakers, who spoke to People Daily, said they were currently pursuing degree courses at various universities and hoped to graduate before next year’s election.
Other MPs, who do not possess the crucial document, however, remained optimistic that the law would be changed to remove the degree requirement before the election.
Addressing MCAs from Baringo county at his Karen home, Ruto said he had directed all MPs allied to him to institute amendments to the law to remove the degree requirement for all elective and nominated positions.
“To say that MCAs should have the same qualifications as MPs and the same qualifications as members of executive in county governance and same qualifications for president is not to be reasonable and, therefore, Parliament is already reconsidering Section 22 of the Elections Act so that we can remove what in my opinion is unreasonable, so that we can have reasonable expectations of qualifications of all candidates,” said Ruto.
“I want to give you my word that we are going to support the review of those recommendations that were made in the law so that we can allow a majority of the Kenyans to be able to vie in these positions.
It is not reasonable that only one per cent of Kenyans qualify to vie for elective positions and we disenfranchise 99 per cent of the population,” added the Deputy President.
“If the intention of the Constitution was to provide for uniform qualification for all those positions then it would have provided it in the Constitution,” he added.
Ruto spoke hours after Elgeyo Marakwet Senator Kipchumba Murkomen and a number of legislators vowed to move amendments to the controversial law.
In a draft Bill dated June 16, 2021, Murkomen proposed an amendment to delete the degree requirement and substitute it with a provision that will only require a person to be able to read and write in English or Kiswahili or Kenya Sign Language, to contest.
“The legislative proposal seeks to amend Section 22 of the Elections Act, 2011, to void requirements for academic papers for consideration to be nominated for election as MCA/MP and replace it with the nominee being able to read and write in English or Kiswahili or literate in Kenya Sign Language,” reads Murkomen’s proposal.
The senator argues the current provision is not only restrictive but discriminates against persons who may not have a degree as it implies that only persons who have the qualification have the capacity to serve in public office.
“This Bill, therefore, seeks to provide for inclusivity in the election process by enabling persons who can read and write to vie for election.”
Belgut MP Nelson Koech has indicated he will table amendments to postpone implementation of the degree requirement.
Suba North MP Millie Odhiambo has also criticised the requirement, saying it would disenfranchise women.
People Daily established that various MPs including Abdulswamad Nassir (Mvita) and Makadara’s George Aladwa are racing against time to secure their degree certificates from Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT) and Kenya Methodist University, respectively.
Like Aladwa, Webuye West MP Dan Wanyama is pursuing a Bachelor of Commerce degree at the University of Nairobi while Igembe South legislator John Paul Mwirigi is pursuing a Bachelor of Education degree at Mt Kenya University.
Starehe MP Charles Kanyi Njagua is also racing against time to complete a bachelor’s degree in Peace Studies from the Mt Kenya University.
Aladwa’s CV posted on the National Assembly website shows that he is currently pursuing a Bachelor of Business Administration degree at the Kenya Methodist University.
“I am graduating with a degree in Political Science from JKUAT this September,” Abdulswamad, who chairs the National Assembly Public Investments Committee (PIC), told People Daily when contacted.
The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) chairman Wafula Chebukati declared on Monday that the electoral body will not clear any candidate to vie for any elective or nominated seat come the next general election if they do not possess a degree certificate, sending shock waves across the political scene.
Information posted on the National Assembly website shows that more than 40 MPs fall short of the university degree requirement.
Those in this category include Malindi MP Aisha Jumwa, Jude Jomo (Kiambu Town), Junet Mohamed (Suna East), Abdulswamad, Imran Okoth (Kibra), Oscar Sudi (Kapseret), Kimani Ngunjiri (Bahati), Jayne Kihara (Naivasha) and Samuel Arama (Nakuru Town West).
Others include George Theuri (Embakasi West), Aladwa, George Sunkuiya (Kajiado West), Ndirangu Waihenya (Roysambu) and Stephen Mule (Matungulu).
Junet, a close ally of ODM leader Raila Odinga, disputed information on the National Assembly website showing that he holds a diploma in Business Management from the Woodvale College.
“I already did the degree a long time ago, in fact, I will call the Clerk to correct my records,” he said.
Clerk of National Assembly Michael Sialai said the parliamentary website is updated on a regular basis but upon request from individual lawmakers.
He revealed that several MPs have recently updated their CVs on the website after upgrading their academic qualifications, giving the example of Kitui Central MP Makali Mulu.
He, however, noted that there could be some MPs who, despite upgrading their academic qualifications, are yet to update their CVs on the website.
“Yes, we have received some requests from some members especially those who have attained PhDs and we have updated their background, it is also possible that some members obtained degrees but have not informed the office of the Clerk on the same,” said Sialai.
According to information posted on the website, Maina Kamanda, a long serving Starehe MP and close ally of President Uhuru Kenyatta and opposition leader Raila, holds a certificate in county governance from Kenyatta University.
Bomet MP Beatrice Kones is also staring at a bleak future should the requirement be enforced. According to the website, Ms Kones holds a P1 certificate from Kericho Teachers Training College.
MP Sarah Korere, on her part, holds a diploma certificate from Egerton University.
According to the website, Jumwa, who has emerged as Ruto’s leading voice in the Coast region, possesses a certificate in county governance from Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology.
Jumwa, who has declared her intention to vie for the Kilifi gubernatorial seat, could not be reached for comment on her academic qualifications.
Also facing uncertain times is Samburu Woman Rep Maison Leshoomo, who holds a primary school certificate and her Taita Taveta counterpart Lydia Haika, who holds a diploma in hotel management.
The website shows Turkana East MP Mohamed Lokiru Ali holds a KCGE certificate while Rose Museo holds a diploma in Community Development from the Africa College of Social Work.
Kilifi Woman Rep Gertrude Mbeyu, on the other hand, possesses a diploma from KCA University while Kimani Ngunjiri holds a form four certificate from Michinda Secondary School.
Kilifi Nominated Senator Christine Zawadi admitted that she is yet to acquire a degree certificate but disclosed that she had gone back to school to acquire one.
“Mimi naongeza hayo masomo, lakini wacha nikuambie ukweli wa moyo wangu kabisa, kwamba mimi naendelea na masomo yangu kwa sasa na kama ni shahada nitapata lakini kupata digrii sio ishara ya uongozi, (I am furthering my education, but let me tell you the plain truth, yes I am studying and I believe I will get the degree but getting a degree is not a mark of leadership,” Zawadi said.
The senator declined to reveal which course she is pursuing, saying any degree fits the bill provided it is from a recognised university.
“Digrii ni digrii tu, wewe usijali, bora nina digrii yangu hata kama ni ya kuchimba visima (a degree is just a degree, don’t worry, provided I have my degree even if it is a degree on sinking wells,” she said.
Embu Woman Rep Jane Wanjuki holds an Advanced Diploma in Management from the Kenya Management and Training Institute, according to the website.
The site shows that Laikipia East MP Ali Amin Deddy possesses a KCSE certificate while Theuri (Embakasi West) holds a diploma in Theological and Biblical Studies.
It further shows that Kajiado Woman Rep Janet Teyiaa holds a certificate in accountancy while her Kajiado West counterpart George Sunkuiya is pursuing a diploma course in community development from Mt Kenya University.
While the website shows that Trans Nzoia Woman Rep Janet Nangabo is the holder of a Kenya Certificate of Education (KCE), the outspoken legislator told People Daily that she in fact possesses a degree certificate from Kisii University.
“No, it is not true, I have a degree in leadership management from Kisii University,” she said on phone.
Also in danger of missing out is Kibra MP Okoth, who the website shows is in possession of a languages certificate from Alliance Francais.
The site also shows that Arama (Nakuru West) holds a form four certificate from the Nairobi Technical High School. A fuming Arama declined to comment on the matter when contacted. “Don’t ask me that, I don’t want to talk about it,” he toldPeople Daily.
Also at risk of being knocked out by the degree rule is Kaloleni MP Paul Katana, who according to the website, holds a Graduate Diploma in Public Relations Management, Cambridge University.
Contacted, Katana took solace in the fact that there was already a petition before the National Assembly challenging the requirement.
“Niko bunge but a petition is before the House committee and I am waiting for its report before responding,” he said.
The website shows that Ganze MP Teddy Mwambire could also find himself in the crosshairs of the IEBC as he only holds a diploma in county governance and management from KCA University.
Contacted, Mwambire down played the matter thus: “I am safe and Ganze constituency has no shortage of degrees, so we are ready for it.”
Also facing political ramifications should the degree requirement be effected is Wajir Woman Representative Fatuma Gedi who holds a higher diploma in Public Relations from the Regional Institute of Business Management, her Elgeyo Marakwet counterpart Jane Chebaibai (Certificate from Alphax College), and Bomet Woman Representative Joyce Korir who holds a diploma in country governance from JKUAT.
Others whose political careers could be thrown in limbo include Garsen MP Guyo Ali Wario (KCSE, Gadeni Secondary School), Nominated MP Nasri Ibrahim, (Certificate from the National Democratic Institute), Igembe Central MP Iringo Kubai (CPA, Kenya Polytechnic).
Naivasha MP Kihara, according to the website, holds a certificate from Pitman Examination Institute.
The website also shows Matungulu MP Stephen Mule is the holder of a certificate in Hematology from Nikon Kohden college in Japan and another diploma in mechanical engineering from Mombasa Polytechnic.
It also shows that Manyata MP John Muchiri Nyagah is pursuing a degree course in community development at the Mt Kenya University while Teso South MP Geoffrey Omuse holds a diploma in Business Management from Gretsa University.