MPs, senators, governors must hold degrees

Written By Michael Maunda on Saturday, June 23, 2012 | 2:08 AM

Lawmakers yesterday beat a hasty retreat on their Wednesday night decision to remove the clause requiring all aspirants for political office to be university graduates. During the extended session to debate the Elections Act and the Political Parties Act presented in the House through the State (miscelleanous amendment Bill) an omnibus legislation that enables  a review of multiples laws at a go, MPs removed the requirement for a university degree as the minimum academic qualification for those seeking to vie for any elective posts. The proposal was made by Bura MP Dr Abdi Nuh.

However, yesterday, the MPs changed their minds and reinserted the provision in the law that will now require aspirants for presidential, governor, senate and parliamentary office have a university degree. Honorary degrees will not be considered. The requirement takes effect from next year's general election. Any aspirant for these posts who does not meat the academic qualification will not be cleared by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission.  

However, aspirants for country representative will be spared this and will now be required to have a minimum academic qualification of a post secondary school qualification recognised in Kenya. The change was prompted by Transport minister Amos Kimunya who argued that the minimum academic qualifications should be reinserted as education was important for those seeking elective posts. “It is only fair that we move this way while we give a window for people to catch up,” said Kimunya.

Kimunya's amendment sailed through after heated debate as some of the MPs opposed the proposal saying it should be suspended until the 2017 elections. Opposing the Kimunya amendment, Charles Kilonzo (Yatta) described it as 'unconstitutional' while his Tigania East colleague Peter Munya said the clause was 'dictatorial'.

Munya said many of the people who are now considered great never went to formal school. He cited Prime Minister Winston Churchill, the British Conservative politician and statesman known for his leadership of the United Kingdom during the Second World War and widely regarded as one of the greatest wartime leaders of the century.

Supporting the amendment, Finance minister Njeru Githae said the Salaries and Remuneration Commission will consider the education levels when reviewing the salaries of state officers and other civil servants. He said the House should not be seen as comprised of people with lower education as that could affect their pay.

Ikolomani MP Bonny Khalwale said Kenyans were unwilling to support uneducated leaders and these sentiments have had been captured by the media. He warned the MPs that they faced rejection at the ballot as majority of the voters were opposed to voting for any 'uneducated MPs.'  Wajir West MP Adan Keynan supposed the amendment and said one of the reasons Kenyans voted in a new constitution was to address historical injustices in leadership including related to education. 

 Keynan said the country cannot lack educated persons to vie for political positions. “Kenyans have gone to school. Kenya is not an illiterate society,” he said appealing to the MPs to stop legislating with individuals in mind as the law they enacted would be for posterity. 

Public Service Minister Dalmas Otieno  said even in the civil service, there were minimum academic qualifications before anyone was promoted. He said minimum academic qualifications had also been set for those serving in commissions and Parliament should not be the exception. “We cannot derogate standards for National Assembly and Senate,” said Dalmas. 

Medical Services Minister Anyang’ Nyong’o, said those elected will be responsible for interviewing and vetting people who will work in high offices and therefore it was imperative that they were also educated. Other changes effected to the Elections Act include allowing a presidential loser and the running mate nominated back to Parliament by their parties.

The MPs also cleared the way for party hopping as long as such defections are done 45 days before the election date. The amendment that would have seen presidential aspirants also running for the senate, governor or parliamentary seats was however defeated. The Statute Law (Miscellaneous Amendments) Bill now goes to President Kibaki for his signature.

The Star