30 May 2012

Kenya: Uhuru, Ruto Can Stand in 2013 - New Bill

DEPUTY Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta and Eldoret North MP William Ruto will not be blocked from contesting the next elections by the new Leadership and Integrity Bill, 2012.

Last night Kenya Law Reform Commission chairman Kathurima M'Inoti said the draft was not final and some proposals might change. "We have only received the draft from the Ministry of Justice. We will look at it make our suggestions then send it to the Attorney General for him to look at at as well. After that the Bill will go the Commission on Implementation of the constitution who will also do their part. There after all the relevant stakeholders will seat around the table to hammer out a final Bill that will go to Cabinet then Parliament," said M'Inoti, "As it is the bill will only bar aspirants who have already been convicted," he confirmed.

In January former Justice minister Mutula Kilonzo indicated that the Leadership bill would prevent candidates facing serious charges from standing for elective office. He was replaced as Justice minister by Eugene Wamalwa in April.

Uhuru and Ruto want to stand for president in March 2013 but have been charged with crimes against humanity at The Hague for their alleged role in the post election violence in 2007. Another suspect Joshua arap Sang wants to stand for Governor of Trans Nzoia county. Former Civil Service head Francis Muthaura is the fourth suspect but has not declared interest in any political office.

The 104-page long bill seeks to operationalise Chapter Six of the Constitution on Leadership and Integrity. Parliament is required to enact the legislation by August 27 this year, two years after promulgation of the new constitution in 2010. Uhuru and Ruto would only be blocked from standing if they were convicted at the ICC and the appeal process had been exhausted.

"A person who has contravened the Code or has been convicted of corruption or an economic crime within the meaning of the Anti-Corruption and Economic Crimes Act, 2003 or of a serious offence shall not qualify for appointment or election to a state office, until ten years have passed since the person was released from prison for the offence, including release for good behaviour or on parole, or if not imprisoned, after the person has paid any fine imposed or completed any other penalty imposed," Clause 12 (3) of the Bill reads.

A serious offence is defined as a felony or any other offence for which a sentence of three years or more may be imposed. Not only is a conviction necessary to block someone standing for office but it is also necessary to first exhaust the appeal process before they are barred. "A person is not disqualified unless all possibility of appeal or review of the relevant sentence or decision has been exhausted," states the draft bill, a clause that was originally introduced by MPs in Naivasha in January 2010 in a retreat on the draft constitution.

Therefore Uhuru and Ruto could be convicted in the Hague but still stand for president so long as any appeal was still pending. The Bill of Rights in the constitution ensures that all Kenyans are presumed innocent until proved guilty. Some observers have argued that if candidates facing charges were blocked from standing, the state could use that to block certain candidates by charging them with trumped up offences before elections.

Uhuru and Ruto have insisted that the ICC cases will not stop them from seeking the presidency as they remain innocent until they are convicted. They belong to the G7 Alliance who want to block Prime Minister Raila Odinga from taking over from President Kibaki who cannot stand in 2013 because he has completed his constitutionally allowed two terms. The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission has set March 4, 2013 as the date for the next election.

Various voters, IDPs and civil society groups went to court in January to try and block Uhuru and Ruto from standing in the next elections. They argued that the two became ineligible after the ICC confirmed charges against them on January 23. They say that Article 99 of the constitution says that a candidate cannot stand if he "is found, in accordance with any law, to have misused or abused a State office or public office or in any way to have contravened Chapter Six which deals with integrity."

The draft Leadership Bill also bars members of professional bodies who have been deregistered from seeking any political office or public appointment. Immigration minister Otieno Kajwang might find himself barred from standing as he is among 54 advocates debarred by the Law Society of Kenya. All candidates seeking elective political positions will be required to seek clearance from EACC after declaring their income, assets and liabilities as well as those of their spouse and dependent children.

Furthermore, Clause 19 prohibits holders of public offices from running overseas bank accounts. The Bill also bars state officers from accepting monetary awards. All gifts will to have to be declared to the officer's organisation and the EACC.

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