Anne Nderitu , the Registrar of Political Parties ,shared a link through which members of the public could verify their political party membership status. Many Kenyans took to the online platform on eCitizen to confirm this.
What followed was an online protest by people who claimed that they were registered by parties that they were not affiliated to. Some of them accused the Registrar of Political Parties of allowing political parties to infringe on their privacy and forge their signatures.
While announcing the piloting of the online service on June 18, 2021, Nderitu said the move was to enhance services including the management of independent political candidates, party membership recruitment and registration.
“This office will update the political parties’ management information system and link services to the eCitizen platform to leverage on the existing infrastructure,” she said.
Instead of enhancing services as promised, the online platform exposed illegal registration of members by political parties.
For example, Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) leader, Raila Odinga’s son, Raila Junior, shared on his Twitter account that his details had been captured as an Amani National Party member.
Mosoku Geoffrey, a journalist at The Standard Media Group complained that he was registered to Jubilee Party in 2008 even before it was formed.
“There was no Jubilee Party in 2008; not even its predecessors of URP and TNA but here I am being told that I joined the party in December 2008.How is that even possible? This is scam! My party KANU and I will be suing shortly!” he posted on his Facebook page.
The move by various political parties to register people without their consent is a breach of the right to privacy according to Kenyan laws.
It is also a violation of the Data Protection Law which RoGGKenya has previously reported to be Only Enacted On Paper.
In their defense, the office of the Registrar of Political Parties on June 19, 2021, said they don’t register members on behalf of political parties.
“Recruitment of members is done by political parties according to individual party constitutions,” said the office of the registrar.
Jane Oyugi (not related to the author), a Digital Media and Internet Lawyer also absolves the registrar of political parties of any wrong doing. Speaking to RoGGKenya, she said that the registration of members of political parties is a sole responsibility of political parties.
“The office of the Registrar of Political Parties only receives lists of members who have been accepted by political parties after meeting their criteria. They have no mandate in law to register members on behalf of the parties,” she said.
She added that it is an offence for any person to be enlisted as a member of a political party without their knowledge and their consent. However, Oyugi clarified that the registrar has a mandate to ensure that any political party that is proven to have been involved in a crime is punished.
“If it is proven that the political parties illegally registered their members, then the Registrar of Political Parties is mandated to penalize them. A representative from the registrar’s office can also be summoned by court as a witness,” said Oyugi.
Parties can be sued
Oyugi encourages those aggrieved to sue the respective parties for forgery.
Forgery is contrary to Section 345 of the Penal Code which states that “Any person who forges any document or electronic record is guilty of an offence which, unless otherwise stated, is a felony and he is liable, unless owing to the circumstances of the forgery or the nature of the thing forged some other punishment is provided, to imprisonment for three years”.
Illegal registrations seem to be on the rise especially on election years. Most of the illegal registrations were done towards the end of 2012.Another wave of illegal registrations, happened in the beginning of 2017 which was an election year.
Article 38(1) (b) of the Kenyan Constitution says that every citizen is free to make political choices, which includes the right to participate in the activities of, or recruit members for a political party.
How to become a member of a political party
A political party must be registered in accordance with the Political Parties Act, 2011 in order to register members.
Political parties in Kenya recruit members using Party Membership Verification Forms specified by the party. Every member of the political party should fill and duly sign these forms. Once a person’s name enters the membership register of a political party, the person becomes a member of the political party.
A political party should always keep an updated and accurate list of party membership. The list should be available for the members and the public at the party’s head office and all party offices in the counties.
The following details are required by the Party Membership Verification Form;
- Name of the member.
- Name of the county.
- Age, sex and occupation of the member.
- Residence of the member [Constituency, Ward].
- Postal address and telephone number.
- Signature of a local leader [administrative or religious leader].
- The number of the party membership card, the date it was issued and the place it was issued.
- ID or Passport number of the member.
- The subscription or membership fee.
- Membership acknowledgement.
- Name of the member and their signature and the name of the recruiter and their signature.
The membership card for a political party also carries the above details except those relating to the party recruiter.
Any person who is a Kenyan citizen and at least 18 years is qualified to be a member of a political party.
When the party and the member complete the member verification form, the party forwards details of the member through the Integrated Political Parties Management System (IPPMS).
The Registrar of Political Parties verifies and validates the uploaded membership in the IPPMS. Once a person has been verified into the membership register of a political party, the person becomes a member of that party.
How to resign
Resigning from a political party involves writing to the Registrar of Political Parties and the relevant political party. “Although those who are complaining did not give consent for their registration, they still have to follow the process of resigning from the parties,” said Jane Oyugi.
Kenya will hold the next general elections in 2022 and political parties are competing for the title of who has the most membership for political campaigns. It is therefore important for Kenyans to verify their membership status and rectify where they have been wrongfully registered.
Our efforts to get comments from the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) and Jubilee Party were unsuccessful.
What journalists should do;
- Educate the public on their rights as voters and members of political parties.
- Follow up on the steps that will be taken by members of the public, political parties and the Registrar of Political Parties to avoid a repeat of illegal registrations.
- Educate your audience on how to remove their names as members of political parties that they did not choose.
- Read the Political Parties Act, 2011 to understand the laws governing the existence of political parties.
- Talk to legal experts to explain the legal steps that can be taken by those who have been registered illegally.