Earlier this week, Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) Chairman Wafula Chebukati announced that only those with degrees will be allowed to vie in the polls in compliance with the Section 22 of the Elections Act, 2011 requiring all candidates vying for Parliamentary and County Assembly positions to hold a Bachelor’s degree.
However, Elgeyo Marakwet Senator Kipchumba Murkomen has moved to draft a bill seeking to amend the Act, proposing an amendment that will see anyone who is able to read and write in the English or Swahili languages or, in the case of a person who is deaf or hard of hearing, is literate the Kenya sign language be eligible to vie.
“The provision as contained in the Elections Act is not only restrictive but discriminates against persons who may not have a degree as it implies that only persons who have a degree have the capacity to serve in public office,” stated Senator Murkomen in his submission to the Senate.
The amendment is premised on Article 38(3) of the Constitution, which provides that “every adult citizen has a right, without unreasonable restrictions, to be registered as a voter, to vote by secret ballot in any election of referendum, and to be a candidate for public office or office within a political party of which the citizen is a member and elected, to hold office”.
On Tuesday, two citizens petitioned the National Assembly to repeal Section 22(1)(b) of the Elections Act, 2011.
Anthony Manyara and John Wangai argued that the section is unconstitutional to the extent that it is discriminatory, inconsistent with the constitutional preserves 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 the petition as read out in the House by Speaker Justin Muturi.
According to 2019 census report, there are 1.3 million Kenyans who hold university degree. Out of this number, Frontier counties have fewer degree holders compared to other regions.
The census report shows that Turkana County has 1,432 degree holders, Wajir 2,128, Mandera 2,183, Garissa 3, 292 and Samburu 2, 613.
However, there are sub-counties with fewer than 20 university degree holders; Balambala in Garissa with a total of 18 degree holders, with 13 of them being men and 5 women.
Kibish in Turkana has a total of 37 degree holders, with 28 being men and 9 women. Lafey in Mandera has 88 degree holders with 62 being men and 26 women. Eldas in Wajir has 88 degree holders with 65 being and 23 women.
Tarba in Wajir has a total of 52 degree holders with 38 being men and 14 women. Buna in the same county has a total of 67 degree holders with 58 being men and 9 women.
Turkana North has a total of 139 degree holders out of which 115 are men and 24 women.
The university degree requirement, therefore, will make political leadership a preserve of the elite and block out a good number of good leaders who may not have been privileged to pursue higher education.