Chebukati in Court to Block 'Illiterate' Leaders

  • IEBC Chairman Wafula Chebukati addressing the press during a past event.
    IEBC Chairman Wafula Chebukati, addressing the press during a past event.
  • The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) on Friday, August 6 moved to court seeking to block the withdrawal of a matter requiring all contestants in elective politics to possess a university degree.

    IEBC, in its court papers, argues that removing education qualifications for all elective and nominated positions would be absurd and offend the constitution which requires Parliament to enact legislation on such qualifications. 

    The commission also argues that it was not correct that Members of the County Assembly (MCAs) perform unique roles deserving fewer education qualifications.

    Elgeyo Marakwet Senator Kipchumba Murkomen
    Elgeyo Marakwet Senator Kipchumba Murkomen addressing the media at a past function.

    In June this year, the electoral body chairman, Wafula Chebukati, announced that all elected Members of County Assembly and MPs would be required to hold a degree from a recognized university to be eligible to contest in the 2022 General Election.

    “We will follow the law, and the Elections Act clearly states that all candidates in the six elective positions must have a university degree to be able to qualify to run for office,” stated Chebukati.

    Previously, only the President, his deputy, governors and their deputies were required to be holders of at least a bachelor's degree certificate.

    This announcement, however, did not sit well with many parliamentarians. The announcement prompted Elgeyo Marakwet Senator, Kipchumba Murkomen, to draft a bill seeking to amend Section 22 of the Elections Act, 2011.

    In the proposed amendment, Murkomen wanted anyone who is able to read and write in English or Swahili or, in the case of a person who is deaf or hard of hearing, is literate in the Kenya sign language, is eligible to vie in the polls.

    “The provision as contained in the Elections Act is not only restrictive but discriminates against people who may not have a degree as it implies that only people who have a degree have the capacity to serve in public office,” stated Senator Murkomen in his submission to the Senate.

    On Tuesday, June 15, two other citizens also petitioned the National Assembly to repeal the bill.

    Anthony Manyara and John Wangai argued that the section is unconstitutional to the extent that they are discriminatory, inconsistent with the constitutional provisions in the Bill of Rights and against the will and sovereignty of the people.

    “The petitioners claim that the university degree requirement will make political leadership a preserve of the elite and will disenfranchise a number of good leaders who may not have been privileged to pursue higher education,” stated Speaker Justin Muturi while reading out the petition to members of the National Assembly.

    In 2016, Parliament amended the Principal Act to allow only those with degrees from recognised universities in Kenya to be allowed to run for political office.

    However, the 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.

    Former IEBC Commissioner Roselyn Akombe (left), Chairman Wafula Chebukati and former CEO Ezra Chiloba,
    Former IEBC Commissioner Roselyn Akombe (left), Chairman Wafula Chebukati and former CEO Ezra Chiloba.