By Abdikadir Sugow
Following the concluded chaotic party primaries, focus now shifts to the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission, which is expected to scrutinise eligibility of candidates.
IEBC will have to strictly adhere to the set laws and widely consult with the relevant authorities, including the Commission for Higher Education, the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission, the Immigration Department, and the Commission on Administration of Justice (Ombudsman) to vet details provided by candidates aspiring to hold public offices.
The electoral body has the task of crosschecking party lists to ensure candidates meet all the requirements of the Elections Act, including academic qualifications, integrity, and citizenship.
Of concern to IEBC and the public are those candidates with questionable academic history or those who have acquired dual citizenship in a fraudulent manner, but were cleared by parties to contest.
Already some parties are being compelled to replace some candidates who are unfit because their papers are not in order, and others who allegedly committed forgery in acquiring dual citizenship but did not initially disclose the same to their parties and police.
Among politicians whose academic matters raised eyebrows are Housing minister Soita Shitanda, his Assistant minister Margaret Wanjiru, former Embakasi MP Ferdinand Waititu, and ODM’s Cyprian Awiti, who is running for governor post of Homa Bay County. Deputy Prime Minister Musalia Mudavadi’s United Democratic Front (UDF) declined to issue a ticket to Shitanda for the Kakamega gubernatorial seat over questionable academic papers, although he later acquired one from New Ford-Kenya for the same position.
The immediate former Malava MP is said to have presented certificates from California South University in the US, which apparently has no accreditation status. He also presented other certificates from Newport University in the UK, but without transcripts.
“We were also shocked to see photos of the minister in graduation ceremony gown with a background of the famous Cambridge University, UK, yet he has no academic papers from that institution,” said a source in the UDF election board.
No due diligence
He said the New Ford-Kenya elections board, which issued him with a ticket may not have done due diligence. Contacted to comment on the issue, Shitanda promised to call back but did not.
Beside his education background, the minister was once among politicians on spotlight over the illegal allocation of Government houses to the Head of Public Service Francis Kimemia and Wanjiru. He is also alleged to have allocated Government houses to his wife and relatives.
The ODM election board disqualified Wanjiru after the Commission for Higher Education questioned the former Starehe MP’s academic credentials. She will not contest for the Nairobi governor in the March 4 elections, as she is not considered a graduate. But she will be vying for the Senate.
Wanjiru reportedly received a Doctor of Theology degree from Vineyard Harvester Bible College on July 13, 2003. On October 26, 2010, she received a Bachelor’s degree in Christian Leadership from United Graduate College and Seminary International.
In The National Alliance Party, academic qualification questions have been raised over Waititu’s papers, but he insists he has been cleared by the party since his degree from Punjab University in India is genuine.
Awiti, who served as Railway Training Institute Principal before joining the Marie Stoppes, a well-known international NGO working in the area of reproductive health, is alleged to have below par academic credentials. Awiti has a higher diploma in technical studies and later got a Government scholarship to Manchester University, where he is said to have obtained a Masters of Science degree.
His main rival, Philip Okundi, is a telecommunication engineer, has vast training and skills in communication technology and management of public affairs.
The Commission for Higher Education whose Chief Executive Officer is David Some will have to strictly follow the standard rules, including referring to accredited universities to ensure only academically credible Kenyans are on the ballot.
According to the Constitution and the Elections Act, an aspirant for President and Governor with their running mates must be degree holders from universities recognised in Kenya.
The Commission on the Administration of Justice has already warned that those with questionable credentials on leadership and integrity should not be allowed to hold any public office.
Sources at IEBC have hinted that they will make sure only credible, vetted candidates contest the March 4 elections.
Political insiders says it could prove suicidal for unfit candidates who were issued with tickets by their parties, only to be stopped right on their tracks by the IEBC on account of the Ombudsman’s terse declaration, and in the process easily hand victory to rival candidates.
Last year the IEBC released the qualifications required to contest for County Governor, based on the Constitution, the Elections Act 2011, the Political Parties Act 2011, and the Elections (General) Regulations 2012. They specified that candidates must be a Kenyan citizen; must not hold dual citizenship; must be a registered voter; be a holder of a degree from a university recognised in Kenya; and be nominated by a party or be an independent candidate.