Falsified credentials? Politicians with questioned academic papers

Meru Senator Mithika Linturi, MP Oscar Sudi and Taita Taveta Governor Granton Samboja

Meru Senator Mithika Linturi (left), Kapseret MP Oscar Sudi (centre) and Taita Taveta Governor Granton Samboja. They are among politicians already in court defending the authenticity of their academic papers.

As the General Election date draws closer, the electoral commission will be confronted with disputes on the authenticity of academic credentials and integrity of various candidates.

Some politicians currently in office are already in court defending the authenticity of their academic papers, although they were cleared in 2017 based on the same documents.

They include Taita Taveta Governor Granton Samboja, Kapseret MP Oscar Sudi and Meru Senator Mithika Linturi, who have been cleared by their respective political parties – ODM and UDA – to defend their seats in the August 9 elections.

Interestingly, the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) cleared them, alongside others ‘blacklisted’ over alleged ethical offences, despite the anti-corruption watchdog flagging their education papers as “false” and “fake”.

The Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC), in a May 30 2017 report, submitted 106 names of candidates for various elective positions to the IEBC, saying they were culpable of different ethical offences.

Though the EACC is preparing to furnish the IEBC with another integrity report for the 2022 election candidates, the agency has already declared that it cannot bar or disqualify an aspirant based on the findings of the EACC, because the latter is not a court of law or a quasi-judicial body.

Other high-flying officials who were cleared by the IEBC but found themselves in court fighting allegations of fake academic papers include former Kiambu governor Ferdinand Waititu, Machakos Senator Agnes Kavindu Muthama and Mombasa Governor Hassan Joho.

Mr Sudi is under trial for allegedly forging his academic documents so as to be cleared by the IEBC to vie for the Kapseret parliamentary seat. He is facing three counts of forging academic certificates.

He is accused of fraudulently obtaining a KCSE school leaving certificate and a KCSE results certificate from Highway Secondary School and the Kenya National Examinations Council (Knec).

He is also accused of forging his diploma certificate (in business management) from the Kenya Institute of Management (KIM)

The other offence is presenting the alleged forged education papers to the IEBC when he sought clearance for the 2013 General Election.

The case is underway in a magistrate’s court in Milimani, Nairobi. Among the prosecution witnesses who have testified so far was John Masheshe, a police investigator. He told the court that a registration number appearing on Mr Sudi’s diploma certificate belongs to another student.

He also said the school code appearing on the MP’s KCSE certificate belonged to Parklands Secondary School, not Highway Secondary School.

Court papers indicate that the MP attended Highway Secondary School in Nairobi between 2003 and 2006.

The court heard that he committed the offense on January 31, 2013 at the IEBC offices in Eldoret, Uasin Gishu County.

Another politician dogged by controversy about questionable academic qualifications is soft-spoken Meru Senator Mithika Linturi, who is vying for the governor’s position on a UDA party ticket.

He is battling a petition filed by a voter, Michael Makarena, seeking to compel the police and the EACC to arrest and arraign him over alleged fake university papers.

The alleged offences include forgery of a KCSE certificate, knowingly providing misleading and false information to a public entity and the execution of false declaration forms.

Forged documents

The voter claims that Mr Linturi forged academic documents from Marathwada University, now known as Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar Marathwada University in Aurangabad, Maharashtra State, India.

Mr Linturi used the Indian certificate, a bachelor of commerce degree in advanced accounting and auditing, to get admission to the University of Nairobi.

The voter says Mr Linturi is unfit to run for governor because his university academic qualifications are questionable.

In May 2018, Mr Linturi secured a court order stopping the police and the EACC from arresting, prosecuting or declaring him unfit to hold public office over the allegations of fake academic credentials.

Judge John Mativo also compelled the University of Nairobi to award him a bachelor of laws (honours, upper division), and an order prohibiting it from nullifying the degree.

The judge found that Mr Linturi was removed from the graduation list based on inconclusive investigations by the EACC. The anti-graft body had also asked the IEBC to bar Mr Linturi from contesting a public seat in 2017.

The senator moved to court after the University of Nairobi de-registered him days before his graduation.

The EACC claimed that Mr Linturi’s documents indicated that he obtained a degree from Marathwada University in India in 2001.

But the agency, in its investigations, obtained a written confirmation that at the relevant time Marathwada University did not exist and it was known as Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar Marathwada University.

Knec also confirmed that Mr Linturi had obtained a mean grade of C-minus and not B-minus in KCSE as he had contended.

For its part, the University of Nairobi said Mr Linturi’s academic qualifications were questioned five times – by MM Gitonga Advocates, two court cases (in Meru and Nairobi), the EACC and IEBC integrity complaints.

Mr Samboja is in the High Court defending himself against a petition filed by rights activist Okiya Omtatah, who claims that the governor falsified his academic papers.

The activist wants the court to issue orders quashing the governor’s academic credentials on the grounds that they are fake. The governor has since filed an objection to the petition.

Mr Omtatah filed the petition in March 2021, days after High Court Judge James Makau struck out a similar case filed by the EACC challenging the authenticity of Mr Samboja’s academic credentials.

The judge ruled that although it is the mandate of the EACC to furnish the IEBC with records concerning issues of integrity, morality and ethics on candidates, such records are not conclusive in determining the fate of a candidate to vie unless backed by an order of a court or a quasi-judicial body.

The EACC wanted a declaration that Mr Samboja was ineligible to vie for the Taita-Taveta governor’s seat because of his academic qualifications. In its letter to the IEBC dated May 30, 2017, called an Integrity Verification Report, the EACC said investigations had established that Mr Samboja did not have a university degree and was culpable of falsifying a certificate.

The governor was suspected of forging a certificate from Kenyatta University and using it to contest in 2017 elections.

Senator Kavindu was in court last year defending the validity of her election in March 2021 over questionable educational qualifications.

Although Justice George Odunga dismissed the case on the grounds that the requirement for a university degree was not mandatory, questions about her academic qualifications remained unresolved.

The judge noted that Ms Kavindu had failed to prove that she had a post-secondary academic qualification, a burden that had shifted to her.

A voter had moved to court challenging the decision of the IEBC to clear her nomination, saying she was ineligible because she did not also possess a post-secondary school certificate.

The petitioner, Wilfred Manthi Musyoka, told court that he had obtained information to the effect that Ms Kavindu may not have completed primary school and does not have secondary school education. He said he got the information from Ms Kavindu’s former campaign manager, Mr Nzau.

Mr Nzau swore an affidavit in court in support of the petition, stating that the senator is his aunt and during the 2017 elections, when she was contesting the position of Machakos County woman representative, she engaged him as her campaign manager. The position included facilitating her clearance by several constitutional bodies.

He attached Ms Kavindu’s self-declaration forms, which, he stated, indicated some parts as inapplicable or were left blank in spaces where she was required to indicate her education qualifications.

According to the petitioner, World Outreach International Bible College, which awarded the senator a certificate, is not recognised in Kenya as an accredited college of higher learning because no letter or certificate was produced to confirm the accreditation.

The petitioner had pleaded that the certificate did not pass as a post-secondary school qualification as Ms Kavindu did not attend any secondary school.

Governor Joho was also in court over questions surrounding his academic credentials.

Got a reprieve

He got a reprieve four years ago when High Court Judge Eric Ogolla stopped the State from arresting and prosecuting him for alleged forgery of a 1992 KCSE examination result slip from Serani Secondary School.

Police intended to charge him with several criminal offences, including forgery, uttering a false document and giving false information to public officials.

But in a judgment dated October 5, 2017 on a petition filed by Mr Joho, Justice Ogolla said the investigations in question were “being conducted in bad faith with an ulterior motive solely motivated to achieve a collateral purpose other than legitimate objectives for administration of justice”.

Mr Waititu was also among leaders who faced questions about their academic credentials. A petition filed by his predecessor, William Kabogo, indicates that Mr Waititu’s degree from Punjab University in India was fake.

Mr Kabogo claimed that Mr Waititu is not the Clifford Ndung’u Waititu named in his academic papers. He said Mr Waititu changed his name to acquire all academic papers needed to vie for the governorship.

He said Ferdinand Ndung’u Waititu, whose birth was registered on January 4, 1980, cannot be the same person as Clifford, who sat CPE at Mbagathi Primary in 1975.

But Mr Waititu maintains he studied at Punjab University, SGGS College, from 1985 to 1988, when he graduated with a bachelor of commerce degree, second class honours, upper division.

In the case that is pending in the Court of Appeal, Mr Kabogo wants a declaration that Mr Waititu is not qualified to hold a public office in Kenya and that he is consequently ineligible to contest any elective office.

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