Kenya: MP Babu Pursues Return of Popular Vote in University Polls

Nairobi — University students could once again be able to elect their student leaders directly if an amendment Bill by Embakasi East MP Babu Owino seeking to repeal the Universities (Amendment) Act is approved by Parliament.

In his legislative proposal presented before the National Assembly Committee on Education, Owino who is the longest serving Students Organisation of Nairobi University (SONU) Leader says the Electoral College provided for in the Act is not representative of the student population.

"I would like the system of elections through the Electoral College at the universities to be scrapped and the popular vote to be reintroduced. The current system is seen as an extension of the university's administration. It is therefore crippled and cannot fight for students' rights."

He went on to explain that the Act which was signed into law by President Uhuru Kenyatta in 2016 has seen student leaders being elected by delegates as opposed to a popular vote.

"The establishment of Electoral Colleges based on academic departments, schools or faculties was not anchored on any law and it has brought complexities, confusion and bias in its implementation," Owino told the House team.

Acting Committee Chairman Amos Kimunya (Kipipiri) rejected claims by Owino that the 11th Parliament passed the legislation in order to block him from seeking a third term.

"The only reason we were looking at what the previous Parliament said is because the Honourable Babu alluded to the fact that the law was done mischievously," Kimunya stated.

"I am the Secretary-General of the Young Parliamentarian Association, so we went with several MPs including the former Education Committee Chairman Sabina Chege, who said that the main reason we amended this law and I quote, was because of Babu Owino who is seated here," the Embakasi East MP said in his response.

Emuhaya MP Omboko Milemba backed the proposal by the Embakasi lawmaker noting university students just like their juniors in primary and high schools should be allowed to exercise their democratic rights to free and regular elections.

The Universities (Amendment) Act 2016 states that an association is to be governed by a Student Council comprising a chairperson and a vice chairperson who must be of the opposite gender.

The students' association constitutes itself into electoral colleges based on academic departments, schools or faculties.

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