Women aspirants urged to make use of Political Parties Disputes Tribunal
7The Political Parties Disputes Tribunal has its work cut out for it as the country enter the 2017 electoral cycle campaign period.
According to the Tribunal chairman, Kyalo Mbobu, women aspirants should not shy away but be able to use it during the forthcoming party nominations and General Election on August 8, both operating under a statute that stipulates the Tribunal’s jurisdiction which they must adhere to or be challenged in the High Court.
Says Mbobu: “We are mandated under Section 40 (1) of the Political Parties Act 2011 to adjudicate all disputes arising from political party activities including party primaries.”
The Political Parties Disputes Tribunal is an independent quasi-judicial body with the mandate of resolving disputes arising from political parties’ activities.
In addition to resolving disputes, the Tribunal works closely with other stakeholders in the political process including registered political parties, Registrar of Political Parties, Political Parties Liaison Committee as well as the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission to promote issue-based politics and people-cantered democracy in Kenya.
The Tribunal is established under Section 39 of the Political Parties 2011 to fairly and expeditiously resolve disputes arising from political parties’ activities. The Tribunal consists of a chairperson and four other Members, all appointed by the Judicial Service Commission. The Chairperson and members of the Tribunal serve on part-time basis and hold office for a non-renewable term of six years.
Since it was established five years ago, the Tribunal has handled 134 cases, which were both intra and inter-party disputes. They have also dealt with several appeals against decisions made by the Registrar of Political Parties brought before them under their mandate.
During the General Election in 2013, the Political Parties Disputes Tribunal heard and determined 30 cases; only one dispute involved a woman aspirant.
Says Mbobu: “This case involved the forging of a nomination certificate of a female aspirant by another female aspirant. The Tribunal, after hearing the case found that the nomination certificate had been forged and ordered that the forged certificate be cancelled and that the political party issue a new certificate to the legitimate winner of the party primaries.”0
Another case involved two female politicians in Nyamira County, where a political party nominated one of the two for a nomination slot in the Nyamira County Assembly. Once the nomination was gazetted, the respondent in the case forged the identification documents of the nominated female politician and caused her to be sworn-in place of the legitimate nominated MCA.
The matter was heard and ruled in favour of the complainant; and the Tribunal ordered the Speaker of the Nyamira County to swear-in the complainant. However, the respondent appealed to the High Court in Kisii and obtained an injunction against the Tribunal’s judgment.
The Tribunal also handled the case in Bomet County involving nominated MCAs, who are persons living with disabilities and women, where the MCAs had been removed from the membership of their party. The Tribunal heard the case and determined that their removal from their party did not follow due process of the party constitution and reversed the decision to remove them from the party.
“From the statistics we have, I believe that the women aspirants and candidates have not been as active as they should be in fighting for their rights through our Tribunal,” says Mbobu. He notes: “It is not an issue of lack of funds because we are not a normal court and our charges are minimal at KSh2,500 per case. We can also give a waiver in special needy cases.”
According to T. N. Estambale, the Tribunal’s Chief Executive Officer, some women still rely on men even when they are seeking elective leadership positions.
Estambale cited a case where a nominated female MCA was disenfranchised but it was the husband who followed up the case with the Tribunal.
The low number of cases handled by the Tribunal was because it was new and many people, including aspirants, did not know about its existence and mandate. This led to most aggrieved individuals and parties appearing before the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) instead to resolve disputes arising from party primaries and nominations.
The Tribunal has undertaken some reflection in the recent past to help it to be more visible and to create awareness through outreach.
The Tribunal has not had any cases of electoral violence, especially against women aspirants. This is not under their mandate, but in case an aggrieved party would like to file a case they are free to do so.
Since 2007, when it was formed with Mr Peter Simani (deceased) as the chairman, the Tribunal has held many sensitisation workshops with political parties and their officials around the country.
Mbobu however laments that most political parties have been sending top party officials to sensitisation workshops. On realising this, the Tribunal organised forums specifically for members of youth and women leagues within political parties. The forums have been used to empower political parties to promote internal democracy, focusing on how best to resolve disputes internally before seeking help from the IEBC, the Tribunal and courts of law.
Between 2014 and 2016, the Tribunal held several outreach programmes and workshops with political parties from various counties with venues in Meru, Nakuru, Kisumu and Mombasa.
The forums were also used to sensitise the officials of the political parties about the mandate of the Registrar of Political Parties and the Judiciary Committee on Elections.
A similar programme was being rolled out from February to March 2017 focusing on aspirants and candidates elective seats that will be up for grabs in the General Election.
“Our work is to strengthen the rule of law and also to broaden and deepen democracy in the electoral system,” says Mbobu.
The Tribunal is housed at the Milimani Commercial Courts Building in Nairobi, and works closely with the Office of the Registrar of Political Parties, which has its offices at Lion Place.
“The Tribunal is there for everyone, and targets those who feel aggrieved and mistreated by their respective political parties and party leaders. This involves even independent candidates who feel the Registrar of Political Parties has not handled them well,” explains Mbobu. He adds: “We are open to hear all cases brought before us which fall within the Tribunal’s jurisdiction.”
Under their mandate, the Tribunal is required to resolve party primary disputes within 30 days.