Capital FM (Nairobi)

Kenya: Law On Degree Requirement Altered By MPs

Members of Parliament on Thursday amended the Election Act to exempt Senate, Parliamentary and County Ward Assembly seat aspirants from holding post secondary school education credentials for next year's elections.

This now means aspirants will only have to take a competence exam to be administered by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) to be cleared to vie.

Political parties will also now be the ones to draft nominations rules which will be submitted to the polls body.

Government Joint Chief Whips Jakoyo Midiwo and Johnson Muthama refused an attempt by Attorney General Githu Muigai to persuade them to drop their amendment despite the fact that he is planning "to bring far-reaching amendments to the elections Act when he presents the Miscellaneous Amendment Bill in Parliament next week."

Muthama and Midiwo instead said that the AG should support the amendments if he was sincere.

They claimed the education requirement is causing anxiety among aspirants and political parties. Barely a month to party nominations, it is unclear whether those without higher education will be allowed to run for the office of MP, senator and county women's representative.

According to the IEBC roadmap, political parties must conduct their nominations for all elective posts by January 18.

The AG had sought to assure the MPs that Justice Mumbi Ngugi's ruling had repealed the provision of the Act, because neither the Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs nor his office entered an appeal.

He committed that he will communicate the same decision to the electoral body.

Chepalungu MP Isaac Ruto said they cannot take the AG's assurance that he will write a letter to the IEBC saying that the commission may just ignore it like any other letter from the Executive, because they seem to think they are independent. He said Parliament has to assert itself as a legislative body.

In supporting the amendment, Internal Security Assistant Minister Simeon Lesrima said unless amended, the law would look out majority of women aspirants from marginalised communities who may wish to vie for seats in the County Ward Assemblies.

Lady Justice Ngugi in June declared discriminatory the requirement that they should possess post-secondary school education to qualify as candidates. She ruled that the requirement as set out in the Elections Act was discriminatory.

The judge made the same ruling in regard to requirement that aspirants for civic seats should have post-secondary education.

The court however upheld legal requirements that presidential candidates, their running mates, governors, and their deputies should possess degrees from recognised institutions.

Justice Ngugi made the ruling in a suit instituted by Muthama and others including former Kibwezi MP Kalembe Ndile who felt the requirement for post-secondary education and the degree certificates was unconstitutional because it could lock out potentially good leaders who do not have university education.

The amendment raised uproar among more than 80 MPs who realised too late that they had locked themselves out of the next elections because they don't have university education.

Parliament in June pushed the requirement to a university degree, but President Mwai Kibaki rejected it following a heated national debate and an outcry by affected MPs.

Parliament then restored the post-secondary school rule on July 12, through the Statute Law (Miscellaneous Amendments) Act, 2012.

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