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Politicians should be barred from polls on integrity grounds

By Kimani Njuguna | August 16th 2016

We have less than one year to the General Election. It is for this reason we are quite happy to learn that political aspirants of questionable integrity will be blocked from participating in the next General Election.

The Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) and the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) have declared only candidates who will comply with Chapter Six of the Constitution on Leadership and Integrity will be cleared to seek elective posts.

To make things much better, the National Cohesion and Integration Commission (NCIC) is also seeking a role in the vetting exercise, with a view to blocking hate mongers from participating in elections.

NCIC Chairman Francis Ole Kaparo informed us that people charged with hate speech will be blocked from seeking elective posts.

Already, EACC and IEBC are collaborating to ensure political candidates fill Self-Declaration Forms early enough to allow thorough scrutiny before they can be cleared to contest.

Filling of these forms should be done early enough to allow investigations so that what candidates present are actual clearance from EACC.

This reform agenda seeks to strengthen strategic engagement with EACC on the best vetting mechanisms to enable sufficient investigations and clearance by way of being issued with a certificate.

The electoral commission added that vetting in the last polls was not thorough as was intended because of the introduction of the declaration form, which it said, provided loopholes in the exercise.

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This form, as was noted in 2013, watered down all mechanisms because candidates presented forms claiming to have been signed by EACC only for complaints to be received way after elections.

IEBC said it cleared candidates on the basis that Self Declaration Forms had been sworn before EACC.

It also added that it will be ruthless in ensuring that all candidates seeking to run have genuine academic papers by vetting the authenticity of the education certificates.

According to IEBC Chief Executive Officer Ezra Chiloba, the commission is already engaging the integration and cohesion agency to gather data on hate-mongers.

Also, they are collaborating with the NCIC, which deals with hate  speech and EACC for integrity, and there is a conversation over the vetting of candidates.

Furthermore, IEBC is collaborating with the police, the Directorate of Public Prosecutions and the Commission on Administrative Justice to ensure all offenders are blocked.

The NCIC wants a regulation making it mandatory for individuals seeking seats to obtain social cohesion certificates before they are cleared to run for office.

In a report to the Justice and Legal Affairs Committee, the EACC said vetting of candidates will be one of its priorities in the current financial year.

The agency said it will be thorough in vetting the current leaders right from governors to the MCAs.

This is exactly what all ordinary Kenyans are craving for as we approach the 2017 General Election. This is because, the Constitution is quite clear on who should hold a public office, and on integrity and leadership.

It is for this reason that all agencies should ensure they take a decision and make it public so that all Kenyans are aware on what basis they are choosing their leaders.

Indeed, until these agencies bar candidates from contesting on integrity grounds, politicians will never uphold the constitutional requirement.

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