Kisii governor's major headache after impeachment of his deputy

Former Kisii Deputy Governor Robert Monda. [Sammy Omingo, Standard]

The political dust is yet to settle in Kisii County following last Thursday’s shock verdict by the Senate on Deputy Governor Robert Monda. Mr Monda, who had fallen out with Governor Simba Arati, was first impeached by the county assembly on February 29 when 53 MCAs out of 70 backed his removal.

The deputy governor faced four charges including abuse of office, gross misconduct and gross violation of the law. He was accused, among other things, of accepting a Sh800,000 bribe from a resident ostensibly to help her secure a job.

“By virtue of the deputy governor requesting and receiving a bribe of Sh800,00, he is in breach of the provisions of Article 232 which obligates public officers to observe the values and principles of public service,” the charges read.

Despite Mr Monda’s denial and spirited fight together with his legal team before the Senate, the House affirmed his ouster. The hearing saw 39 senators vote ‘yes ‘and three vote ‘no’, while one abstained on the charge of abuse of office.

On gross misconduct, 35 senators supported, seven opposed while one abstained. Coming to crimes under national law charge, 32 senators voted yes, nine no, with one abstaining. With Thursday's wielding of the big stick by the Senate, Monda becomes the first deputy governor to be impeached by the Upper House.

The embattled county chief could appeal the Senate verdict in court or let it go altogether. Whatever he chooses to do, there is no denying that his fate has sent tongues wagging in Kisii. Residents and observers are now preoccupied with questions, guesses and suggestions on who could take over Monda’s job should he throw in the towel.

Under the law, Arati will have 14 days, from the day of gazettement, to forward a name to  Kisii County Assembly, which will then have up to 60 days to vet the nominee and subject him or her to a vote. The stakes seem high.

Whatever Arati opts to do, he must undertake a careful balance between political and clan interests with an eye on uniting the county and retaining his seat come 2027 elections. Ethnic and clan politics will have a huge role.

Governor Arati should not antagonise his support base. He will afford no mistakes in the choice of Monda’s replacement. Granted, the Gusii community will be keen on their socio-economic welfare and may not fathom a situation that will lead to further divisions within the county’s top echelons.

It is interesting to note that the impeached deputy governor comes from the populous Nyaribari clan. Thus, it is likely that the governor could pick someone from the same clan. Observers say his options include Joel Okeng’o Nyambane, a Kenya Kwanza stalwart who pulled out of the Senate race due to regional balancing and clan matrix. He headed the presidential campaigns secretariat for UDA in Nyanza.

Another likely candidate for the DG position is Tong’i Richard Nyagaka, an Azimio diehard who came second in the last election for the seat of Nyaribari Chache MP. There’s also James Ontiri Kenani, another Azimio la Umoja loyalist who came third in the Nyaribari Chache MP contest in 2022.

It will also be interesting to see how the new-found friendship between President William Ruto and Opposition chief Raila Odinga will influence the political dynamics between Kenya Kwanza and Azimio politicians in Kisii. Ruto and Raila appear to have mended fences, with the President leading campaigns to have the Azimio leader become the next Africa Union Commission chairman.

In my view and that of many locals, there’s no reason why Arati should overthink who can replace Monda. Let him go for credentials and the overall interest of the county. Should he make the right choice, every Kisii voter will be happy. To paraphrase late minister George Saitoti’s words, the interest of the country (or county) is bigger than that of individuals.

Mr Ongeri is chairman of the National Youth Council, Kisii County