Last week’s opinion calling for the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission and the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission to bar questionable aspirants earned me a couple of unsolicited and annoyed texts. At the risk of provoking a few more, lets resume the conversation now that the EACC has analysed aspirants seeking certificates to contest in the General Elections
President Kenyatta’s last Madaraka Day speech was arguably one of his finest. Reminding the nation that Madaraka Day marks the moment that an African administration resumed self-rule and control of Kenya, he distinguished the triumphant victory of Uhuru Gardens. Seventy years ago, Uhuru Gardens was the location of a concentration camp designed to torture, maim, and break tens of thousands of patriots. Barely two generations later, persons likely to be on the ballot in August had grabbed 68 acres of this hallowed ground.
On the eve of Madaraka Day, the EACC released its list of 241 aspirants not compliant with Chapter six in response to a request by the IEBC for advice. The list deserves to be read by all. Applying Chapter 6 of the Constitution, the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission Act (2011), Anti-Corruption and Economic Crimes Act (2003), Public Officers Ethics Act (2003), Leadership and Integrity Act (2012) and Bribery Act (2016), the EACC identify a wide range of offences that include human rights violations, abuse of office, stealing and misusing public resources and lying to the public about academic qualifications.
Quick math suggests that the EACC is deeply concerned about one per cent of the 21,863 aspirants who seek to be on your ballot paper for presidential, gubernatorial, parliamentary, and county assembly positions. Those accused of economic crimes are responsible for stealing over Sh 2 billion. Six per cent of those seeking joint presidential tickets and 10 per cent seeking joint gubernatorial tickets are among them.
While the EACC list contains many of the aspirants in the civic led National Integrity Alliance red card, it is however, ten times longer. The list falls significantly short of last month’s Interior Ministry analysis that over 40 per cent of the winners of primaries are economic criminals. Perhaps the Interior Ministry or the National Intelligence Services could now also publicly release a detailed list in the public interest?
Now that the IEBC have been advised, they must abandon making the case for tainted aspirants. Quoting Articles 99(3) and 193(3) to justify dirty aspirants’ arguments that all appeals must first be exhausted is just not, in the public interest. A broader reading of the constitution would lead the IEBC to reinforce the ethical threshold in Chapter 6. Persons who have been charged, convicted, or impeached do not meet the mandatory moral and ethical qualification for clearance to vie. Article 75(3) of the constitution provides that a person who has been dismissed from office for contravening Articles 75(1), 76, 77 or 78(1) stands disqualified from holding any other state office.
The IEBC should simply bar them and leave it to the handful of aspirants cited to clear their names in court. Should the IEBC take this course, a battery of pro bono lawyers will predictably rise to protect both the commission and the nation. If this fails, paybill exists. Purely on a cost-benefit analysis, it costs citizens less to fund the IEBC defence than watch another Kenyan remake of “The Italian Job”.
The hands of the IEBC are not tied. Nor do I believe, they are softies. Now the EACC has clearly spoken, the Commissioners and Staff must not clear or gazette tainted candidates. Convicted persons or persons not yet cleared by a court of law, have no ethical authority to exercise oversight or management over public resources. It’s not personal or punitive, it is simply the rule of law and a call to patriotism in the memory of the martyrs we honoured this Wednesday.
Let us not lose the only window of opportunity available to save our country from further moral decay and future economic collapse.
This opinion was also published in Saturday Standard, 4 June 2022