The issue of integrity is crucial to political leadership. In the new dispensation the issue integrity has dramatically risen in importance. Taken at face value it seems to be the intent of the constitution that the issue of integrity in political leadership become one of the top voting considerations.
The whole of chapter 6 of the constitution lays down the principles upon which the State Officers (the President, the Deputy President, other members of the Cabinet, Members of Parliament, members of the new County Governments, judges magistrates and members of commissions) should conduct themselves. The chapter makes it clear that the power exercised by State Officers is a public trust that is to be exercised to serve the people. In exercising this power, state officers are required to demonstrate respect for the people of Kenya, make decisions objectively and impartially, refuse to be influenced by favouritism or corruption, serve selflessly and be accountable for their actions. These are the standards to which we should hold the leadership we intend to elect.
The Independent Electoral Boundaries Commission (IEBC) recently announced that politicians who failed the integrity test would be barred from running in the up coming elections. According to the IEBC regulations, “ A party shall not present to the Commission for purposes of nomination, a person who does not meet the qualifications set for a particular office under the Constitution, the Act or any other Act of Parliament.”
The yet to be passed Leadership and Integrity Bill fleshes out the requirements of the Chapter 6 of the constitution: And Article 35, of the yet to be passed bill, bars persons with integrity deficits from running in the next election stating “A person seeking to be appointed or elected as a state officer may not be eligible for appointment or to stand for election to such office if that person has, as a State Officer, contravened the leadership and integrity Code under this Act or while serving as a public officer, has contravened a code of ethics and integrity applicable under this Act.”
Over the years we have had a large number of scandals in which the leadership of the country have been implicated, the Maize Scandal, Kazi Kwa Vijana, Goldenberg, Anglo-leasing, post election violence, and the list goes on. The consequence of these scandals has been everything except but out right conviction: we have had ministerial resignations/stepping down, adverse mentions of persons in leadership in reports of commissions of enquiry, some leaders have been the subject of civil and criminal court proceedings that have either been dismissed, had a ‘nolle prosequi’ issued or are still pending.
While legislation goes some way in trying to ensure that Kenya has scrupulous leaders, by and large the greatest responsibility with regard to ensuring the country’s leaders exhibit to political and personal integrity lies with the voters. But how often do we as voters take into account the past record of our prospective leaders? How do we as voters evaluate a prospective candidate’s integrity? Or do considerations other than personal and political integrity of prospective candidate’s take primacy in our voting considerations?