Sakaja: State interference must fail at the altar of truth and fairness

Nairobi Senator Johnson Sakaja

Nairobi Senator Johnson Sakaja.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

Talk over degree qualifications has been in the air since the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) began confirming candidates for the August 9 election.

Some aspirants for the presidency and gubernatorial seats have fallen short of the basic qualification – the degree certificate. Nairobi’s United Democratic Alliance (UDA) governor candidate Johnson Arthur Sakaja received the nod from the IEBC after satisfying the county returning officer that he had met all the requirements.

But he has been pursued from all corners at the IEBC Disputes Resolution Committee and beyond. Four complaints were laid at the electoral agency’s tribunal, though, when the rubber hit the road, three complainants did not pursue their petitions. This was expected after Mr Sakaja posted documents online showing that his academic certificate had the nod of Uganda’s Team University and that country’s National Council of Higher Education.

But the state’s hand, too, was writ large. Kenya’s Commission for University Education (CUE), which had cleared Mr Sakaja barely a week earlier, turned round and claimed to have commenced investigation on the legitimacy of his certificate.

But it did not stop there; it went ahead to purport to revoke the university degree. This action raised eyebrows because communication to Mr Sakaja was signed by the chairman of the commission, but on the letterhead of the chief executive officer.

Clearly, basic company management practice was expediently thrown out of the window to satisfy malevolent forces. Such an issue is not a board matter; it is the domain of the management under the CEO or managing director. The chairman of the CUE clearly acted beyond the powers of his office.

State machinery

But the most emphatic tell-tale signature of the state machinery’s all-out manouvres to stop Mr Sakaja from running, and more or less guarantee the Jubilee candidate a clear thoroughfare to City Hall, was a letter the Nairobi senator shared on his social media platforms. Well, more or less because the less said about the other gubernatorial candidates the better.

The letter, which left no doubt of the interference of the state in the Nairobi senator’s matter, was written by the Kenyan charge d’affaires (chief of mission in the absence of the high commissioner) in Uganda, Mr Richard Mutwota.

He wrote to Team University, requesting to be provided with Mr Sakaja’s student registration details and the university graduation list. He was ostensibly doing this on behalf of the IEBC!

He wrote: “One of the aspirants of the governor’s seat in Nairobi County, Johnson Sakaja Arthur, presented a degree certificate and transcripts from Team University in Kampala, Uganda, to the IEBC. As part of the vetting process, the IEBC is expected to determine the authenticity of the documents in collaboration with the issuing institutions.”

The diplomat did not stop there: “The high commission requests a copy of the student’s registration and graduation list (booklet), indicating the year Johnson Sakaja Arthur registered as a student and graduated after his studies. The two documents will be used by the IEBC in the process of authenticating the documents presented by Senator Sakaja Johnson Arthur.”

Note how the diplomat interchanges Mr Sakaja’s name – from Johnson Sakaja Arthur to Sakaja Johnson Arthur.

It goes without saying that, like the CUE chairman, the diplomat boxed above his pay grade. He is neither an agent of the IEBC nor of the university education commission. It is not clear how Team University treated this on-the-face violation of the law.

Was it unknown to Mr Mutwota that the CUE had already played its statutory role to the satisfaction of the electoral agency? Who had pushed an official of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to such an errand?

Doubting Thomases

It must now be apparent to all, including doubting Thomases and apologists, that the outgoing government is determined to push its way this election and have its imprint in key areas. Nairobi is but an example. Mr Sakaja is a target because of two key reasons: He is in UDA, the party of Deputy President William Ruto, Azimio’s waking nightmare, and that the city county is the flashy cow that never stops giving.

Mr Sakaja must give a firm undertaking to the residents of Nairobi that the city will take its pride of place after the August 9 General Election, and stop being a province and appendage of unaccountable, unelected and unelectable forces. Is there any need to ask Jubilee candidate Polycarp Igathe to give a similar commitment?

In Mr Sakaja’s documents online is another letter. The Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) wrote to CUE chief executive enquiring about his qualifications. Has the EACC queried any other candidate’s academic papers? Did the the commission make the move sui moto (on its own motion) or was it moved?

There is one government agency that should authenticate a degree certificate from a university abroad, and that is the CUE through its counterpart in the foreign country. In Mr Sakaja’s case, the CUE sought information on his qualifications. The National Council of Higher Education in Uganda, in turn, sought the answers from Team University and the response was positive. That settled the matter on Mr Sakaja’s degree qualification. It should remain as such.


The writer works in William Ruto’s presidential campaign; [email protected]

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