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MCAs in court over degree requirement

By Moses Nyamori | June 28th 2021
County Assemblies Forum (CAF) Chairman Wahome Ndegwa (C), addresses members of the press on June 28, 2021 at Flamingo Tower in Upperhill Nairobi, flanked by Kipkurui Chepkwony (Left) and Kipruto Kimosop (Right). [Edward Kiplimo, Standard]

Members of the County Assembly have joined the growing list of interested parties seeking to stop the implementation of the degree requirement for elective seats.

The ward representatives through the County Assemblies Forum (CAF) have moved to the High Court to challenge the implementation of the requirement that is set to take effect in next year’s General Election.

Addressing a press conference today, CAF Chairperson Ndegwa Wahome and Secretary-General Kipkurui Chepkwony expressed confidence that the court will rule in their favour.

Mr Wahome termed the law unconstitutional saying it will make political seats a preserve of the elite.

“We have sued both Houses of Parliament who enacted this particular law as well as the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC), that is supposed to implement the law, and the AG on behalf of all entities of government which might be involved in the implementation of the law,” he said.

The petition by the MCAs has been certified urgent and the High Court will issue further directions on July 7.

“As county assemblies, we think that that law is unconstitutional as it will deny Kenyans the chance to elect leaders of their choice,” said Wahome.

Mr Chepkwony (Tinderet Ward MCA) told MCAs not to worry about the degree requirement even as polls draw near.

“We want to allay fears by sitting MCAs and those interested in seeking the seats that they need to continue planning and campaigning that no one should be scared,” he said.

He said that the Constitution gives voters the power to elect their preferred representative, saying that implementing the law would be akin to dictating to the electorate whom to elect.

Chepkwony noted that there are some assemblies with only one member with a university degree, implying that if the law was to be implemented the entire membership would be locked out.

Last week, a lobby group and an activist moved to court to stop the implementation of the degree requirement.

Sheria Mtaani lobby group in its application claims that Section 22 of the Elections Act, which states that all candidates for the six elective positions must have at least a university degree, is unconstitutional since it discriminates against people with low education.

Through lawyer Dunstan Omari, the activists want the provision on academic qualifications for elective positions to be suspended.

“That law if implemented will deny voters a right to choose a candidate of their choice who has no university degrees. It will also deny voters a right to freely participate in elections due to the limitation of the people to select during the elections,” argued Mr Omari.

Section 22(1A) of the Elections Act states that a person may be nominated as a candidate for an elective post if only the person has a university degree recognised in Kenya.

“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,” states the Act.

IEBC has already declared that it will not clear any candidate seeking to be elected in any of the six elective positions without a degree certificate.

In Parliament, Elgeyo Marakwet Senator Kipchumba Murkomen also seeking to amend the section and lists ability to read and write as the only requirement for a political seat.

Activist Gloria Orwoba has also filed a petition, challenging the provision on degree requirement for elective posts.

She argued that this will limit the rights of many Kenyans, including the youth, women, elderly and persons living with disability from contesting.

“The section specifically fails to recognise any other form of training and competence other than a degree from a recognised university. This is clear discrimination since we have other good leaders who do not necessarily have the academic qualifications,” argued Orwoba.

According to the youth policy analyst, political leadership does not only require academic qualifications but a person with the necessary skills and integrity to serve the people.

She added that even the government has recognised that it is not only academics that matter in a person’s development and has introduced the Competency-Based Curriculum (CBC) to emphasise on development of skills and knowledge as opposed to academics only.

“Introduction of CBC confirms that skills, training and other knowledge is applicable in real-life situations, which include leadership,” said Orwoba.  

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