Kenya: ODM, EACC Lock Horns Over University Don's Role in Party

1 October 2020

The Orange Democratic Movement is headed for a legal battle with the anti-corruption agency over the appointment of University of Nairobi lecturer Ben Sihanya as the party's disciplinary committee chairman.

This came after Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) chief executive Twalib Mbarak wrote to Prof Sihanya informing him that his appointment by the party is illegal.

"It is noted that such an appointment is in violation of the law, which imposes various restrictions on a public officer's engagement in activities of political parties," reads Mr Mbarak's letter in part.

In the letter, the EACC boss draws Prof Sihanya's attention to Sections 12 (1) (b), (c), (d) and 13 of the Political Parties Act, 2011 and Section 23 (2), (3) of the Leadership and Integrity Act, 2012, "which by virtue of Section 52 (1) is applicable to all public officers as if they were state officers."

Voluntary work

In his response, Prof Sihanya told Mr Mbarak the disciplinary committee membership is a "voluntary, non-salaried, quasi-judicial position" and that at no time does the chair or member of the committee get involved in the political affairs of the party.

"Neither do they participate in the party's day-to-day activities such as campaigns," Prof Sihanya stated. He added that the committee is not an organ of the party and that neither the chair nor its members are officials of the party as per Chapter 7 of the ODM constitution.

"The Constitution of Kenya 2010 is the supreme law and should have guided your inquiry herein, especially Articles 20, 27, 33, 36, 38 and 77 but you have not cited any of the material provisions which I now contextualise," added Prof Sihanya's response to Mr Mbarak.

Employment and Labour Relations Court judge Maureen Onyango on Monday ordered that the application by ODM and Prof Sihanya be fixed for hearing inter partes on a date to be fixed by the registry not later than 14 days. ODM Secretary-General Edwin Sifuna on Tuesday accused the EACC of being used by "some elements at the University of Nairobi (UoN)" to force Prof Sihanya from chairing its disciplinary committee, alleging threats to fire the lecturer. But UoN Director of Corporate Affairs John Orindi denied any involvement of the institution in the matter.

"EACC launched an independent probe into the matter and as such, the institution should not be dragged into it," the university's Director of Corporate Affairs, Mr John Orindi, told the Nation.

Mr Orindi denied claims that UoN was using the EACC to block Prof Sihanya from the university's dean elections scheduled to be held in January next year.

Mr Sifuna pointed out that several university lecturers are employees of political parties in different capacities, adding that it was strange for EACC to pinpoint Prof Sihanya.

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