Campaigns for Kenya's next elections might be a nightmare for candidates following the enactment of tough laws that prohibit use of dirty tricks, limit use of money, and make hate speech an offense.
The Elections Act, the Campaign Finance Bill — which is set to be debated in Parliament, and the National Cohesion and Integration Act will seek to tame the culture of negative campaign propaganda, mudslinging, use of armed groups and voter bribery.
This means that the use of SMS and e-mails to besmirch rivals is forbidden. Violent language at campaign rallies and negative media advertising have also been banned.
And this comes as presidential aspirants upped their campaigns in search of delegates who will support their bids for State House as required by the Political Parties Act and the Elections Act.
The aspirants have put in place teams to raise funds and run their campaign secretariats.
They are also recruiting political strategists and media and communications experts, who will have to work under strict conditions as the race to succeed President Kibaki gathers pace.
“They are headed for trouble. The new laws and the Constitution have changed everything and I advise them to read and understand what it requires of them,” warned Justice minister Mutula Kilonzo.
The minister said he will soon ask the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission to use its enhanced powers to control politicians he accused of violating the law in their rallies.
“The IEBC has prosecutorial powers and I am soon going to ask them to starting showing that they have teeth. We can’t allow the politics of the 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s to prevail this time round,” he said.
The new laws ban candidates from raising money from foreign sources. They also cap at Sh5 million what a single donor can contribute.
Candidates who use official vehicles or other public resources for campaigning could be jailed for two years or fined Sh1 million.
According to the minister, those who use money and threats to get votes will be disqualified; as will those who will donate in harambees (fundraisers), even through proxies like wives and personal assistants. (READ: Sh1m fine for taking bribe from Kenyan politician)
Checks on use of money at political campaigns will be enhanced by a new law on its way to Parliament aimed at eliminating bribery of politicians by business people and other special interest groups.
The Campaign Finance Bill requires the electoral commission to form a campaign finance committee.
Members include the Registrar of Political Parties, the Controller of Budget and two IEBC nominees.