MPs divided on need to amend on degree requirement
MPs are divided on the need to amend a section of the law requiring parliamentary aspirants to possess a university degree.
Some legislators have maintained that given the discourses in Parliament, it is not necessary to amend the section of the law.
The Elections (Amendment) Bill which is in the First Reading seeks to amend Section 22 of the Elections Act, by removing the degree requirement and substituting it with proficiency in English or Kiswahili language or, in the case of deaf persons, literacy in sign language.
The amendment borrows from another bill drafted by Elgeyo Marakwet Senator Kipchumba Murkomen who had proposed amendments to the law to remove the degree requirement for MPs and MCAs.
In his Bill which is currently before the Senate, Murkomen proposes that anyone who is able to read and write in the English or Swahili languages or, in the case of a person who is deaf or hard of hearing, is literate in the Kenya sign language, is eligible to vie for the two positions.
“The provision as contained in the Elections Act is not only restrictive but discriminates against persons who may not have a degree as it implies that only persons who have a degree have the capacity to serve in public office,” reads Murkomen’s bill.
Eldas MP Adan Keynan said it was important to have learned members in Parliament in order to promote legislative accountability.
“We need sanity in the legislature, unlike in the past, the current mode of operations in Parliament requires well-schooled people who can execute matters on a budget. Under the current dispensation, Budget making is the work of Parliament and so members should be well versed with the process,” Keynan said.
But Taveta MP Naomi Shaban was of a different opinion saying the degree requirement would be unfair to those who have served in the past without the qualification.
“If this piece of legislation is passed, the courts will overturn it the following day. It will be discriminatory to those who have served without the academic requirements only to be asked to comply midway,” said Shaban.
Ugenya MP David Ochieng said Parliament required learned people. “You have seen the levels of debate in this House, they are very low and shallow, the reason being having too many un-schooled members. We need a modicum of academic qualifications for people elected to parliament,” Ochieng said.