Kenyan political aspirants must have degrees

All Kenyan presidential, parliamentary and Senate aspirants in the next General Election must have degrees.

MPs introduced the new provisions in the Elections Act Thursday, raising minimum academic standards for parliamentary and Senate aspirants to a degree.

Those vying to sit in the County Assembly save for the governor and his deputy, will also require post-secondary education. The law prescribes that the governor and the deputy must have degrees.

The move is a response to the public outcry on earlier attempts to exempt aspirants from the academic qualifications.

The effect is that a number of the currently serving MPs who only hold secondary school qualifications and post-secondary diplomas will fall on the wayside and pave way for their more qualified opponents.

The House resolution came barely a day after MPs had passed amendments to the Elections Act, exempting themselves from the high academic requirements in the next General Election.

A number of MPs affected by the amendment were caught off guard only realising later that they had sanctioned a provision that could lock them out from contesting in the polls.

Canvass various positions

The amendment through the Statute Law (Miscellaneous amendments) Bill 2012 sparked a heated debate as MPs canvassed their various positions, leaving some in confusion in the process.

On Wednesday night, Bura MP Dr Abdi Nuh moved amendments to Sections 21 and 22 deleting provisions in 21(3) and 21 (4) and inserting a new sub-section after sub-section (2)-(3).

The new insertion stated that despite the provisions of the section, a person who immediately prior to the first general election held under the Act held the office MP or councillor would qualify for nomination as a candidate for election as an MP or as a member of a county assembly in the first general election held under the Act.

The new provision was deleted Thursday morning following a proposed amendment by Transport Minister Amos Kimunya. The minister came in with a suggestion that aspirants for the 2012 General Election are exempted from the academic requirements but the same be observed strictly effective 2017.

He argued that this will serve as a reprieve for current legislators and councillors who would have a chance to use the five years to study and acquire the relevant academic papers.

A section of MPs held a different view from the amendments passed on Wednesday night, including Mr Kimunya’s suggestion instead demanding high academic standards not only for the next President and his deputy, County Governor and his deputy but also for MPs starting next General Election.

Yatta MP Charles Kilonzo led the section of MPs who argued that MPs should not have unfair advantage from the rest of Kenyans with regard to academic qualifications for jobs.

“Mr Speaker Sir, I know we are trying to help some of us, but as Hon Dr Joyce Laboso said when she was contributing to the Elections Law before it was enacted, we cannot legislate for we MPs,” he said.

“If this amendment was saying we are going to lower academic qualifications until the next General Election then it is unfair and unconstitutional. If we don’t have qualifications today, then let other people with qualifications have an opportunity to serve,” he stated.

Entry level qualifications

Finance minister Robinson Githae said experts at the Salaries and Remuneration Commission have alerted the government that part of the considerations to be made in determination of salaries of MPs will be determined by entry level of qualifications.

“The commission is trying to allocate salaries based on academic qualifications, workload and responsibilities. It is important we have some higher qualifications so that when the salaries are being reviewed MPs don't lose out because they don’t have degrees,” he stated.

Ikolomani MP Dr Boni Khalwale said it was clear that Kenyans were not ready to accommodate the proposed changes and the House must take cue.

“Whereas we have given MPs and councillors reprieve, the public seems un-accommodative of the same,” he said as MPs to the discomfort of some MPs who murmured in response.

But he went ahead to say it was evident that Kenyans were opposed to the changes. “The voice of Kenyans is clear and it is out there on FM stations, print media and internet, voters don’t want that and so let us make a decision based on what the country saying about education standards of leaders,” he said.

Assistant minister Peter Munya, opposing, said Form 4 education was sufficient to produce a competitive leader. He said Parliament cannot legislate on such a matter since it is voters who choose their leaders, irrespective of academic standards.

He claimed there were less than 200,000 Kenyans with degrees, an argument dismissed by his Wajir West MP Adan Keynan who said it was an insult to Kenyans with degrees.

“Kenyans have gone to school, Kenyans are not illiterate, we cannot legislate for a select group."