NAIROBI, Kenya Jul 1 – Senators Kipchumba Murkomen and Ledama Ole Kina have been urged to consider co-sponsoring their respective legislative proposals seeking to amend Section 22 of the Elections Act to remove the requirement of an academic degree for those seeking to run for parliamentary office in 2022.
The Senate Committee on Justice, Human Rights and Legal Affairs chaired by Nyamira Senator Okongo Omogeni approved the two proposals to be formally published by the Government Printer after the two legislators turned down repeated pleas by fellow Senators Naomi Waqo and Fatuma Dullo to build consensus.
“It will be a bit confusing (to consider both bills con-currently) because one is a step high and the other is a step lower…my fresh appeal is for the two to agree and I am sure they can build consensus,” Dullo said
Nominated Senator Waqo stated; “My concern is between now and the next election where the majority of the people in that dilemma may not be able to achieve the required degrees so that they can qualify.”
In the proposed amendment, Murkomen wants anyone who is able to read and write in English or Swahili language or, in the case of a person who is deaf, is literate in the Kenya sign language cleared to run for office.
“The very thorny issue that we must address is whether you can deny someone a right that they enjoy at the moment. Is it possible to tell those who were elected to this office in 2013 or 2017, that they are now not qualified by the coming into force of this Section. What is the human right expectation?” he stated.
Ole Kina’s amendment seeks to shield an MCA who does not hold a certificate of secondary education but has served for two terms, one term as a member of a county assembly under the Constitution of Kenya 2010 and another term as a member of a local authority from the degree requirement.
“For me, I am looking at areas like in Kisii, or in Luoland or in Maasailand, where you will find that their is a lot of people who have served as councillors, they have a lot of experience and may not necessarily have a degree, but when it comes to Members of the National Assembly and the Senate, I think the degree might really help because of the technical issues that we deal with,” he said.
The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) said it will enforce the degree provision when it vets contestants running for MP and MCA slots in the 2022 General Election.
Enforcement of the provision was suspended in the 2013 and 2017 elections with MPs at the National Assembly saying they can no longer push it forward any further.
Deputy President William Ruto has also backed Murkomen’s proposal arguing Article 38 of the Constitution prohibits any unreasonable restrictions being placed on voters or candidates to vie or vote in any elections or referendum.
“To say that MCAs should have the same qualifications as MPs, governors and the President is not reasonable. What the law provides, in my opinion, is unreasonable restriction on the way of candidates who want to be elected to various offices,” Ruto said.