High Court reinstates West Pokot county assembly speaker Catherine Mukenyang

West Pokot County Assembly speaker Catherine Mukenyang addresses a presser in Parliament buildings on January 20, 2021. [David Njaaga, Standard]

The High Court in Eldoret has reinstated embattled West Pokot County Assembly speaker Catherine Mukenyang and declared last year’s impeachment as unlawful.

Mukenyang was impeached on September 7, 2021, and locked out of the assembly premises, forcing her to seek the court’s intervention.

Justice Eric Ogola, who delivered the judgment, stated that the impeachment proceedings and the resultant resolution to oust Mukenyang were in breach of the Constitution.

“A declaration is hereby issued that the impeachment proceedings and the resultant resolution for the removal of the petitioner from the position of the speaker are null and void for contravening the provisions of the Constitution and the County Government Act 2012 and the Fair Administrative Actions Act,” ordered Justice Ogola.

Mukenyang had sued the County Assembly of West Pokot and Evanson Lomaduny, the Endugh MCA who tabled the impeachment motion.

In her court documents, Mukenyang sought orders to restrain the county assembly from declaring a vacancy in the Office of the Speaker or obstruct her from accessing the assembly offices.

She claimed that she had received a letter dated August 24, 2021, by the Clerk of the County Assembly, informing her of the notice of the intention to move a motion for a resolution to remove her from office.

She added that although the notice stated grounds for her removal, it was not signed by one-third of the MCAs as required in the County Government Act, 2012.

Fair hearing

Mukenyang said that the respondents had resolved to proceed and table the notice of motion for her removal, breaching her fundamental right to a fair hearing and fair administrative action.

The county assembly as well as Lomaduny, however, denied her allegations, maintaining that there was nothing unprocedural in the manner the impeachment motion was originated, scheduled, tabled, discussed and passed.

The court was told that the notice of intention to remove the speaker was supported by 26 MCAs, more than one-third of the members.

During the impeachment, the MCAs cited abuse of office, a gross violation of the Public Finance Management Act, the Public Procurement and Disposal Act and gross misconduct.

The MCAs accused the speaker of irregular employment of staff on contract without following due process and embarking on early campaigns using county resources.

Majority leader Thomas Ngolesia accused her of taking the role of the clerk contrary to the County Government Act.

Justice Ogola said everyone has a right to a fair hearing and the right to respond to allegations levelled against a party, adding that the speaker was denied this right.

“The process for the removal of the petitioner from office did not accord her the right to fair administrative action and the right to a fair hearing, as the petitioner was not served with the evidentiary documents that the respondents were relying on during the impeachment to enable her file her defence to the serious charges levelled against her,” said the judge.

Justice Ogola said the motion for removal of the speaker failed to mention the names of MCAs supporting the said motion, and therefore it did not satisfy the requirements of the County Government Act, as it was only signed by Lomaduny.

“An order be and is hereby issued to bring this court for the purposes of quashing the unlawful impeachment proceedings against the petitioner by the respondents and any resolution and decision resulting therefrom,” ruled Justice Ogola.