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Governor Kawira Mwangaza violated 62 laws in 64 days, Meru MCAs tell Senate

 Meru County Governor Kawira Mwangaza during the first sitting by the Senate to hear charges on the proposed removal from office by impeachment at the Senate Chambers on December 27, 2022. [ Elvis Ogina ,Standard]

Meru County Assembly has claimed Governor Kawira Mwangaza violated at least one law per day from September 6 to November 9.

Through lawyer Muthomi Thiankolu appearing before the Senate special committee probing the impeachment motion against Mwangaza, the MCAs accused the governor of 62 violations of the Constitution, all committed within 64 days.

In a 15-minute submission yesterday, Muthomi likened the Mwangaza situation to that of Nazi leader Adolf Hitler who orchestrated unchecked acts of violence, injustice and annexation of significant sections of Europe before Great Britain and the United States decided to take action.

Tearing into the governor's defence filed in affidavits before the committee, Muthomi argued that the allegations against her have nothing to do with her being a woman or the fact she was voted in as an independent candidate.

"She says all these problems are because she is a woman, how come all the women MCAs voted to impeach her?" asked the lawyer.

All 67 MCAs present during the impeachment session voted to remove her from office.

Last week, some senators proposed considerations on legislation around timelines on impeaching a governor, owing to what they said was a rush in pushing for an impeachment motion by the Meru County Assembly.

However, the lawyer argued that the county's push for impeachment has not come early but is a necessary democratic remedy for "leadership aberration".

"Our Constitution does not know this idea of temporary impunity where there is a huge space following general elections in which governors have a blank cheque to do whatever crime they fancy because during that period after the election, the Constitution is suspended," argued Muthomi.

"Is it really possible that there is no fundamental problem with the governor and the problem instead lies with all these other people? The MCAs, the MPs in Meru, the senator, the Cabinet Secretary, the Catholic Church."

The first-time governor is accused of nepotism, illegal appointments, unlawful dismissals and usurpation of the constitutional and statutory functions of county organs, incitement, bullying, vilification and misleading campaigns against other leaders.

On October 1, the governor appointed her husband Murega Baichu as the county's Youth Patron and Hustlers' Ambassador with no pay, a decision the MCAs argued was not in compliance with the law.

In a video played to the committee, the governor is seen announcing the creation of a new office and appointing her husband to two separate offices.

"Others have more experience and the department being given has no salary or allowances. The occupants will work to help Kenyans for free," Kawira is seen announcing.

"I am appointing him because he is greater, this is his excellency, the first gentleman of Meru County, Honourable Murega Baichu," she adds.

Other charges against the governor include forceful entry into the County Assembly precincts, mobilisation of unlawful riots against MCAs and violation of Public Finance Management laws.

Appearing as a key witness before the committee, County Assembly Minority Whip Dennis Kiogora, who had moved the motion to impeach the governor, took the senators through the evidence, which according to him carried substantial ground for the impeachmment.

In the first set of evidence presented in form of a video played before the committee, the governor is seen appointing people to different jobs, including watchmen and firefighters in the Meru County fire station during public rallies without regard to professionalism or competence.

"She was directing the sub-county administrator and ward administrator for Kianjai ward to recruit watchmen and sweepers and then she will find a way of regularising those appointments through the formal process," said Kiogora.

Similarly, the evidence depicted the governor establishing a committee, which the MCAs termed illegal, for the Meru Municipality to address the issues of taxi drivers.

"We have a board that is in office and drawing allowances from the county and is doing nothing because the governor has resorted to create her own board to run the affairs of Meru town," said Kiogora.

Meru is classified as a municipality under the Municipals and Cities Act, leaving the running of its operations to the municipal board, which is an autonomous body.

"I think she operates on the paradigm that maybe she is the first governor, there are no structures and laws and she is creating her own system," said the Abogeta MCA.

However, the evidence was rubbished by Governor Mwangaza's lawyer Elius Mutuma, who challenged Kiogora to prove whether the said roadside appointments led to the individuals taking up the posts later on.

"I have not seen any," Kiogora responded.

In another video, the governor is seen directing the Meru Teaching and Referral Hospital management to spend all revenue at source and cease remitting it to the county revenue fund. The governor also allegedly issued waivers on medical fees at the same hospital.

The law requires that pronouncements touching on the management of a level five hospital fall on the County Executive Committee member for health or finance.

The County Assembly argued that such pronouncements would interfere with the independence of the hospital CEO and board.

Typographical error

However, Kiogora's fortunes as a calm witness turned when lawyer Mutuma tore into his submissions and challenged the validity of some of the memorandums from the public calling for the impeachment of the governor.

Mutuma found that two memorandums deposited by two different individuals shared the same typographical error.

"Is it possible that two different people presenting their thoughts on the impeachment are making the same typographical errors when presenting their views?" he posed.

Mutuma concluded that the two documents must have been authored by the same person, which Kigora said he could not confirm.

Mutuma further alleged that all the written memorandums were done by people who were seated in a room and keen to see the governor ejected from office.

While cross-examining Kiogora, Mwangaza's legal team further argued that despite the accusations lodged against the governor, the county has not lost any money, and she has not spent any money without the approval of the County Assembly or without a budget.

The Senate committee will today hear evidence from the governor's legal team and her key witnesses.

The committee is expected to have the report ready by Friday.

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