Haji, EACC want tainted candidates locked out

Anti-graft body and DPP stand their ground that aspirants with questionable integrity be barred from upcoming polls.

Two state agencies dealing with corruption and prosecution have maintained that politicians facing cases in court are not fit to seek or hold public office.

Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) chief executive Twalib Mbarak and Director of Public Prosecutions Noordin Haji said they will not change their stand, which differs from the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission’s (IEBC’s).

The electoral agency said those with cases are still innocent and free to run for any elective post. But Mr Mbarak said their agencies have played their role in trying to block politicians with questionable integrity, but their efforts have been futile as such leaders have taken advantage of legal loopholes to make their way into public office. 

“Our work as EACC is to inform IEBC of the integrity of candidates presented to them to clear for an elective post,” he said, adding that they have helped the IEBC with information on the integrity of each of aspirant.

“We have even told the IEBC that this candidate is facing a murder charge, the other one is under probe. These governors are facing corruption cases and so many.”

The EACC boss said there is need to relook at certain sections of the Constitution to bar people with questionable integrity from public office. He regretted that uncountable number of leaders with questionable integrity are occupying or vying for public offices.

“In Kenya today, we have people, including MPs, holding senior positions in government but have fake papers. Their cases are in court and we know that, but if you try to stop them from vying, you are referred to Article 99 of the Constitution [on qualifications and disqualifications for election as member of Parliament],” he said.

He said the commission has flagged a number of aspirants with fake papers and integrity issues even after they were cleared by the IEBC.  “We have talked to the IEBC about this, but they have told us the politicians are using the courts to get clearance. This is one of the challenges we are facing.”

Mr Mbarak called on Kenyans to reject people whose integrity has been tainted by criminal cases, adding that the commission has received reports of Standard 7 dropouts running for governor. 

“They have degrees but dropped out of Class Seven and Form Two. You are a Class Seven dropout but have a degree, so where did you complete your secondary education? We have a big problem and the law is one of them,” he said.

“There are governors whom we have charged in court. Some are known to have escaped from prison. There is a record that he escaped from prison, but he is still being viewed as an innocent man.”

According to the EACC, there is adequate record at Shimo La Tewa Prisons to prove that former Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko escaped from the facility. “What should be done to a person who escaped from prison? He needs to be rearrested and taken back there. There is no pestering anyone. The law must be followed. [Besides this incident], I have never heard of a person who escaped from prison but was not arrested and returned to prison,” he said.

Mr Haji said politicians who have court cases and those who had been impeached should not be in the ballot. “Though this is a matter that is before the court, you cannot be impeached in Nairobi then relocate to Mombasa to vie for the same seat. There are about three governors who suffered the same impeachment. It will be a mockery of the law to allow such people to vie again.”

Mr Haji also clarified that his office did not suspend the prosecution of politicians involved in graft but only changed priority to deal with election-related offences. He said his statement was misunderstood as the office has not suspended any corruption case to allow suspects to campaign. “There was a misunderstanding; what we said is that we are prioritising election offences that are related to electoral violence and corruption.”

The DPP said his office is currently prioritising resources, expertise and abilities to pay attention to elections and any other challenge that the General Election may present. The two spoke in Mombasa at the fourth regional conference of the International Association of Prosecutors.

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