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The trouble with Kawira Mwangaza's impeachment

 Meru governor Kawira Mwangaza when she took oath of office. [George Kaimenyi, Standard]

Several disturbing issues arise out of the impeachment of Meru Governor Kawira Mwangaza. 

The offences she is accused of though styled as gross violation of the Constitution and the laws, all boil down to six issues; failing to follow procedures in hiring county staff, failing to submit alternative names after some of her County Executives were rejected by the assembly and instead, refashioning her ministries to the numbers approved and alleged vilification and humiliation of MCAs, its leadership and the county's other elected and appointed leaders.

Also the alleged incitement of the public against MCAs, forcefully entering the assembly and finally the alleged irregular appointment of her husband to a non-existent office. 

Believers in the rule of law will agree that strict observance of law and procedure ought to be adhered to, but in the same breath, not every legal infraction amounts to gross misconduct or gross violation of the Cconstitution or the law.

Procedures were followed

Breach of hiring procedure especially for those freshly in office, when they do occur are cured by nullification/ revocation of such appointments and re-starting the process. This is what happened when Japhet Koome was named Inspector General without reference to the Police Service Commission.

The same quietly happened when the resignation of George Kinoti as Director of Criminal Investigations (DCI) was "accepted" then days later, he was forwarded to the Public Service Commission for redeployment.

The missteps were quietly corrected and the required procedures were followed. In the case of the Inspector General, Koome was later hired "competitively." In other words, his unprocedural hiring was subsequently regularised.

The alleged roadside hiring by the now impeached Governor of Meru happened on or about the same time, soon after she assumed office. One cannot rule out the excitement of the new status, perhaps coupled with ignorance of the nature and scope of duties rather than deliberate disobedience of the law. 

The appointment of the first gentleman to an honorary (non-existent) position does not constitute any offence. How do you advertise and competitively recruit for a job that does not exist, unless of course, the assembly is suggesting a mock competitive recruitment?

The assembly members are within their mandate to call out the governor for failing to adhere to procedures and processes. Still, they ought to be aware that not all shortcomings can sustain an impeachment motion.

First Ladies of the Nation champion good causes; similarly, First Ladies of many of our counties champion good causes. As Meru County’s First Gentleman, Kawira’s husband can similarly champion good causes such as mentoring youth or being a patron of a social project.

Champion good causes

A First Gentleman can partner with the county as most First Ladies do. The appointment of the First Gentleman of Meru County to an honorary position cannot by any stretch of imagination amount to gross misconduct, or to gross violation of the Constitution. 

Kawira and indeed many governors may need advisors who are versed on how government runs. Unlike the national government which is the repository of expertise in human resources, the counties are often short of such expertise.

Critical human resources ought to be shared by the national government with the counties, to avert the repeated failure to observe laid-down procedures.

A look at the impeachment motion discloses that its mover, who is the Minority Whip, several other leaders in the county assembly, and indeed all MCAs were complainants in the motion.

They appear not to have declared their personal interest in the motion contrary to standing orders and rules of natural justice.

The MCAs cannot be accusers and judges at the same time. 

The generalised grievances are clear evidence of a political tug-of-war and supremacy battle between the assembly and the governor. The assembly appears to have used or abused its powers to settle scores. This is not only a gross violation of the Constitution but a dangerous and unacceptable move that undermines our democracy.

The laughable allegation that the governor forced her way into the county assembly reveals a possible breach of the law by the assembly itself, which is irregularly barring or obstructing the governor from accessing the Chamber.

Can a president be barred from accessing Parliament by the members? The obvious answer is no and similarly, a governor who is for all intent and purposes the president of the county, cannot be barred or obstructed from accessing the county assembly. 

Both levels of government

Leaders must learn to rely on experts to avert these glaring lapses which have occurred and continue to occur at both levels of government.

At the national level, the Executive has repeatedly made appointments of persons to the Cabinet and other senior public positions in flagrant violation of the Constitution especially Chapter Six on integrity.

Parliament has given a seal of approval to these unconstitutional appointments. The Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions with the approval of the Judiciary has, in an openly selective manner sanitised unsuitable individuals appointed to high office.

This offends the constitutional principle of equal application of the law to all otherwise known as non-discrimination.

Additionally, some ministers have been reported to order the promotion of juniors at public events at the spur of the moment (roadside promotions),  clearly usurping the role of the relevant public agencies. Legal and procedural blunders are therefore not peculiar to the now-impeached Meru governor.

The Kawira impeachment is reminiscent of the dethroning of the first Deputy Chief Justice Nancy Baraza for an omission that could otherwise have earned her a reprimand. While men in high office are shielded from allegations of high crime and gross misconduct, women are hounded out on flimsy grounds.

The unspoken gender card protects select high-level males. One hopes that the legal advisers of the Senate and the Senate itself will be woke in this matter and that all donees of people's power will henceforth remember such power must be used for the common good, not self-gratification.

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