By STANDARD ON SATURDAY TEAM
A major shake-up is expected in grassroots politics following the failure of a plan to let Members of Parliament without university degrees defend their seats.
There are also fresh fears of academic fraud as desperate MPs and other hopefuls present fake academic papers to remain in the game.
The final version of the law passed Thursday locks out dozens of political players who had expected an easier than usual ride with the creation of new positions and constituencies. Parliament reinstated higher academic qualifications in the electoral laws a day after scrapping them when they were warned it may affect how the Salaries and Remuneration commission determines their pay.
The requirement of a university degree to hold positions in the National Assembly and the Senate is set to trigger fresh political calculations in regions where incumbents are locked out of March General Election. That the move has sent shockwaves across the political class was evident Friday at a meeting of MPs in Nairobi.
Lawmakers caught on the wrong side of the new rule accused colleagues who passed it of having ulterior motives. Some promised to fight back, including challenging the requirement in court as unconstitutional.
That is the only option available since nominations are less than five months away – not enough time to obtain a degree, unless one is completing their programme.
Chepalungu MP Isaac Ruto Friday said the move would turn Parliament into what he termed “a senior common room” for dons and not a House of Representatives.
“Parliament should be a house of representatives regardless of academic qualifications,” said Ruto.
Water Minister Charity Ngilu told The Standard On Saturday she is about to complete her studies. The Kitui Central MP is pursuing a Bachelor of Arts degree in Administration and Leadership. She expects to graduate in October.
“I am doing my last examination paper today. In fact I am in the examination room now,” she said. In the past, Ngilu has come under fire from opponents over her academic background.
After the 1997 General Election, in which she took the political landscape by storm as the first woman presidential candidate, she got into trouble with intellectuals in the Social Democratic Party, Anyang Nyong’o, James Orengo, and the late Apollo Njonjo. Stung with their losses, they insisted that someone with a degree must lead the party.
Others whose academic backgrounds have been questioned now claim to have university education although their alleged training overseas cannot be independently confirmed. Authorities will have their work cut out to verify some of the newly minted degree certificates.
Inconsistencies about the dates they attended university programmes and graduation also raise doubts on the authenticity of the qualifications. Moreover, some cite apparently questionable institutions, which are either unknown or that ceased to operate years ago.
At least one MP claiming a degree certificate from an Indian university said he “could not remember the name of the institution”.