Degrees on sale? Politicians fight fake academic papers allegations

The law requires that aspirants seeking to be elected county governor hold at least a university degree. 

Photo credit: Nation Media Group

The issue of politicians acquiring suspect university degrees has been brought into the spotlight again as five candidates for county governor in the forthcoming General Election fight allegations that their academic credentials are fake.

Nairobi Senator Johnson Sakaja, who is vying to ascend to the county governor’s seat, and his Kakamega counterpart Cleophas Malala, also seeekign to rise county’s governor, are among the politicians dragged to court and tribunals over alleged false academic credentials.

Meru Senator Mithika Linturi, who too intends to move up to the governor’s mansion, is also fighting claims of having fake education certificates.

Others whose gubernatorial aspirations could be cut shot on similar grounds are Dagoretti North MP Simba Arati who is vying for Kisii governors and Taita Taveta incumbent Governor Granton Samboja who is seeking a second term.

The law requires that aspirants seeking to be elected county governor hold at least a university degree. 

Mr Sakaja—a frontrunner runner for the Nairobi governors seat after a term in the Senate where he earned the nickname Super Senator—is fighting four separate complaints filed by voters seeking to revoke his clearance for the contest.

He had already been given the all-clear by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission which found his papers in order, but now has to defend himself before Dispute Resolution Committee.

The complainants—Dennis Gakuo Wahome, Evans Kaita, Timothy Ayieko and Alex Musalia—allege that Mr Sakaja’s degree from from Team University in Uganda is fake.

They have also claimed that the senator, who is the United Democratic Alliance (UDA) party candidate, is not a graduate of the University of Nairobi as he has claimed in the past.

The petitioners allege that Mr Sakaja acquired the Team University degree certificate fraudulently and through forgery, adding that his name is not in the school’s list of the 2016 graduates.

They also say it is not clear how he completed the degree course abroad while being a full time Member of the National Assembly between 2013 and 2017 before moving on to the Senate.

Through lawyer Adrian Kamotho, Mr Sakaja rubbished the allegations and asked the Tribunal to dismiss the matter, saying the complaints are “personalised vendetta and smear campaign”. 

He described the allegations that he did not graduate from Team University as “factually hollow and unfounded”, adding that “for nefarious goals, the complainants have fraudulently omitted relevant pages of the graduation booklet that bear my graduation credentials”.

The Senator maintained that he is qualified for governor seat and that his academic credentials are legitimate.

“Among other qualifications and awards of excellence, I hold a Bachelor of Science in Management degree conferred upon me by Team University in Uganda, having satisfied the requirements for the award. Contrary to the false averments by the complainants, Team University in Uganda is duly recognized in the Republic of Uganda and by convention in Kenya,” he said.

He also told off the complainants for referring to him as “Sakaja Koskei Johnson” saying his proper name is “Sakaja Johnson Arthur”.

“I have never been known, identified or addressed by the name ‘Sakaja Koskei Johnson’ in any manner whatsoever, or associated with the person referred to as ‘Sakaja Koskei Johnson’ in the complaint. The person referred as Koskei is a complete stranger to the election for the position of Governor, Nairobi City County, in the general election scheduled for August 9, 2022,” said the senator.

Since the allegations of fake degree are not raised against him but against Koskei, he said, then the complaints are premised on flawed particulars and defective identities. “The complaint herein has miserably and fatally fallen on its own sword”.

In Kisii County, two complaints have been filed against the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) governorship candidate. Voters Moses Ayieko and Wesley Obwang'I allege that Mr Arati does not have the requisite education qualifications. 

Simba Arati

Kisii Governor Simba Arati.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

They claimed that Mr Arati is not a graduate of Jaramogi Oginga Odinga University of Science and Technology and that the academic documents he presented are forgieres.

"Mr Arati does not hold a valid degree from a university recognised in Kenya. The degree certificate purportedly held by him is invalid," they said.

They allege that Mr Arati sat his Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) in the year 1999 at Kisii Suneka secondary school where he allegedly scored 'C' minus.

That grade, they said, could not allow him admission to a degree program in any university in Kenya.

They added that the politician did not complete his studies at Kenya Polytechnic College as he was allegedly expelled after leading a student strike.

"Mr Arati did not and could not have been admitted for a degree program at Jaramogi Oginga Odinga University of Science and Technology and any such purported degree can only be the product of forgery, fraud and corrupt practices," claim the complainants.

The Tribunal will hear the matter on Thursday, June 16.

In Taita Taveta, the controversy surrounding Governor Samboja's candidacy deepened yesterday after a voter petitioned the IEBC Dispute Resolution Committee to revoke his clearance over questionable academic papers. 

Taita Taveta Governor Granton Samboja.

Photo credit: Jeff Angote | Nation Media Group

Mr Jeremiah Kiwoi asked the committee to declare the governor ineligible to participate in the coming election saying the clearance by IEBC offends Chapter Six of the Constitution and statutory provisions on integrity.

The voter faulted IEBC for clearing Mr Samboja despite “overwhelming evidence” pointing to falsification of his academic papers and lack of integrity.

“The clearance of the governor to run for elections as a gubernatorial candidate will greatly aggrieve the residents of Taita Taveta County, who for the last five years have had to contend with the leadership of an unqualified person as their governor, one whom the EACC investigated and established did not meet the educational requirement to contest for the position of governor,” reads the petition.

He claimed that the governor was found to have fabricated academic certificates after Kenyatta University confirmed that he was not a student of the college for his undergraduate studies.

Earlier during a rally in Mwakiki area in Voi, Mr Samboja hit out at his opponents for attacking his academic performance and urged them to instead sell their agendas to voters.

He insisted he had the intellectual capacity to lead the county and he will not bow to pressure from his opponents.

In Kakamega, Senator Malala’s quest for governor is facing a challenge at the courts after two voters, Frankline Shilingi and Fred Muka, alleged that he is ineligible.

Yesterday, Mr Malala asked the High Court to quash the case, saying it was brought prematurely as the petitioners needed to have filed the matter before the Disputes Resolution Committee.

The petitioners claimed that the senator mr  not have a university degree and that his secondary school certificates are also disputed.

Mr Muka alleges that Mr Malala never graduated from the United States International University (USIU) as he has been claiming, adding that even his

Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) certificate bears a different Kenya National Examination Council (KNEC) code from the official code issued to Friends School Kamusinga. 

Through his lawyers Maureen Odeck and Charles Malala, the Senator Malala told Justice Patrick Otieno that the petition, if allowed would amount to usurping of the mandate of IEBC to handle disputes related to the nomination process. HE said the court lacked jurisdiction to handle at this stage.

The IEBC backed Mr Malala’s position, and wants the petition and application dismissed, arguing they were seeking the court to interfere and direct the electoral agency on how to carry out it’s constitutional and legal mandate.

The petitioners, however, argued that the matter of the qualification of a candidate for governor was a constitutional issues and so the court had jurisdiction to hear it.

Justice Otieno will deliver his ruling on Tuesday next week.

In Meru, Mr Linturi is fighting various suits challenging his eligibility. He is alleged to have faked university papers. 

Mithika Linturi

Mr Mithika Linturi.

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The complainants claim that Mr Linturi forged academic documents from the Marathwada University, now known as Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar Marathwada University in Aurangabad, Maharashtra State in the Republic of India. The matter is pending at the High Court. 

Reporting by Joseph Wangui, Lucy Mkanyika, Benson Amadala And Richard Munguti