Before you vote: The truth about government officials campaigning

Frontier Alliance Party leader Ukur Yattani (right) and Devolution CS Mwangi Kiunjuri as they unveil the party manifesto at Moi Girls High School grounds during the launch of the party on April 29 2017. The party was formerly Saba Saba Asili and supports the re-election of President Uhuru Kenyatta. PHOTO | PHOEBE OKALL | NATION

“…We’ve seen a worrying inability by the IEBC to enforce the electoral code of conduct. We’ve seen the government using its record in office and public-funded projects as campaign tools for Jubilee. We’ve seen cabinet secretaries and principal secretaries who are paid by taxpayers’ money deployed to campaign for the Jubilee Party...”

- Raila Odinga speaking at the National Elections Conference at the Kenyatta International Convention Center on June 13

Are government officials involved in campaigning?

The conduct of government officers is governed in part by the Electoral Offences Act. The fact that the government may be in conflict with this law has already been pointed out in prior news reports.

Section 14 (2) of the Act states that “No government shall publish any advertisements of achievements of the respective government either in the print media, electronic media, or by way of banners or hoardings in public places during the election period.”

So, for example, the government’s delivery portal is published by a government and therefore contravenes that law. However, if such a portal were created by a political party, outside the government, it could conceivably be within the law.

Section 15 (1) (c) of the Act prohibits public officers from engaging in political campaigns. Members of the government, such as Cabinet Secretaries appearing on television or electronic media in those capacities would be against that law.

It would not outlaw a Cabinet Secretary like Mwangi Kiunjuri from campaigning for Jubilee. During a visit to an IDP camp in Laikipia on June 4, speaking of the opposition, Kiunjuri said: “What is really surprising me is that even today they are still claiming that North Eastern is a swing vote. Never!”

The Law Society of Kenya has also called for the prosecution of Kenya Revenue Authority Director General John Njiraini and Energy Principal Secretary Joseph Njoroge, who were present at a Jubilee fundraiser.

That contravenes Section 15 (1) (a) which prohibits a public officer from engaging in the activities of any political party or candidate or acting as an agent of a political party or candidate during an election.

Editor's Note: This story was updated on June 25, 2017 to reflect the Leadership and Integrity Act 2012, which allows Cabinet Secretaries to campaign.

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