Kenya’s electoral regime still suffers apathy and lack of knowledge on matters governance and good leadership, according to a Transparency International report released in September 2021.

The report says that Kenya prides itself on an informed citizenry, a progressive Constitution, enabling laws and established institutions that are all thought to promote ethical leadership, but the country is bedeviled by lack of ethical leadership at all levels of governance. Consequently, these setbacks affect election results, hindering the quality of service offered under different public offices.

The T.I. report found that 81.3 per cent of the respondents consider a candidate’s vision, manifesto, plans and intention as most important in electing individuals into leadership. Further, majority of the respondents also considered qualities of good and ethical leadership as a yardstick to elect one to a public office. The respondents suggested that they did not support parochial leadership attributes when considering individuals for political office. The electorate detested leaders with a history of corruption, proven or not. At least 75 per cent had the belief that a convicted person, accused or being investigated for corruption, should not contest for leadership in any jurisdiction.

The respondents also pointed out that good qualities of a leader were; clear vision/manifesto, integrity and law-abiding character. These pointers showed that the Kenyan electorate understand what is expected of a good leader. This is contrary to the norm, where voters are thrilled to elect leaders based on parochial attributes such as tribal /ethnic identity, bribes and individual wealth of a candidate among other attributes.

The survey results therefore revealed inconsistency in responses and actual experience on the ground on leaders elected to public offices. The survey findings indicated that Kenyans are aware of the ethical expectations of leadership, yet the leaders in office are mostly unethical. An astounding 86.5 per cent of survey respondents stated that individuals convicted or accused of corruption should not occupy public/state offices, demonstrating a high regard for ethical leadership with integrity. Further, 75 per cent indicated that those under investigation or with pending court cases on corruption charges should not be allowed to contest in an election. Only 12.5 per cent and 25 per cent respectively were of the contrary idea.

The T.I. report points out the conflicts created by Kenyan laws and the constitution on matters integrity, graft trials and leadership. Chapter Six of the Kenyan Constitution enshrines ethical leadership in the country, however, there are gaps in Articles 73-78 of the Constitution which conflict with laws for implementation of the same by responsible institutions. These sections allow persons lacking in integrity to vie for office, neither the IEBC nor EACC can stop them. Article 75(3) provides for actions against public officers who violate the ethical provisions through misbehavior. Such an officer is taken through a disciplinary procedure, to get a conviction, only then can they be barred from holding public office. Article 49 (1) as read with Sec 123 of Criminal Procedure and Article 52, provides for fair trial exposing suspects to bail and a fair process which either finds them guilty through a conviction, or acquits them.

T.I. therefore notes that the longer the court process, the wider the room for suspects to run for office, since only conviction stops them from taking public offices. Some leaders holding public office are facing corruption charges in court, yet they are legally eligible to run for public office through the coming elections under the provisions of Article 38 of our Constitution, which provides citizens’ political rights; to participate in, campaign, vote, or vie, yet it conflicts with laws barring persons with integrity issues from vying unless they have clearance from EACC. Some public service officers, Governors- for Migori, Busia Samburu, Tharaka Nithi and Garissa including 15 MPs are facing charges in court, yet majority of them are defending their seats in 2022.

President Uhuru Kenyatta’s stand against graft is very clear, in his anti-graft fight, public service officers are tried and convicted like any other suspects, regardless of their status, influence or leadership tenures. The President calls on all Kenyans to be weary of corruption and to fight it relentlessly through all the means possible.

The Kenyan laws should be aligned to the constitution itself to ensure that graft is fought by all means possible through every tool available. The current laws, starting with the supreme law of the Land (the Constitution) has provided loopholes for corrupt and unethical leaders to ascend to office through protection of their rights. Kenyans hold the power to make things right through the ballot box. This can be done only if the citizens are highly sensitized and aware of the link between the deterioration of public services, law development, corruption and theft of public funds by unethical leaders. The other recourse the country has, is to the judiciary. This arm of the government is responsible for interpreting the law in as far as it contravenes the constitution to uphold the letter and spirit of the law, and the aspirations of Kenyans captured in the new Constitution.

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