The High Court judgement reinstating the Wajir Governor to office raises fundamental questions about the judicial process, but more importantly, the process by which the county and national legislatures conduct the impeachment of governors.
It is unfortunate that the matter has taken this long to be resolved by the courts. The cardinal principle in all processes that interfere with the democratic process is that they should be concluded quickly so that a democratic deficit is not unduly prolonged.
That is why the Constitution requires that Presidential election petitions be completed within 14 days. It also requires that all other petitions be concluded within six months. The decision on who is the legitimate holder of the peoples’ democratic mandate should never be in doubt.
The delay also introduces some practical challenges that can cause such severe dysfunction in the governance of the county as to gravely prejudice the interests of the people of Wajir.
Since governor Mohamud was sent packing by the Senate, his Deputy Ali Mukhtar was instrumental in hurrying the process of his own swearing-in and ensuring that governor stayed out of office.
Indeed, had the swearing not been rushed so as to defeat the court process, this debacle would not have occurred; the courts had already given interim orders to stop the swearing only to find that the new governor had already been sworn in!
Since then, some of governor Mohamud’s key officers have been sent home and new officers installed. You can imagine the chaos in that office from the 1st of March when the governor is meant to retake his seat and work with the dame team! Meanwhile, elections will be four months away.
Essentially, Wajir will have no significant programmes being processed until a new government takes over. If one takes into account the impact of the pre-impeachment strife, the Wajir administration will have served its people for about a year.
For counties like Wajir which were historically marginalised, and for which devolution was the ticket to the land of normalcy, this is a tragedy.
Our courts must find ways of processing such consequential matters as urgently as is practicable to avoid this kind of calamity. These rushed swearings in must also cease. But the judiciary is only a part of the problem.
The real challenge is the way in which impeachments and removals from office are carried out by the County Assemblies and the Senate respectively. These two institutions have come to belief that impeachment and removal of office by the legislatures are solely a political process.
They frown on the law and ignore basic procedural rules. Some Assemblies do not even have the requisite quorum at the time of impeachment. These matters are dismissed by the Senate when they are brought to its attention. I have heard the Senate argue that they cannot even be injuncted from proceeding with impeachments; they also have equivalent powers as the courts.
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In these forums, basic rules of natural justice are ignored. What matters is a vote. Even where the legislators accept that allegations have not been supported by any evidence, they proceed to vote in favor of impeachment.
What the High Court decision resolutely affirms is that ultimately, impeachment and removal from office are legal and political processes. The allegations on which the impeachment is based must first be proved with cogent evidence.
All procedural rules must be complied with. It is only then that a political vote can take place. In the absence of this compliance with law and procedure, the courts have a role, nay, a duty to throw away processes which are an abuse of the law and the constitution.
Many Kenyans gave their lives for constitutional democracy.
This is the only way it works.