Controversial Laws Passed in Uhuru’s Tenure That Will Shape 2022 Polls

Undated image of IEBC ballot boxes after voters had cast their votes
  • President Uhuru Kenyatta’s tenure has been characterized by a lot of changes that are most likely to affect or shape the 2022 General Election.

    Both the National Assembly and the Senate made into law several controversial Bills, whose impact will likely to be immense in the upcoming polls.

    Some of those Bills were targeting specific political groups, but with the current formations where politicians have moved from one camp to another, the laws, like a double-edged sword, will lead to unintended consequences.

    Undated image of IEBC ballot boxes after voters had cast their votes

    Security Law

    In December 2014, the security amendment Bill was passed amidst kicks and blows in parliament. The opposition MPs warned that Kenya was becoming a “police state”, with their then rivals who were in government hailing the laws.

    The laws, for instance, gave security agencies the power to intercept communication without court warrants; bar the media from publishing terrorism-related articles (without police permission); transfer some security powers from the police to the security minister, and make it easier to crackdown on civil society organizations.

    Several of these provisions clearly breached the 2010 Constitution and the bill of rights, which guarantee the freedoms of assembly, association, and the media.

    The law also blurred the separation of powers by shifting some responsibilities from parliament to the executive and by giving more discretionary powers to non-elected officials. 

    Initially, the Bill was meant to curb the opposition at that time led By the Orange Democratic Movement leader Raila Odinga. 

    Political analyst Mark Bichache speaking to,ke, stated that the Bill may actually favour one political class at the expense of others, especially those seen as critical of government.

    He argued that some political leaders may actually capitalize on the Bill to have a smooth ride in the wake of the 2022 polls.

    “The Bill may actually be used by the political leaders to advance their agenda. They did not agree to pass the Bills knowing that it will be like a devil to them, but of course, we will have some casualties,” he said.

    Electoral Bill

    In 2017, the Bill amending Kenya’s election law came into effect. It, in a way, made it more difficult for the Supreme Court to annual elections.

    Among the changes, the Bill has a clause forbidding any court in the country from invalidating election results for non-compliance with any law, if it did substantially affect the result of the election.

    The law came into effect against the backdrop of the unprecedented move by the emeritus Chief Justice David Maraga’s led bench annulled the August 2017 presidential election.

    President Uhuru Kenyatta assented to the Bill despite earlier stating that he did agree with such.

     Raila pulled out of the re-run, calling it a “sham”.

    Another change made it possible for the Electoral Independent and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) to be replaced by a deputy or another member of the commission if the position becomes vacant.

    Bichache told that unless the law is well managed it will have great repercussions to the credibility of the polls.

    “If there a law Kenyans should be so wary about it is this one. IEBC needs full independence. If we go to the elections the way it is, It will be like a ticking bomb, waiting to erupt. The electoral agency should be protected at all costs.”

    Election Campaign Finance Bill

    The election finance Bill was meant to ensure equal opportunity to all candidates, and prevent abuse of state resources or the use of “dirty means.”

    Unfortunately, the Parliamentary Committee shot down draft regulations that could complicate the work of IEBC in regulating just how much candidates and political parties spend on the campaign trail.

    Its journey dates back to December 2013, when Parliament eventually enacted the law to regulate campaign financing and expenditure after a failed attempt in 2012 that would have ensured limited expenditure in the March 2013 General Election.

    It was clear then as is now, that regulations to implement the law should be in place at least one year to a General Election. In December 2016 three years since enactment, parliament rejected draft regulations that had been submitted by IEBC, partly because they were time-barred as the General Election was just 8 months away.

     In January 2017, Parliament voted to delay implementation of the Campaign financing law, until after that year’s election.

    Political analyst Martin Andati who initially spoke to about this issue stated that MPs deliberately rejected the Bill giving them a perfect opportunity to literally buy votes.

    “They rejected this Bill on purpose. These guys want to splash billions during campaigns. Money will talk during the polls nothing else. It is going to favoor them, but I’m really sorry that they keep making it hard for IEBC to conduct a fair and credible election. So unfortunate!” he posed.

    Bichache seconded the idea by Andati, claiming that the political leaders knew exactly what they were doing.

    “They knew exactly that they are going to ride on that to use their billions. Imagine those without money, how will they have a fair competition?” he wondered.

    Annual Appropriation Bill

    The Bill as much as it looks opaque, has great impacts on the 2022 General Election.

    It requires the Cabinet Secretary responsible for finance to submit to the National Assembly estimates of the revenue and expenditure of the national government for the next financial year.

    Analyst Nelson Gatonye argued that the appropriation Bill allows political leaders to grab on what they have not achieved to woo voters. 

    Bichache agreed with Gatonye’s sentiments taking a swipe at recent comments made by Deputy President William Ruto taking credit on several government projects.

    “The other day DP Ruto was bragging about building the SGR among other projects. But we all know he has been busy campaigning. Legislators will capitalize on this to take credit and brag even when we know they did not participate in the projects.”

    Pandemic Restrictions

    Bichache stated this may have a very immense effect on the polls if it goes on beyond next year. He argued that the government may simply enforce the restrictive rules forcing political leaders to resolve to use online campaigns. 

    He further claimed that this sort of directive would fuel propaganda, raising the issue of Cambridge Analytica and how the company reportedly spun posts majorly on Facebook watering down Raila’s influence in social media.

    “If the government enforces the virus restrictions in 2022, I tell you, it will be a menace. Imagine if they strictly enforce the rules and used the police to ensure that they are adhered to the latter, the effect it will have will even be more felt than all the others laws,”

    “Lawmakers are just hoping that the restrictions are relaxed before 2022 that is why they pushing Kenyans to take the jab,” he noted.

    Voters queue at a polling station in Rurii ward, Nyandarua County on Tuesday, May 18, 2021