Yet another Kenyan politician has become embroiled in a row over the legitimacy of his academic qualifications. It is the latest of a string of scandals involving politicians trying to meet the legal threshold for holding public office using sometimes dubious means.
Kenyan law now requires people aspiring to be elected to high political office – such as the president and county governors – to hold a university degree, which has seen lawmakers rush to acquire higher education qualifications.
The controversy has also placed private universities, which have awarded many of the degrees claimed by politicians, under the spotlight.
The latest dispute involves the governor of Kenya’s resort city of Mombasa, Ali Hassan Joho. He has been taken to court by a voter who questioned the authenticity of his business administration degree, allegedly acquired from Kampala University, a private institution in neighbouring Uganda.
Also embroiled in the row is the Ugandan National Council for Higher Education, or NCHE, which wants the Kenyan politician stripped of the degree, while the owners of Kampala University are defending Joho, asserting that he rightly earned his papers.
The controversy is related to the 2013 elections, which demanded academic qualifications from people aspiring to public office and sparked a flurry of action by politicians seeking to acquire a degree in order to contest electoral seats.
Two politicians were barred from running for office after Kenya’s Commission for University Education, or CUE, refused to recognise their papers on the grounds that the institutions alleged to have awarded the degrees were not accredited in their home countries or known to CUE.
Margaret Wanjiru had presented a doctorate from Vineyard Harvester Bible College in the United States and Soita Sitanda a bachelor of business administration from Business University Costa Rica – papers CUE denounced and flatly refused to recognise.
The pair beat a hasty retreat and vied for seats with a lower academic threshold.
The latest dispute
In the latest dispute a voter and an NGO have alleged in two separate cases that the Mombasa politician does not hold a properly acquired degree and did not at any time attend Kampala University, which is one of East Africa’s most popular higher education institutions.
The controversy now before a three-judge bench in Nairobi has attracted the interest of Uganda’s NCHE and the country’s Criminal Intelligence and Investigation Directorate, or CIID, which both launched investigations into the matter.
However, the university and the politician moved quickly and separately to court and sued the NCHE and CIID, seeking to have them barred from investigating the matter or declaring the papers invalid.
But NCHE in any case alleged that the degree was fake, with its Chair Nyeko Pen-Mogi requesting the university to withdraw the certificate.
NHCE found that the papers were “fraudulently obtained”, adding that the person in question had “neither qualified for admission to the degree programme nor was he subjected to due process”.
This did not go down well with Kampala University Vice-chancellor Badru Katerega, who came out fighting to defend the qualification.
“We wish to be on record that the NCHE clearly has sinister motives in rushing to pass a resolution declaring that it was revoking a degree legally awarded to one of our students,” Katerega, one of the owners of the university, was quoted by local media as saying.