Aspirants seeking to run for elective positions but are not degree holders risk being locked out of the 2022 General Election as section 22 Election Act comes into effect.
Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) Chairman Wafula Chebukati has said the law requiring aspirants for the six elective positions to be degree holders will take effect next year.
Implementation of the amended section 22 of the Election Act was postponed in the 2017 polls to allow candidates seeking to run for MP and MCA positions to acquire the required academic qualifications.
"We follow the law and the Election Act clearly state that all candidate in the six elective positions must have a university degree to able to qualify to run for office," said Chebukati.
The IEBC chair said the commission will engage professional bodies to handle cases of fake academic documents ahead of the elections.
"We are in a country where cases of fake degree certificates are common and we have engagements with Kenya National Qualifications Authority and the Commission for University Education to verify academic certifications," he said.
Once the Memorandum of Understanding among the institutions is finalised, Chebukati said candidates' academic qualifications will be subjected to validation before they are presented by the candidates to IEBC.
"Those who have not graduated will have enough time to graduate before the next election," he added.
Chebukati spoke during the launch of the Commission's Annual Voter Education Week at the Bomas of Kenya in Nairobi, today.
The announcement however comes as a shocker to potential aspirants for the positions of MCA and MP whose plans to acquire university degrees were derailed due to disruption of the academic calendar by the outbreak of Covid-19 in the country.
Currently, the Elections Act only makes it mandatory for the presidential aspirant and running mate as well as governors and their running mates to be degree holders.
Although the implementation date of the law has been postponed several times, it is now set to take effect after the National Assembly in 2017 amended Section 22 of the Elections Act that prescribes minimum academic qualifications for elected leaders at both levels of government.
Some lawmakers do not meet the requirement and could end up being barred from defending their seats.
“A person may be nominated as a candidate for an election under this Act only if that person – is qualified to be elected to that office under the Constitution and this Act, and holds – in the case of a Member of Parliament, a degree from a university recognised in Kenya or in case of a Member of County Assembly, a degree from a university recognised in Kenya,” states section 22 of the Act.
“Notwithstanding subsection (1), this section shall come into force and shall apply to qualifications for candidates in the general election to be held after the 2017 General Election,” adds a section that suspended its implementation.
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Last year, County Assemblies Forum chairman Ndegwa Wahome said they will oppose the implementation of the law as it was not subjected to public participation before enactment.
“We have taken a very firm position that the sovereignty and power to elect belongs to the people under Article 1 of the Constitution. We have said section 22 of the Election Act is subsidiary to Article 1,” said Mr Wahome.
In the annual education week that kicked off on Monday, Chebukati said they intend to enlighten candidates and voters on electoral activities ahead of next year's election.
"The pandemic affected the commission's line-up activities including the education and mass registrations but we will deploy our teams to the constituencies up to Sunday to attend to voters concerns on election-related matters," he added.
At the same time, Chebukati announced that they are targeting to enroll more than four million new voters during the education exercise that will be carried out across the 270 constituencies in the 47 counties.
"The commission has not been able to reach the Kenyans due for voter registration due to financial constraints but once we get the budgeted funds, we will carry out mass voter registration exercise," he added.
The IEBC chair noted that so far they have registered more than 19.6 million voters with the last continuous mass registration netting an additional 149,600 new voters since 2015 when the mass registrations was integrated into the IEBC calendar.
IEBC received Sh14.5 billion budgetary allocations for the financial Year 2021/2022.
"Once we are done with the mass voter registration, we will move to clean the register to certify the registered voters six months to elections," said Chebukati adding that the commission last cleaned up the register in December 2019.
The event was attended by British High Commissioner to Kenya Jane Marriott who pledged the UK government support to ensure the commission conducts peaceful and fair elections.
"UK has a long-lasting relationship with Kenya and we are committed to offering assistance to achieve free, fair and credible elections. No one wants to see a repeat event of the 2017/08 post-Elections Violence," said Marriott.
Among the priority areas the UK envoy highlighted for support include voter education and registration, institutional capacity on the electoral process, Judiciary technical support as well as elections security to safeguard the 2022 elections.
The stakeholders present at the launch called upon the commission to ensure participation of the youth, women and persons with disabilities in planning and conduct of the elections.
The commission will on Tuesday release the 2020-2024 Strategic Plan detailing the elections timelines, boundary operations plan among others.