This can be Senate's redemption moment


When former Kisii Deputy Governor Dr Robert Monda defended his impeachment before the Senate on March 13, 2024. [Boniface Okendo, Standard]

The Senate has oftentimes been accused of prioritising political interests over common good.

Though last week’s decision on Kisii Deputy Governor Robert Monda somehow earned it an optimistic public judgment, it left a lot to be desired.

Previous ‘high-profile’ impeachment hearings had high drama. Notably, Mr Monda’s Senate appearance was subdued, and went unnoticed until the next day. It lacked the dramatic force and flair because President William Ruto and Azimio’s Raila Odinga had no direct interest in it. However, it evoked memories of past impeachments.   

In the court of public opinion, the fall of former governors Mike Sonko and Ferdinand Waititu was in stark contrast to the survival of Ms Ann Waiguru, Ms Kawira Mwangaza and Mr William Oduol despite facing nearly similar accusations.

In Mr Sonko and Mr Waititu cases arising from abuse of office and graft claims, the Senate tried to close the stable door long after the horse had bolted. And for Ms Waiguru’s much publicised appearance in June 2020, it bore the shadows of the Uhuru Kenyatta and Raila handshake.

Ms Waiguru, a unique politician in her own right, was accused of undermining Kirinyaga County Assembly and violating procurement and finance laws. Her ‘trial’ triggered scheming within a House team that heard the issues and tabled a report. Talk of no evidence and technicalities!

Similarly, support from Kenya Kwanza for Mr Oduol, the Siaya DG, underscored partisan dynamics. The glee with which Nandi Senator Samson Cherargei garrisoned Mr Oduol on the floor of the Senate on August 22 last year, spoke volumes.

Mr Oduol was let off the hook from claims of interfering with procurement. Observers say he became an instant beneficiary of the Ruto-Raila post-election fights. In Ms Mwangaza’s case, there was horse-trading, with CS Moses Kuria claiming it was an ‘evil scheme’ by a Mt Kenya politician to bring down the governor. Failed ousters of the late Nderitu Gachagua (Nyeri), Mr Martin Wambora (Embu), Mr Granton Samboja (Taita-Taveta) and Kericho’s Paul Chepkwony were, however, uniquely different given their political insignificance at the time. 

Now, Mr Monda becomes the first deputy governor to be impeached by Senate. He has appealed the verdict. But regardless of the fairness of the process, the Senate must do more to reaffirm its appreciation of accountability. Whichever way it chooses to do it, let it accentuate its duty of safeguarding devolution without political posturing.

We’ve seen senators skip sessions and keep off voting. There’ve been endless spats within it over revenue allocation besides the lackluster handling of graft. The Senate County Public Investment and Special Funds Committee never brings closure to audit queries in counties.

It should be underscored that the Senate, however superfluous it may be, exists to protect county interests and to impeach the President should it be required. Under Article 96, it makes laws and determines revenue allocation as per Article 217. Greed should not override these sacrosanct roles. Its past failures call for serious retrospection.

Governors and deputies too must cease unnecessary fights. While the fear of impeachment is real, they shouldn’t spend much time watching over their shoulders. A recent demand by the Council of Governors (CoG) for a review of impeachment laws reflects this concern.

CoG chairperson Waiguru recently led colleagues in saying county bosses shouldn’t be kicked out in the first two years and in the last year to an election. However, impeachment provisions exist to deter those out to seek self-preservation. Clearly, devolution has transformed some counties but remains a faraway reality in others. Some governors have done a sterling job but others have presided over looting. Lest we forget, positively determining counties’ future calls for brutal honesty.

CoG must not be a clueless elite club. The Senate, equally, must stop scoring political goals. Ill-motivated impeachments have no place in Kenya today. Importantly, senators should vote in public interest and not to please benefactors.  

The writer is a communications practitioner. X: @markoloo