Eleven senators will decide the fate of embattled Governor Anne Waiguru who was impeached by the Kirinyaga County Assembly last week.
By a vote of 45-14, with one abstention, the Senate sanctioned a committee to investigate whether there are sufficient grounds to uphold the impeachment of the governor or clear her of the charges to continue holding office.
The verdict of the committee is expected in 10 days and should the team find the governor has no case to answer, there will be no further debate, as Speaker Kenneth Lusaka ruled yesterday.
A motion to set up the select committee kicked up a storm in the House yesterday as some senators wanted the case decided in the plenary by all members, as happened with Ferdinard Waititu who was ousted as Kiambu governor.
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Once again, the contest pitting senators aligned to ODM party leader Raila Odinga and Deputy President William Ruto played out, as President Uhuru Kenyatta’s allies appeared to have a free will.
Senate Majority Whip (nominated) Farhiya Ali moved the Motion seeking to establish the 11-member special committee comprising Senators Abshiro Halake (nominated), Michael Mbito (Trans Nzoia), Mwangi Githiomi (Nyandarua), Beth Mugo (nominated), Anuar Loitiptip (Lamu) and Philip Mpaayei of Kajiado.
Others were Cleophas Malalah (Kakamega), Beatrice Kwamboka (nominated), Stewart Madzayo (Kilifi), Judith Pareno (nominated) and Homa Bay’s Moses Kajwang’.
Some Jubilee senators, particularly those allied to Ruto, put up a spirited argument on why the plenary was the best option, arguing a small team can be compromised.
However, they faced opposition from a group majorly comprising ODM members who wanted the committee to carry out the investigation.
Malala seconded the Motion saying the Senate was an independent organ and its activities cannot be dictated to by the people of Kirinyaga who had publicly lobbied senators to consider the case in the plenary.
“The Senate cannot be micro-managed by people seated in certain corners,” Malala said. Ironically, in Waititu’s case, Malala had been proposed to chair a similar committee to probe the then Kiambu governor, but he abandoned the cause and voted for the plenary.
Senators Mithika Linturi (Meru), Njeru Ndwiga (Embu), Charles Kibiru (Kirinyaga), John Kinyua (Laikipia), Kipchumba Murkomen (Elgeyo Marakwet), Samson Cherargei (Nandi), Aaron Cheruiyot (Kericho), Susan Kihika (Nakuru), Christopher Lagat (Bomet) and Johnstone Sakaja of Nairobi supported a plenary hearing.
“The people of Kirinyaga are watching. It is unfortunate. It is going the committee way and the die is cast,” Kibiru said. “Nobody is saying that the governor is guilty. What the people of Kirinyaga are saying is that we go plenary. We are not fools and we did not come to Nairobi yesterday. We know what has been happening around,”? Kibiru added.
Those who backed the motion to have the committee probe the claims against Waiguru included James Orengo (Siaya), Mutula Kilonzo Jnr (Makueni), Ledama ole Kina (Narok), Kajwang’ and Ochilo Ayacko of Migori.
Orengo said the Senate should never be in a position where it is directed on how to handle its affairs. He claimed that Waiguru was being sacrificed to appease certain political quarters.
“You are like the daughter of Herod, Salome, who danced so well for Herod that he asked her what she wanted and Salome said the head of John the Baptist,” Orengo said. He went on: “Today some people have danced so well that they are not looking for justice. They are looking for somebody’s head. Waiguru’s head is not being asked for by Kirinyaga Assembly, but by somebody else and I have the evidence.”
Murkomen claimed the committee was being railroaded because a scheme had been hatched to rescue the governor. “There is a decision made elsewhere to form a committee to save Waiguru. This committee is a sanitising committee,” he declared.
Linturi reminded his colleagues that he had warned those pushing for the ouster of Waititu at the time that it was unfair to deny him an opportunity to be probed by a committee.
“The serious proponents to uphold Waititu impeachment voted unanimously to go plenary. I warned you time will come when the precedence set will come back to haunt you and those opposed chose not to use reason,” he added.
He warned that Kirinyaga residents will judge the Senate harshly if there was a miscarriage of justice.
“In this Senate, each member took the oath to defend the interest of counties, courtesy of the people of Kirinyaga who donated the authority. In the event we fail, the people have the right to go to the streets to exercise the sovereign power,” said Linturi.
Ledama tried to introduce another argument, questioning why only the governor was being prosecuted yet Article 179 of the Constitution talks of the executive authority of the county.
“The Constitution is ambiguous and these issues are not clear. The committee will look at the evidence, work and charges and in turn do justice to the people of Kenya,” he said.
Kitui Senator Enoch Wambua said the people of Kirinyaga were crying out for justice.
“Governor Waiguru is crying out for justice; I don’t know how she has defined it but she wants justice. It’s not simple, but weighty and a public issue,” Wambua said.
Ayacko said they seek justice for all persons aggrieved. “Justice is about fair hearing. Some members are suspicious of others sitting in those committees,” he said.
Ndwiga said: “I have no problem with the members chosen or committee but I persuade the House to listen to the people of Kirinyaga.”
Ndwiga who chaired the committee on Taita Taveta Governor Granton Samboja’s impeachment that cleared him, said if there is no incriminating evidence against the governor, the matter ends there.
“No justice if the matter goes the committee way. Justice should be seen to be done. The Kirinyaga people are waiting. Political players, particularly the party leaders, watch out. It’s very slippery. Two years down the road, Kirinyaga people are unlikely to vote you,” he warned.
Lusaka said if the charges are not substantiated by the committee, a report will be tabled just for noting. “If the findings report is substantiated the members will debate and vote. If not, it will be tabled and no further debate,” he stated.
Kilonzo Jnr backed the committee route, saying you cannot choose how to be tried.
“You do not choose the judge and the forum. We have withstood offers of bribes by the State and others. We have been offered money, a lot of money and even intimidated,” he revealed.