23 March 2017

Kenya: Ruling On Uhuru May Give Politicians a Lifeline

Photo: PSCU
President Uhuru Kenyatta at Parliament Buildings in Nairobi on March 15, 2017. PHOTO | PSCU

A 2013 court ruling that cleared President Uhuru Kenyatta to run for office while facing charges of crimes against humanity may give a lifeline to politicians accused of corruption and hate speech to take part in this year's General Election.

On Thursday, a team of vetting agencies said that though they will consider ongoing criminal cases and investigations to clear them, they will not block anyone who still wants to appeal or whose case has not been exhausted.

This was made known in a guideline for clearance of candidates developed by Attorney-General Githu Muigai, the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission, the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission and the Registrar of Political Parties.

"Information on ongoing criminal trials or investigations into criminal conduct of candidates in the elections may be obtained by relevant agencies which may be significant to the ethics or integrity standing of candidates," the team said in a joint communication on Thursday.

But with a disclaimer: "A candidate will not be disqualified if he or she "preferred an appeal or review against the sentence or decision; or all possibility of appeal or review has not been exhausted".

President Kenyatta, his deputy William Ruto had been charged at the International Criminal Court when they declared interest to run for office.

The court ruled that since they had not been convicted for a period exceeding six months, as per the law, it had no power to block them from running for office.

'SOVEREIGN POWER'

"The Constitution of Kenya places all the sovereign power on the people of Kenya which shall be exercised only in accordance with the Constitution. Limiting the people's rights would be inimical to the exercise of democratic right and freedom of its members," the court had ruled, setting a precedent that now appears to be a thorn in the flesh of the vetting agencies.

Chapter Six was what many said was Kenya's most ambitious section of the Constitution 2010, but which has been watered down. "Vagueness" has also made it impossible to implement.

On Thursday, Prof Muigai and the agencies vowed that they will collaborate in the enforcement of Chapter Six ahead of the August polls.

"The institutions will enforce compliance with the leadership and integrity requirements by aspirants in the forthcoming General Election," they said in a joint statement.

However, the "enforcement" still remains vague with what lawyers have argued remains an unflinching constitutional right of any Kenyan - other than those convicted of election offences, academically unqualified (if required in the position sought) or of unsound mind - to contest for election as long as they are above 18 and are registered voters.

The agencies still left the heavy lifting to the political parties who nominate candidates.

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