Wajir: County with two governors stares at a major political, legal impasse

Wajir Governor Ahmed Mukhtar. [Edward Kiplimo, Standard]

Showdown looms at the Wajir County headquarters following the reinstatement of impeached Governor Mohamed Abdi Mohamud by the High Court in Meru.

A three judge bench ruled that Mohamud’s impeachment was illegal as there was a trail of court orders that were disobeyed and there was no public participation in the process.

Yesterday, the legal team of Wajir Governor Ahmed Mukhtar submitted a legal notice of appeal against the court order reinstating Mohamud, the immediate former governor.

The High Court in Meru on Wednesday overturned the impeachment of Mohamud terming his removal illegal. It ordered Mukhtar to assume his role as deputy governor.

The judges declared that residents of Wajir did not participate in the removal of the county chief as the assembly did not provide evidence of public participation in the matter.

“Mohamed Abdi Mohamud was not removed from office legally... The swearing-in of Ahmed Mukhtar as the governor of Wajir and the appointment of Hashim Musa as deputy governor is therefore null and void,” the judges ruled.

In May 2021, Mukhtar assumed office after the Senate upheld the impeachment of his then boss, Mohamud by the county assembly following accusations of abuse of office, irregular expenditures and failure to update them on the status of development projects.

Thirty-seven MCAs voted in favour of the impeachment Motion by Ward Rep Abdullahi Issack while 10 opposed it. Speaking to The Standard, Mukhtar said his legal team is working to overturn the High Court ruling.

Vital issues

“We respect the court but there are important issues that we will raise from the ruling,” he said. He said he had done much for the county in less than a year since he assumed power.

Mukhtar further argued that “the people of Wajir have very many urgent issues that need to be addressed like drought that has taken over the region and not power wrangles.”

Mukhtar further said given that the country is preparing for the next polls in August, legal battles would waste time for the county.

The governor, who will defend his seat in the August 9 polls on a Jubilee ticket, said they would proceed to the Supreme Court should they fail to get a favourable outcome at the High Court. 

Mukhtar has until March 10 to appeal the ruling before Mohamud resumes office in what should be a smooth handover as ordered by the court. While impeaching him, MCAs accused Mohamud of gross misconduct, abuse of office and financial impropriety.

He obtained court orders restraining MCAs from debating the ouster Motion but this did not help. His lawyers had to pin orders to the doors of the assembly after they failed to physically serve the order.

Mohamud went back to court to bar the Senate from debating or discussing the allegations against him by the assembly.

On May 17, 2021 the Special Committee of the Senate found him culpable of gross violation of the Constitution and recommended his removal from office. Twenty-five  senators out of 31 who participated in the vote supported his removal.

The Senate verdict set in motion a series of events, with the embattled governor finding himself deserted by key political figures in the county. A judge, who presided over the swearing in of his deputy, was flown from Nairobi on May 18, 2021, a day after the Senate verdict. 

This may have been done hurriedly before another court order Mohamed had obtained to purposely bar the swearing in of a new governor was executed.

Corridors of justice

Since then, Mohamud has been battling to overturn his impeachment in the corridors of justice, with Muktar running the affairs of the county. He appointed Hashim Musa as his deputy.

At some point in September 2021, after obtaining a court order, Mohamud raided his former office with supporters and gained access after breaking the door. At the time, Muktar accused his former boss of vandalism and ‘trespass’ saying police will take necessary action against those who raided the office.

Officials loyal to the embattled governor said the High Court verdict is expected to set in motion drama and confusion as he returns to office.

“We expect him in the office anytime. The impeachment was illegal as declared by the three judges. Let Muktar remain the deputy,” said Hassan Abdullahi, a supporter of Mohamud. After the pronouncement of the court order on Wednesday, his supporters took to the Qorahey historical grounds to celebrate what they said was ‘stolen victory.’

“We celebrate because we knew all along the accusations leveled against him were out of malice, considering the hurried swearing-in of the deputy governor,” said Halima Mohamud.

This now puts the county in a fix. There is another deputy governor in office who is supposed to vacate the office as his appointment has been declared null and void.

The fate of the current cabinet too is in abeyance as it is not clear whether the members will be retained, reshuffled or dropped.