The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) has told Cabinet Secretaries to keep off 2022 poll campaigns.
Wafula Chebukati said that associating with either side of the divide diminishes neutrality.
IEBC maintained that the law prohibits state officers and public officers from engaging in politics.
IEBC chairman Wafula Chebukati in response to the United Democratic Alliance said state officers should stay away from activities that may compromise the political neutrality of the office they hold.
“There is need for all state officers and public officers to uphold political neutrality,” Chebukati said in the November 5 letter to UDA which sought his clarification on the subject.
He said Section 23 of the Leadership and Integrity Act, 2012, that seems to give Cabinet Secretaries and County Executive Committee Members a lifeline to engage in political activity is not sufficient.
“That statutory provision no doubt falls foul of the constitutional underpins under Chapter Six of Constitution,” Chebukati said.
The William Ruto-led UDA wrote a protest letter to the IEBC seeking clarity on the inclusion of Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i and his ICT counterpart Joe Mucheru in the 2022 poll planning teams.
The two are members of a multiagency team planning for a free, fair, transparent and credible general election in the President Uhuru Kenyatta succession race.
The DP’s party cited the chances of impartiality of the two ministers saying they have been openly campaigning for Raila Odinga’s side of the 2022 divide.
Veronica Maina, UDA secretary-general, asked IEBC to stop the CSs from meddling in the poll preparations saying it was wrong and dangerous for IEBC to allow such influence.
“The two Cabinet Secretaries have been acting in a blatant manner yet the two ministries they head play a core part in providing support services in coordinating next year’s election,” Maina said.
The DP’s party held that “Elections are a democratic process that has nothing to do with government functionaries.”
But IEBC dismissed the assertions it was under the direction of other authorities within the state, saying it only attended a meeting convened by the Attorney General in their capacity as the polls agency.
“We wish to reiterate the commission is independent and not subject of the direction or control by any person or authority but the Constitution and the law,” Chebukati said.
At least 10 Cabinet Secretaries have joined the campaign fray, the latest being Water CS Sicily Kariuki who appeared and spoke in ODM leader Raila Odinga’s rally in Nyandarua last Saturday.
Others are Matiangi, Mucheru, Peter Munya (Agriculture), Ukur Yatani (Treasury), Eugene Wamalwa (Devolution), Mutahi Kagwe (Health), Keriako Tobiko (Environment), John Munyes (Petroleum) and Raphael Tuju.
Public Service Cabinet Secretary Margaret Kobia defended her colleagues on the campaign trail stating CSs are political appointees, “hence may participate in political rallies and meetings.”
“However, it is with a word of caution and personal responsibility. They should not play party politics that may affect fair public service delivery,” Kobia said.
She maintained that the court has already pronounced itself that CSs are political appointees and are not like public officers who are prohibited from participating in party politics.
“They (CSs) can participate in political rallies but should not be seen to take sides by appearing to lean to a certain direction,” Kobia said.
“It has been determined that public servants cannot take part in political activities except Cabinet Secretaries since they are political appointees.”
The government holds that IEBC could be right in its precautionary statement, but appears to be arguing from the point of morality.
Kobia, however, urged her colleagues to desist from sentiments that may erode the perception of their neutrality in public service.
The named Cabinet Secretaries have been rallying their residents to vote in a particular direction, sparking protests from UDA.
Matiang’i is mobilising his Gusii backyard in preparation for the next polls “with a view to getting a seat at the 2022 negotiations table.”
Yatani for his part is among the key figures behind the UPYA Movement aimed at consolidating the Northeastern vote in one basket.
Wamalwa, for his part, is rallying his backyard; the same being the case of Tobiko who asked the Maa to vote for Raila.
His counterpart Munyes has been driving the Turkana community to vote for the candidate President Uhuru Kenyatta will back – with signs showing it could be Raila.
Kagwe and Munya, on the other hand, are among the big names jostling for the running mate post which their Mt Kenya backyard is said to have an upper hand.
The CS’s involvement in competitive presidential politics was among the issues raised in the Raila Odinga petition against the IEBC in the 2017 contest.
In the case, justice Njoki Ndung’u echoed the government position that CSs are exempted from the prohibition to engage in politics.
She argued that, “a change in the Presidency signals the immediate resignation or replacement of these political appointees; not so with the rest of the civil service whose tenure is protected against the vagaries of politics.”
“This is also the reason why civil servants do not and should not participate in active politics, as they should remain apolitical,” justice Ndung’u held.