Impeachment: A fair process or a political weapon? - Beaking Kenya News

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Friday, 25 December 2020

Impeachment: A fair process or a political weapon?


Jubilee governors top the list of county chiefs who have been impeached since 2013, sparking concerns the process has been weaponised.

Governors backing the handshake between President Uhuru Kenyatta and ODM leader Raila Odinga enjoy a latitude of protection while a number seen to be allied to Deputy President William Ruto have become targets.

Since the advent of devolution in 2013, eight governors have been impeached by their county assemblies, including seven from the ruling Jubilee Party and one from Wiper.

Of the eight cases that proceeded to full hearing by the Senate, three impeachments have been upheld: Those of Martin Wambora (Embu), Ferdinand Waititu (Kiambu) and Mike Sonko (Nairobi).

After impeachment by county assemblies, the Senate or a Senate committee hears both sides in a trial. It is supposed to be neutral, unbiased, impartial and fair.

Waititu and Sonko — both close to DP Ruto — are said to be the victims of the politics surrounding the Building Bridges Initiative process, 2022 succession and financial deals in the counties influenced by powerful individuals.

For instance, in the case of Sonko, who was impeached on December 17, it is understood his refusal to bow to the state and sign the budget allocation to the Nairobi Metropolitan Services caused him the trouble.

The budget allocated NMS, which is domiciled in the Office of the President, Sh27.1 billion of the  total Sh37 billion. 

Critics allege much of the NMS share was for powerful people doing business with the agency that now runs Nairobi.

Makueni Senator Mutula Kilonzo Jr said there is a clear pattern of a political witch-hunt in some  cases.

The senator said the falling out between Uhuru and Ruto could be at play in some cases.

“There is a mismatch. The Jubilee Party is in shambles, hence, the internal rivalry. Nasa may have issues but the MCAs have not resorted [to impeachment] in rancour and bile as we see in Jubilee,” he told the Star in an interview.

Wambora was the first to taste the wrath of Embu MCAs in 2014. They impeached him for allegedly violating the County Governments Act by appointing public servants without assembly approval. They also said he improperly purchased Sh35 million maize seeds and illegally procured vehicles, among other things.

Senators backed the removal but Wambora, who has been called the governor with nine lives, survived after a court quashed the impeachment.

He faced four impeachment attempts in his first term.

In 2017, Wambora clinched the Jubilee ticket and retained his seat after defeating his main competitor, former Senator Lenny Kivuti.

No sooner had the dust on Wambora's impeachment than Kericho MCAs followed suit to remove Governor Paul Chepkwony.

Thirty-two MCAs sanctioned the motion to remove him on grounds he abused his office and oversaw unlawful procurement of goods and services.

The former Moi University lecturer was also accused of violating recruitment procedures and failing to follow due process in public-private partnerships.

However, a Senate committee hearing the charges found them to be unsubstantiated.

And in 2015, Murang'a Governor Mwangi wa Iria was kicked out by 35 MCAs who accused him of failing to manage county debts, misusing cash, gross misconduct and abuse of office, among other failings.

But as with his Kericho counterpart, senators saved him. They said the charges against did not meet the constitutional threshold for impeachment.

In September 2019, Nyeri county MCAs voted to impeached Governor Nderitu Gachagua, now deceased. The Senate again rejected the charges, holding they did not meet the  threshold set out in the Constitution and the County Governments Act.

In 2018, senators saved  Governor Graton Samboja after he was impeached by  Taita Taveta MCAs.

A committee chaired by Embu Senator Njeru Ndwiga found the charges against the first-term Wiper governor did not meet the threshold for removal.

In January this year, however, senators upheld the impeachment of Waititu.

Waititu, a close ally of the Deputy President, was accused of gross violation of the Constitution, the County Governments Act, 2012, the Public Finance Management Act, 2012 and the Public Procurement and Disposal Act, 2005.

Insiders say, however, Waititu was impeached for vigorously campaigning for the DP in Mt Kenya and impeding the business interests of powerful people.

Governors seen to be pro-handshake and pro-BBI referendum to amend the Constitution seem to enjoy political protection.

In June this year, Kirinyaga Governor Anne Waiguru survived an impeachment motion after a Senate committee dismissed a motion to remove her on grounds of gross misconduct and abuse of office.

The senators said, however, an investigation was warranted into a suspicious 'web' involving tendering.

Kirinyaga MCAs accused Waiguru — a key pro-BBI leader in Mt Kenya region — of undermining their authority. They also accused her of gross violation of the Constitution, gross misconduct and abuse of office.

The Senate committee chaired by Kakamega Senator Cleophas Malala cleared the former Devolution CS who resigned at the height of the NYS scandal, citing ill health.

An attempt to impeach Kitui Governor Charity Ngilu failed to take off in June, despite 40 out of 56 MCAs signing the impeachment motion.

Migori MCAs, under pressure from top ODM officials, have made several attempts to impeach Governor Okoth Obado but they consistently ran into obstacles.

Kericho speaker Dominic Rono said while the impeachment process has been provided for in the law, it has been abused for political ends.

“If you study carefully, in this time of the handshake, you will see a trend whereby certain governors are the main targets. Political conspirators are using impeachment as a political weapon against those who do not dance to their songs,” he said.

Nandi Senator Samson Cherargei said the Jubilee administration has resorted to impeachment as a means of settling political scores.

He questioned why only a majority of governors elected on the Jubilee Party ticket are being impeached.

“The Jubilee Party leader, who is President Uhuru Kenyatta, has become vindictive and intolerant against party members including governors. Remember, he dewhipped most members from House committees and gave those positions to the Opposition,” he told the Star.

He added, “The imminent collapse of Jubilee has made everything worse. Impeachment is more political persecution."

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