Governors are sitting on the edge in the wake of a fresh wave of impeachment motions by MCAs, with about nine county chiefs facing threats of ouster from office.
This comes as debate rages on the MCAs’ constitutional oversight role versus destabilisation of the county governments.
The new wave, a replica of what happened in the 11th Parliament where Embu Governor Martin Wambora’s ouster opened the floodgates of other processes, seems to be on the shore following the successful removal of Kiambu’s Ferdinand Waititu from office.
Now, barely before the ink dries on the Senate’s proceedings on the impeachment of Kirinyaga Governor Anne Waiguru – where the House voted to save her -- MCAs in Kitui have been temporarily stopped by the High Court from impeaching Governor Charity Ngilu, accused of gross violations of the Constitution and the County Government Act.
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However, the MCAs have vowed to go on with the motion once the court matter is concluded.
Other governors who have received threats of impeachment include Salim Mvurya (Kwale), Wilber Ottichilo (Vihiga), Lee Kinyanjui (Nakuru), Patrick Khaemba (Trans Nzoia), Sospeter Ojaamong (Busia) and Wycliffe Wangamati (Bungoma).
The onslaught against county chiefs has caught the attention of the Council of Governors (CoG). The impeachment motions is the main agenda of a meeting by the council today. The meeting was called by CoG Chairman Wycliffe Oparanya, who at the weekend admitted that the plots to ouster his colleagues were alarming.
“We plead with MCAs to spare the governors and let them serve the remaining term in peace,” said the Kakamega governor.
Yesterday, a furious Kinyanjui dared his MCAs to “bring it on” if they feel they have sufficient grounds. “The MCAs ought to stop these threats that unless we make certain changes they will impeach me. Let them bring it on. They shouldn’t even wait for the 14 days ultimatum they gave. They can do it now,” said Kinyanjui.
Some MCAs at the 72-member House on Tuesday last week accused the governor of going against the Constitution by centralising procurement processes and appointing a deputy director, a position that does not exist in law. “If Kinyanjui does not comply with the joint Budget and Finance Committee report within the said period, I will be ready to table an impeachment motion for which we shall have valid and sufficient grounds,” said Stanley Karanja of Naivasha East Ward.
Kinyanjui however dismissed the MCAs, telling them to focus on their constitutional roles and let him deliver as per his mandate. He accused some MCAs of using threats to have the procurement function decentralised for their selfish reasons. “They have been trying to arm-twist me to do things that do not exist in law. That won’t happen. I’m not in the office of the governor courtesy of them but courtesy of the electorate. I will not set up systems that fit their personal interests,” said the governor.
He said none of his appointments warrants an impeachment process as per the Constitution.
“I know my rights and the people of Nakuru County know their rights. There is nothing I have done in contravention of the Constitution. In all that I have done nothing has put public interest in jeopardy,” he said.
Yesterday, Makueni Senator Mutula Kilonzo Jnr admitted that it appears the season for impeachment is back, as was the case in the last session. He said the Senate, which is tasked to protect the counties and county governments, had already set the precedent on the required threshold to uphold the ouster of governors.
“The new season looks to be propelled by the successful impeachment of Governor Waititu. We will be ready to look at every case that is brought to us from the assemblies on its own merits. The precedent is already set on the standards required,” said Kilonzo Jnr, who is the Senate Minority Whip.
The legislator said the impeachment processes should not be in bad light as there are tools available to MCAs for their oversight roles, legally and politically.
After last week’s failed impeachment of Waiguru, even senators were sharply divided, with a section arguing that the route of removing a county boss as provided for in the law must be used sparingly and only when there is evidence of serious violations.
However, others have argued that MCAs must be encouraged to undertake their oversight role and check the excesses of the county executive to ensure prudent use of funds and management of county affairs. They said the impeachment route should be applied as an option. The Senate’s decision yesterday came under attack from Narc Kenya leader Martha Karua, with the former Kirinyaga governor candidate faulting the House for failing to support MCAs.
She said the MCAs had done “a good job” in collecting evidence to support their impeachment cause.
“Although the MCAs were not supported by the Senate, they did well in fighting to protect the resources meant to benefit the residents,” said Karua.
Newly elected Chairman of the Senate Devolution Committee, Moses Kajwang, says MCAs should not be vilified for impeaching governors, terming it as the legitimate instrument of political accountability. He however promised that the Senate would consider the impeachment instruments in the best interests of all parties – governors, MCAs and residents.
It is Kajwang’s committee that is tasked to address any disagreements and squabbles in the counties. “Until the law is changed which we hope for once the Impeachment Procedures Bill is passed, Senate will continue to act as the final investigator of impeachment claims,” he said.