The electoral commission has said that Cabinet secretaries are free to campaign for President Uhuru Kenyatta ahead of the August elections, despite protests by the Opposition who have called for their neutrality.
The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) Chairman Wafula Chebukati Wednesday said that the ministers are exempted from the law barring civil servants from campaigning.
However, he warned that he will crack the whip on other civil servants who will be found campaigning.
“Cabinet Secretaries are exempted from the law (barring civil servants from campaigning). They can propagate party activities,” Mr Chebukati told journalists after a meeting with 69 political parties at a Nairobi hotel.
“But the rest of the civil servants are bound by the law and if reports (of them campaigning) come to us, we will act. Our enforcement team is ready and will take action,” he added.
Mr Chebukati also said that there was no way the commission could block a sitting President or governor from using state resources to campaign.
“The law defines what the President, governors can do. They are still in charge of the particular resources they are using (when they campaign),” Mr Chebukati said.
The IEBC chairman asked Kenyans to report any civil servant they find using state resources, insisting that they can only act on such reports “and not what is in the media.”
“An appointed State officer, other than a Cabinet Secretary or a member of the county executive committee, shall not act as an agent or further interests of a political party in an election; or manifest support for or opposition to any political party or candidate,” Section 23 of the Leadership and Integrity Act says.
The pronouncement by the IEBC chairman opens the window for Cabinet Secretaries, who had been accused by the opposition of openly campaigning for President Kenyatta, to freely make a case for his re-election.
SACK CIVIL SERVANTS
Last week, ODM leader Raila Odinga said he will fire all civil servants who campaign for President Kenyatta if the Opposition wins the August elections.
“(President) Uhuru (Kenyatta) must prepare to leave office with his political civil servants. We won’t allow them to serve in a Nasa government,” Mr Odinga said at the Bomas of Kenya.
Mr Odinga argued: “In a credible civil service in established democracies, civil servants don’t participate in politics. It is wrong from CSs and PSs to be in politics.”
However, State House had defended the ministers, saying they were only explaining the Jubilee administration’s agenda.
“No, they are not campaigning, they are merely describing the investments made under President Kenyatta and the impact thereof, and why therefore it is important for the President to be re-elected to continue with the task of transforming Kenya,” State House spokesman Manoah Esipisu said.
He went on: “For us, it is really a question of accountability. It is precisely because public officers are speaking more that the country acknowledges that Kenya is irreversibly transforming.”