Kenyans charged with corruption and other economic crimes will be locked out of next year’s polls if MPs approve proposed changes to the laws on elections, leadership and integrity.
Aspirants with active court cases will be barred from running for the position of President, Member of Parliament, or Member of the County Assembly (MCA) under the proposed amendments to the Elections Act and the Leadership and Integrity Act.
Presidential hopeful William Ruto is one of those taunted by corruption allegations instigated by the state.
“A person is not qualified for nomination as a presidential candidate if the person has been formally charged in a court of law for an offence related to corruption or economic crimes and the case has not been finalised,” says the Elections (Amendment) Bill, 2021.
Article 99 of the Constitution disqualifies a person from being elected a Member of Parliament if the person is subject to a sentence of imprisonment of at least six months, as at the date of registration as a candidate, or at the date of the election.
However, the law has a rider that a person is not disqualified unless all possibility of appeal or review of the sentence has been exhausted.
This loophole has allowed individuals charged with offences to seek elective seats despite the cases going on in court.
Aspirants for political seats have also capitalised on the principle of presumption of innocence to get clearance from the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) and the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC).
The legal principle holds that every person accused of any crime is considered innocent until proven guilty. As such, a prosecutor is required to prove beyond reasonable doubt that the person committed the crime if that person is to be convicted.
The Bill sponsored by Ugunja MP Opiyo Wandayi seeks to amend sections 23, 24, and 25 of the Elections Act.
About 15 serving MPs have ongoing graft and other economic crimes-related cases in court.
For example, Sirisia MP John Waluke is out on bond after being convicted for illegal acquisition of Sh297 million through a suspect maize supply deal to the National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB).
Lugari MP Ayub Savula is facing charges of fraudulently obtaining Sh122 million from the Government Advertising Agency (GAA) while Kibwezi West MP Patrick Musimba is charged with stealing Sh1.1 billion from Chase Bank. Nandi Hills MP Alfred Keter is facing multiple counts related to the forgery of Sh633 million Treasury Bills.
Nyeri MP Rigathi Gachagua and his eight business associates have also been charged with alleged fraudulent acquisition of public funds and conspiracy to defraud the Nyeri county government Sh27.4 million.
The eight include Mr Gachagua’s close ally and Mathira National Government-Constituency Development Fund manager William Wahome Mwangi, who is also chairman of Tana Water Works Development Agency.
Proposed amendments to the Leadership and Integrity Act, 2012 provide for temporary suspension of a State or Public officer who has been charged for corruption or other serious crimes related to corruption.
“A State officer who is formally charged in a court of law shall cease to perform the functions of the office pending finalisation of the court case,” the Bill states.