A proposal to set the age limit for presidential candidates at 70 has been referred to a parliamentary committee. The petition by a Mohammed Sheikh from Wajir County seeking to amend the Constitution to bar Kenyans above 70 years from contesting the presidency has drawn opposition from politicians across the political divide.
The petition came under severe attack when it was relayed to the House yesterday, with some MPs terming it a mischievous attempt to lock out Opposition leader Raila Odinga from the 2022 presidential elections.
The MPs wanted Speaker Justin Muturi not to admit the petition in the House. “This motion will only be a waste of Parliament time. It is in bad faith and a mischievous way to lock out one Kenyan from seeking the presidency. In the spirit of the handshake, we should not spoil the mood by introducing such a mischievous petition,” argued Endebess MP Robert Pukose.
But despite the protests, Mr Muturi directed the Justice and Legal Affairs Committee to consider the petition and file their report in the House. “We cannot take away the right of any Kenyan as specifically stated in the Constitution,” said Muturi. Mvita MP Abdulswamad Nassir wanted the petition dismissed immediately, but was opposed by Leader of Majority Aden Duale and a number of MPs. Mr Duale said it was the right of any Kenyan to present any petition to the House, and it would be an infringement of the petitioner’s rights if he was not given time to execute it.
“I agree with members that this is not a good petition. It is misplaced. But we should not demean petitioners. Let us not scare Kenyans who are constitutionally granted the right to approach this House on any matter. This petition needs to be given good time and good consideration,” said Duale. Although he questioned the intentions of the petition, Leader of Minority John Mbadi said the petitioner should be given time to argue the merits of his proposal.
Mr Mbadi said former presidents Jomo Kenyatta and Mwai Kibaki vied for the presidency when they were above 70. He also argued that former President Daniel arap Moi performed well even in his 70s. Counsel petitioner “Let the committee meet the petitioner and probably counsel him so he can appreciate that wisdom comes with age,” said Mbadi. Despite terming the motion frivolous and malicious, committee chairman William Cheptumo said his team would summon the petitioner and listen to his argument.
“He must be given room, space and comfort to transact his matter,” said Mr Cheptumo. Only Emurua Dikirr MP Johanna Ng’eno appeared to support the spirit of the petition, saying it spoke for Kenyans.