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Dishonourable acts will erode confidence in the Legislature

By The Standard | June 28th 2020 at 12:00:00 GMT +0300

This week, the Senate is in a political black hole after it heard the impeachment case against Kirinyaga Governor Anne Waiguru and acquitted her. 

Even before a decision was made last week to go the plenary or select committee way, it was clear the Kirinyaga matter was going to be contentious.

Yesterday, aggrieved MCAs threatened to move to court to challenge the acquittal. The assembly, through lawyer Ndegwa Njiru, will be seeking the intervention of the High Court.

Meanwhile, allies of Deputy President William Ruto came out guns blazing, saying the Senator Cleophas Malala-led team engaged in a charade. But backers of President Uhuru Kenyatta and Opposition chief Raila Odinga lauded the verdict.

Observers say the clashing opinions are linked to the 2022 succession politics where allies of Ruto on one hand and those of Raila and Uhuru on the other now have an adversarial relationship.

The impeachment hearing for former Kiambu Governor Ferdiand Waititu in January took an almost similar tangent.

These exchanges will no doubt carry on. By the senators’ own admission, more impeachments could come, since more governors are in the crosshairs of ward reps over graft allegations. From the look of it, however, it is clear that a dangerous trend is cropping up — that of the institution of Parliament allowing itself to be held to ransom by vested interests.

This trend is dishonourable, to say the least. The law is clear. And if the Senate’s decisions are hinged on the law, one wonders why members would cast aspersions on the a committee or their colleagues.

The Senate, which prides in itself at the Upper House, should engage in a thorough soul-searching if it’s to be a trusted custodian of devolution. Suffice to say, the 47 counties are facing unique teething challenges that can’t be addressed by a house held captive by other forces. Ultimately, the senate loses face and meaning if it panders to selfish interests.  

We call on MCAs not to use their watchdog role to frustrate governors or settle political scores. Governors, too, should live to their oath of office by ensuring smooth running of counties and prudent use of funds. Certainly, it helps when county assemblies and the executive arms talk to each other and not at each other.  

When the 2010 Constitution came into force, Kenyans banked their hopes for change in devolution. The hopes remain valid, the challenges notwithstanding. The Legislature has to do whatever it takes to protect these gains.

The counties continue being frustrated by the National Government tendency to ‘take back’ already devolved functions. There’s also endemic funding delays that have forced counties into debts amounting to billions of shillings.  

Blame game and duplicity of roles in a way that negates the Constitution is unhealthy. In the recent past, we have seen the Senate and National Assembly engage in turf wars that only serve to infringe on and interfere with the functions of county governments. 

Most importantly, improved intergovernmental relations between the central government and the counties is integral. The law establishes structures that allow the two levels to co-exist. The national and county government coordinating summit is one such structure. 

The interests of the nation is greater than those of individual politicians. We challenge legislators to stay true to their oath of office. The Senate, the National Assembly and, indeed, other arms of government must be beyond reproach.

To call a spade a spade, deal cutting or what others call “sanitisation” reflects leadership failure of a monumental proportion.

In the past, we’ve seen legislators make money by issuing summonses to various people to appear before committees. Their guests are usually Cabinet Secretaries, parastatal bosses and business leaders who are often forced to give ‘tokens’ to members during ‘camera’ interrogation sessions. The work of a legislator should be to serve, not to ‘eat’.


Anne Waiguru Kirinyaga Ndegwa Njiru
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