University students yesterday asked MPs to repeal a law that introduced an electoral college system for picking student leaders, saying it took away their constitutional right to vote.
Appearing before the National Assembly’s Education Committee, student representatives from 71 public universities said the system created loopholes for vice-chancellors to micromanage it.
The students also said the system killed charismatic leadership, arguing that under the old election system, candidates for top positions campaigned across all constituent colleges.
The students were accompanied by Embakasi East MP Babu Owino, a former student leader, who asked fellow MPs to scrutinise the negative impact of the current system and amend the rules to give all students the freedom to elect their leaders by direct voting.
“The electoral college system was specifically introduced to target me, because I had contested at the University of Nairobi four times and it was believed that the elections were causing chaos at the time,” Mr Owino.
“The punishment was meant for me but it has trickled down to the current students. The Kenyan Constitution allows for universal voting.”
Presenting the students’ petition, Amos Ndung’u Kamotho, a student leader, said they want the repeal of sections 41(1C), (1D) and (1E) of the Universities Act, 2012 in order to replace the electoral college system with direct voting based on universal suffrage.
Mr Kamotho said the electoral college was designed to limit the voice of students and university administrators have been manipulating elected leaders.
“Once the electoral college representatives are chosen, (they) can sell their vote to the highest bidder running for office,” he said.
Nominated MP Wilson Sossion supported the petition, saying that students have a right to vote for leaders of their choice in a democratic system under the Constitution.
Migori Women Rep Pamela Ochieng, who supported the students’ proposals, said the petition needed to be checked thoroughly before any amendments are made.
The electoral college system was introduced by Garissa Township MP Aden Duale by a 2015 amendment to the Universities Act and was later signed into law.
The law allows students to vote for delegates representing different schools and departments who then vote for student leaders in elections.
Kilome MP Thuddeus Nzambia also supported the students: “I strongly support this petition. Let’s see where there are gaps and do justice to our students.”
Committee chair Florence Mutua said MPs will invite other stakeholders to offer their views on the petition before lawmakers make their recommendations.