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Intrigues in ousted Wajir governor's troubled reign

NORTH EASTERN
By Moses Nyamori | May 19th 2021
Wajir Governor Mohamud Abdi (centre) during his impeachment debate at the Senate, Parliament Buildings, Nairobi. [Elvis Ogina, Standard]

A total of 16 senators failed to take a vote on the impeachment of Wajir Governor Mohamed Abdi Mohamud, pointing to a possible behind the scene lobbying, led by an influential politician.

Of the 47 senators, 25 voted to oust Mohamud, with four abstaining while two voted against the motion.

Characterised by firsts, from the decision to ignore a court order barring the Senate from considering the impeachment, a standoff on the formation of the 11-member special committee with its membership unanimously endorsing the report to send the governor packing only for the chair Nyamira Senator Okong'o Omogeni to abstain.

Members also didn't have a heated debate over the impeachment and seasoned lawmakers kept off the topic only waiting to cast their vote with the number of abstentions high.

A clear departure from the past, the voting did not lean on any side of the political divide, as senators allied to President Uhuru Kenyatta and ODM leader Raila Odinga as well as Deputy President William Ruto's wing voted to fire the governor.

Sources confided in The Standard that interests were so high, that the Speaker reportedly signed off the gazette notice declaring the governor's office vacant minutes after the vote.

Just as Omogeni abstained, the vice-chair Senator Susan Kihika (Nakuru) was also missing in the House.

"It is shocking that the committee had to substantiate two charges, which saw the county assembly table 17 allegations. Out of this, only one was upheld. The threshold set in the Senate is too high to send a governor home but in this case, he was against all odds," said a lawmaker aware of the intrigues.

"The senators from the Northern frontier mainly rallied the colleagues to ensure the governor's case served as an example to others. The lobbying was on another level. It was pure politics, not substance," he added.

According to Article 123 on Decision of the Senate, on matters touching on counties, "all the members of the Senate who were registered as voters in a particular county shall collectively constitute a single delegation for purposes of clause (4) and the member elected under Article 98 (1) (a) shall be the head of the delegation."

"Each county delegation shall have one vote to be cast on behalf of the county by the head of the county delegation or, in the absence of the head of the delegation, by another member of the delegation designated by the head of the delegation"

Wajir Governor Mohamud Abdi at the Senate. [Elvis Ogina, Standard]

It is interesting that the 16 senators did not delegate their voting powers to the nominated colleagues in the delegation of their respective counties as provided for in law.

During the special sitting to consider the report, another member of the committee, Senator Mithika Linturi (Meru), did not vote despite agreeing with the report that recommended the removal of Mohamud from office over gross violation of the constitution.

All the 11 members of the special committee appended their signatures on the report, essentially expressing their endorsement for the report.

Apart from Omogeni, Senators James Orengo (Siaya), Kindiki Kithure (Tharaka Nithi) and Ochilo Ayacko (Migori) abstained. Orengo and Prof Kindiki abstained for having participated in a court case involving the impeached governor.

Senators Kihika, Mithika, Moses Kajwang’ (Homabay), Imana Malachy Ekal (Turkana), Sam Ongeri (Kisii), Steven Lelegwe (Samburu), Irungu Kang’ata (Muranga), Mutula Kilonzo Jnr (Makueni), Loitiptip Anuar (Lamu), Cleophas Malala (Kakamega), Philip Mpaayei (Kajiado), Michael Mbito (Trans Nzoia), Olekina Ledama (Narok), Amos Wako (Busia), Wario Golich Juma (Tana River) and Abdulkadir Mohamed Haji (Garissa) did not vote.

Omogeni told the senators not to be influenced by the report but to make an independent decision.

“As Senators retreat to exercise their right to vote, this is a matter that they should think about very carefully. They should not be influenced by the report, they should look at it objectively and exercise their own constitutional right to vote,” he said.

The vote by the senators dealt a blow to the political career of the former governor after vicious political and court battles that have lasted three years.

Since his election in August 2017, Mohamud has been in and out of court having had his election challenged all the way to the Supreme Court.

He survived ouster on February 15, 2019, when the Supreme Court ruled in his favour, only to be hounded out of office by the Senate following his impeachment by the county assembly.

The Senate vote has thrust Deputy Governor Ahmed Ali Muktar to the helm of the county leadership.

“Pursuant to section 33 (6) (b) of the County Government Act, 2012 and Standing Order 75 of the Senate Standing Orders, the Senate, after according Mohamed Abdi Mohamud, the Governor of Wajir County, an opportunity to be heard, did on Monday, May 17, 2021, resolve to impeach Mohamed Abdi Mohamud, the Governor of Wajir County…” said Speaker Lusaka in a gazette notice yesterday.

Wajir Governor Mohamud Abdi at the Senate, Parliament Buildings, Nairobi. [Elvis Ogina, Standard]

Trouble for Mohamud started immediately after his win against a petition questioning his academic papers was lodged.

On January 12, 2019, High Court Judge Alfred Mabeya voided his election for not having a university degree required to run for governor’s post.

He moved to the Court of Appeal which also upheld the nullification of his election as governor.

But on February 15, 2019, Mohamud got a reprieve after the Supreme Court ruled that he was validly elected.

In the ruling, four of the six Supreme Court judges overturned the ruling of the two lower courts.

Justices Mohammed Ibrahim, Jackton Ojwang, Njoki Ndungu and Smokin Wanjala said the courts wrongly assumed the jurisdiction to rule on the governor’s academic papers.

Chief Justice David Maraga and Justice Isaac Lenaola, however, dissented on the ruling, arguing that a degree is a mandatory requirement for one to run for the governor seat.

 

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