Attempts to help former Kiambu boss keep his seat began on the first day of impeachment proceedings.
The mystery of four senators who were present during the debate but vanished at the time of the vote exposed the underhand dealings that characterised Ferdinand Waititu’s impeachment by the Senate.
By walking out, the plan was to create a situation that would help former governor Waititu’s cause by denying the House 24 votes minimum required to uphold his impeachment by the Kiambu County Assembly, The Standard has established.
The fight to save Mr Waititu was hatched on the first day of the impeachment proceedings when Senate Majority Leader Kipchumba Murkomen moved a procedural Motion to have an 11-member select committee investigate the charges against the former county boss.
But some senators demanded that the trial be done before the whole House, alleging that the committee’s composition had a majority of legislators from the ruling party who were sympathetic to Waititu.
On Wednesday, six of those proposed to sit in the select committee voted against the Motion to impeach him.
Nairobi Senator Johnson Sakaja cited this development as vindicating their position that the committee was intended to block Waititu’s ouster, which would have required the House to raise 24 votes to overturn the recommendation.
“All it would have taken would have been for the six of them to kill the impeachment in the committee. What a coincidence,” said Mr Sakaja.
There were also allegations that hefty bribes heavily influenced the vote, with both sides pointing an accusing finger at the other.
The former governor’s camp is further said to have unsuccessfully tried to win over at least 10 senators from the minority side.
Sources said those for the impeachment had to work overdrive to flip four senators, whom they suspected had been earmarked to scuttle the Motion.
One of the senators openly opposed the governor’s impeachment during the debate, but he later voted to send Waititu home. The senator had been proposed to sit in the committee that was quashed.
A vote on the first charge was carried 27 to 12, with sources saying had the four senators not played ball, the first charge would have been lost as they would have failed to muster the necessary minimum of 24 votes.
This, they feared, would have given the pro-Waititu wing the impetus to collapse the remaining two charges.
The second and third charges were each upheld by a 28 to 11 vote, suggesting one senator switched camps conveniently when the futility of their mission dawned on them.
“There was massive lobbying and calling of everybody to deny the 24 votes to uphold the impeachment,” one senator told The Standard.
A source added that the former governor made frantic calls to all party leaders, seeking their intervention to save his job.
A senior government official reportedly held a meeting with some Kiambu MCAs and Central region leaders to plot the governors’ final fall.
Mr Murkomen’s demand that the Senate be audited because of its members’ conduct during the impeachment proceedings was interpreted as alluding to vote-buying.
“If it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck and looks like a duck, it is a duck. The Senate is left for auditing,” Murkomen said moments before the vote.
“I can see; I am not blind,” he added.
Speaker Ken Lusaka, however, warned him against imputing improper motives on his colleagues.
But the accusation that the governor dispossessed a widow of land in Thika, which he is alleged to have allocated to his other wife, as well as the charges that he influenced tenders for his wife and daughters, and his denouncing of his family, reportedly lost Waititu the support of even the senators who had initially been sympathetic.
“You took the land of a widow, which the Commission for Administrative Justice (CAJ) ordered you to return. If that is not an abuse of office, then I don’t know what it is. Somebody disowning his family despite the MCA who attended the wedding producing pictures? This is crazy and he should not be in the office,” said Senator Abdullahi Ali (Wajir).
He was referring to Ndenderu Ward MCA Solomon Kinuthia who sponsored the motion to impeach Waititu at the county assembly and was the star witness in the Senate.
Yesterday, Laikipia Senator John Kinyua, who voted against the motion, defended his decision to oppose the impeachment.
“My reasons had nothing to do with the allegations brought against the governor. They could be true, but it has everything to do with the law,” said Mr Kinyua.
“The two-thirds quorum was not raised in the assembly as affirmed during the cross-examination of the key witness and mover of the Motion.”
Bungoma Senator and Ford Kenya party leader Moses Wetang’ula, who also voted against the impeachment, poked holes in the process, which he termed illegitimate.
He took issue with the correspondence from County Assembly Speaker Stephen Ndicho to Mr Lusaka outside the stipulated three days.
“Section 33 of the County Government Act provides that the county assembly speaker shall within three days communicate to the Senate speaker, who upon receipt shall gazette a special sitting with seven days,” said Mr Wetang’ula.
He added that the evidence presented would not be enough even for a tribunal as it was hearsay.
“Politics was at play, not law. Senators were carried by emotions. The courts will upset the Senate decision. I didn’t talk to any senator, but the trial was grossly flawed and there was no fair justice to the governor,” Wetang’ula said.
Senators Murkomen, Aaron Cheruiyot (Kericho), Susan Kihika (Nakuru) and Samson Cherargei (Nandi) were among those who opposed the impeachment, claiming it was an act of political persecution.
“There was prejudice on the part of the governor. A miscarriage of justice has happened, but at the end of the day, we have courts as a buffer to rely on,” said Ms Kihika.
Mr Cherargei claimed that the legislators’ actions were informed by their factions in Tangatanga and Kieleweke.
“Let’s not gloss over issues. We should be guided by logic and law. We can be in a political contest today, tomorrow you don’t know where you will be,” he said.