Senate votes to send home Kiambu boss

Kiambu Governor Ferdinand Waititu at Parliament during his impeachment motion at the Senate. [Boniface Okendo/Standard]

Kiambu governor Ferdinand Waititu was yesterday impeached by the Senate, paving the way for his deputy James Nyoro to assume leadership for the remainder of the term.

Twenty eight Senators voted to end Waititu’s reign as governor after 27 months, in a vote that exposed the partisan positions influenced by the handshake. Pro-handshake senators allied to President Uhuru Kenyatta and ODM leader Raila Odinga ganged up against those in Deputy President William Ruto’s camp, who opposed Waititu’s impeachment.

The Senators who backed Waititu's removal from office termed his defence casual, as he failed to adduce any evidence to rebut allegations by the county assembly.

Waititu has the option of moving to the High Court on procedural grounds. He argues the Kiambu County assembly did not have the requisite two-thirds majority to impeach him. He also argued that the Senate proceedings were outside the stipulated time frame.

The three charges were gross violation of the Constitution, County Government Act, the Public Finance Management Act and the Public Procurement and Disposal Act on crimes under the national law and abuse of office/gross misconduct.

Majority Leader Kipchumba Murkomen, while moving the Motion, regretted that the House had reduced itself to a quasi-judicial body and accused colleagues of playing to the gallery instead of defending counties and county governments.

“The counsel for the governor raised a fundamental question; did the assembly meet the constitutional two-thirds majority? In fact, during the cross-examination, it was revealed that it was not met,” said Murkomen.

He added: “Whereas other decisions we make politically, I hope the decision we will make today will be for posterity.”

“We must put weight on the documents and evidence supplied by the county assembly. If the charges and evidence lead to a conclusion we will acquit, we will do so without any apologies, but not the political inclinations that we are being whipped to support,” he noted while urging his colleagues to oppose the Motion.

Senate Minority leader James Orengo termed the impeachment Motion against Waititu an unfortunate case, saying the legal team let Waititu down.

Political affiliation

Waititu sought to portray the three charges against him as motivated by politics, pleading with Senators not to "crucify" him based on his political affiliation, as politicians would always switch allegiances.

Waitutu joins the likes of Embu Governor Martin Wambora, who was impeached twice, but was saved by the courts. Although he did not mention it, Waititu seemed to blame his tribulations on his association with Ruto - he was the only county chief who frequently accompanied the DP in his nationwide tours until he was hounded by the graft charges. In his final plea, Waititu urged Senators not to judge him based on the prevailing political circumstances, saying it would be unfair if he is removed unceremoniously just because he was not in the politically correct camp.

Politics change, he said, adding that even though today he might be on a different political divide, the next day he could move to another.

“It is very unfair for someone who has worked hard, to be removed just like that, unceremoniously. It may be because I am not in the right political divide but tomorrow, with politics, I can change and be with you. Who knows?” Waititu posed.

“We have been changing parties, nobody knows what will happen. So you cannot judge a politician from what was happening last week or yesterday. You don’t know what will happen tomorrow. So I beseech you, don’t judge me on what happened or what is prevailing now. Please handle may case like any other case,”  the governor pleaded.  Waititu urged the House not to condemn him as a thief until he is proven guilty by a court of law.

“That this House from today henceforth must make a ruling that will change the narrative in Kiambu, because they have made it to the level that there are professional bloggers and demonstrators. They wake up every day to malign other people’s names. I am married, nobody should conclude that I am a thief. I have a right like any other Kenyans,” he pleaded.

The charges

Waititu was accused of abuse of office by influencing award of lucrative tenders to his wife and daughters, dispossessing a widow of prime land in Thika, which he was accused of allocating to his other wife, violation of the constitution and subsidiary laws, irregular hiring of 600 casuals as well as violating budget ceilings by spending Sh2.1billion against approved Sh1.4 billion for tarmacking roads.

The governor turned to the political strategy as his defence suffered a blow after his attempt to introduce new evidence outside the stipulated timeline was rejected.

He said the new evidence would demonstrate that the Kiambu county assembly did not have the requisite two-thirds majority at the time of passing the motion to impeach him.

His lawyers Ng’ang’a Mbugua and Charles Njenga cited precedent set in the senate which had admitted evidence in the course of proceedings.

The Senate had exercised such discretion in the impeachment of the late Nyeri governor Nderitu Gachagua and Embu governor Martin Wambora, they argued. However, the governor's application was denied by Speaker Ken Lusaka after a 30-minutes break.

“The application has not been allowed and is hereby denied. The Governor shall now proceed to put forth and argue his defense. That the Governor's defense shall be limited to the case filed by the County Assembly and the evidence put forward by the Assembly including any matters which arose in examination and cross-examination of the witness,” said Lusaka.

Waititu had until Saturday to submit the new evidence but he had delayed citing the court order barring him from office due to corruption charges. His lawyers said the governor only got the document on Monday.

“The application before you is for leave to file documents outside the prescribed time. The governor had challenges accessing his office to substantively response to the charges and even has to consult technical persons to get material necessary,” Mbugua had argued.

However, the County Assembly’s lawyers Nani Mungai and Mbuthi Gathenji opposed the move, accusing the governor of trying to adduce evidence through the back door.