State agencies back case to block graft suspects from August polls

Activist Okiya Omtatah during an interview with The Standard.[David Njaaga, Standard]

Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) and the Commission on Administrative Justice (CAJ) have backed a case seeking to bar aspirants implicated in graft or those whose integrity is questionable barred from participating in the coming elections.

The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC), in its response to the case filed by activist Okiya Omtatah, has said it cannot block aspirants from vying for seats, citing the 2013 verdict by the High Court clearing President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto to vie even when they were facing crimes against humanity charges at the International Criminal Court.

But EACC and CAJ took a different stand from the electoral commission when they maintained that only men and women of integrity should be on the ballot. EACC argued those who have been indicted for abuse of office or are facing cases of misusing public offices, violation of Chapter Six of the Constitution, corruption as well as criminal charges should be kept off public office.

“The said constitutional and statutory leadership and integrity thresholds must be satisfied by all candidates in the General Election. The qualifications under Articles 99 and 193 of the Constitution are mandatory and applicable to the different elective positions,” EACC said. The anti-graft further said the right to hold a public office can be limited by a government or the court. The agency added: “This honourable court, in its interpretation of the said sections of the Constitution, should declare that the requirement to satisfy the qualifications set out under the law is mandatory and that is cleared by the IEBC to vie is not an absolute right under the constitution."

Omtatah, in his case, has trained his guns on business persons who were implicated in the Covid-19 scandal, stating that IEBC is likely to give them a green light to contest.

“The IEBC will be able to vet aspirants for political office to ensure they satisfy any moral and ethical requirements prescribed by the Constitution or by an Act of Parliament,” he stated in his court papers.

The activist claimed that in December 2020, EACC officers arrested a Kenyan for receiving a bribe and he was even sacked. But on March 2021, the man had earned a nomination to run for a parliamentary seat in a highly contested by-election. In May 2021, he won the election notwithstanding the fact he had been charged before a court of law.

He added: ”It is a matter of concern that many people adversely mentioned in the theft of public funds, including the so-called Covid-19 billionaires, are lining up to vie in the August 9.”

According to him, allowing persons with tainted pasts to vie for public office is a threat to Kenya’s constitutional order. Omtatah said electing such leaders is detrimental to the country’s good governance