Another Ugandan university in Kenyan elections dispute
Team University of Uganda has found itself at the centre of a Kenyan election dispute as the electoral commission’s tribunal and the High Court hear petitions challenging the academic qualifications of several candidates.
At least five politicians nominated to run for the position of County Governor in the August 9 elections have had the validity of their degree certificates questioned.
But in the eye of the storm is the Bachelor of Science degree in Management awarded by Team University to outgoing Nairobi Senator Johnson Sakaja, who wants to vie for the governorship of the city County of Nairobi.
The petitioners allege that Mr Sakaja fraudulently obtained the degree certificate from the Ugandan university and cite discrepancies in his past account of his academic qualifications that suggested he graduated from the University of Nairobi.
But the University of Nairobi has since clarified that he enrolled for an Actuarial Science degree programme but did not pass some units to qualify for the degree.
Mr Sakaja has denied the allegations against him before the tribunal, maintaining that his degree from Team University is valid. If the petition against him succeeds, he will be disqualified from the Nairobi gubernatorial race in which he is considered one of the two front runners alongside Polycarp Igathe of the Jubilee party.
Mr Sakaja can however still seek to reverse an unfavourable tribunal decision in court.
Cases challenging politicians’ academic qualifications have become fairly common in Kenya after MPs in 2016 amended the election law to require those running for county and parliamentary offices to have a minimum education of a university degree.
Faced with the prospects of being knocked out of the race for elective office, many politicians who previously relied on charisma and mobilisation skills have now prioritised getting the degree certificates, however dubious the process.
Ugandan private universities, which are some of the most aggressive recruiters of foreign students in the region, are popular destinations for the politicians due to their accreditation and recognition of their degrees under the Inter-University Council for East Africa (IUCEA protocol.
The Sakaja degree saga mirrors that of the outgoing Mombasa governor, Hassan Joho, who in 2014 faced a court case challenging the Bachelor of Business Administration degree he was awarded by Uganda’s Kampala International University (KIU.
KIU defended Mr Joho’s credentials despite a probe by the Uganda National Council of Higher Education (NCHE finding that he might not have physically attended classes and had made a lump sum fee payment.
Mr Joho courted further controversy after he obtained another degree from Kenya’s Gretsa University, in time to be eligible for the 2017 election.