Registrar must be impartial to all political parties
The Office of the Registrar of Political Parties (ORPP) is a State office established under Article 260 of the Constitution of Kenya, 2010, and the Political Parties Act, 2011.
Its mandate, among others, is to regulate formation, registration and funding of political parties as per the Constitution and rule of law.
Thanks to the existence of ORPP, party members who feel aggrieved about how their parties are managed can seek redress.
This platform is extremely valuable to Kenyans as it safeguards against parties becoming exclusive clubs where a few leaders and their cronies run roughshod over membership.
This was not possible under single-party rule, under which dissenting members, including elected leaders, could be expelled at the whim of party leadership for exercising their rights, including those of free speech and association.
While the mandate of the ORPP is clear, there is a strong feeling there has been some biased treatment of parties.
It would appear that the Registrar, at the behest of some invisible hand, is determined to rock the boat in some parties for ulterior motive.
While some parties, such as the Amani National Congress, for instance, are being targeted over overdue elections, the same concern has not been raised with other parties in a similar situation.
The ruling Jubilee Party, for instance, has all along had interim officials, including former vice-chairman, David Murathe, who publicly resigned in January 2019, but quietly returned to office.
Nobody has reminded Jubilee of the need to hold national elections or queried them on why an official who resigned publicly is back, pulling strings at party’s headquarters.
Could the registrar also not be aware that since the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) party’s attempted national elections that the so-called Men in Black disrupted in February 2014, the party is still under the control of people handpicked by the party leader?
Is the registrar not aware ODM has not held follow-up elections since that Kasarani incident? A review of other registered parties will reveal the same story.
Curiously, since its inception, the ORPP has never had a substantive office holder. The first was Lucy Ndung’u, who served for five years without being confirmed and who left a lot of damage by time of her exit.
Now it is Ann Nderitu, who is, also serving in an acting capacity. The government needs to immediately appoint a leader, who must ensure the institution does not become a stumbling block to growth of political parties in Kenya.
They should act as a neutral arbitrator in dealing with conflict within and between parties, fostering growth of more effective institutions.
To effectively support political parties, the ORPP must be open, fair and even-handed.
She cannot be seen to be playing favourites when discharging her mandate or handling parties with hidden agenda.
While political parties must be taken to task to improve on their internal democracy, the registrar needs to acknowledge in any grouping, even in a family, it is unlikely everyone will follow rules and adhere to conduct expected of them.
However, it would be unfair to take advantage of such disagreements to sabotage vital organs of political mobilisation.
The registrar should always remember that restoration of multi-party democracy in Kenya was hard-fought and won through blood, sweat and tears.
Thus, Opposition parties have an important role to play and any machinations that undermine their effectiveness must be condemned. It is even worse when such monkey business is carried out by an office that is funded by taxpayers. — The writer is a former MP for Shinyalu Constituency