Oduol's impeachment to guide disputes between county bosses

Embattled Siaya Deputy Governor William Oduol. [Denish Ochieng, Standard]

The impeachment proceedings against Siaya Deputy Governor (DG) William Oduol, which a Senate committee will handle this week promise to guide future disputes between county bosses and their deputies.

An 11-member committee will by Friday decide whether Oduol will be kicked out of office as decided by the County Assembly of Siaya in the wake of wrangles between the DG and Governor James Orengo.

The pair’s war is the second to end up before the Senate floor since 2013. The first was that between Foreign Affairs Cabinet Secretary Alfred Mutua, then Machakos Governor, and his then deputy Bernard Kiala.

In 2014, the Senate overturned Kiala’s impeachment by the Machakos County Assembly, but the decision did not conclusively resolve disputes between governors and their deputies.

Over the years, county chiefs and their deputies have fought over several issues.

While some governors have found themselves in the paths of deputies with unbridled ambitions, others have sidelined their deputies, frustrating their operations. The constitutional provision that assigns DGs to be principal assistants of governors has placed many deputies at the mercy of their bosses, resulting in public fallouts.

Assumed office

Besides Orengo and Oduol, Kericho Governor Erick Mutai and his deputy Fred Kirui have been locked in wrangles since October last year, days after they assumed office. For a while, after they were elected, Kakamega Governor Fernandes Barasa and his deputy Ayub Savula also seemed like they were walking on eggshells.

Former Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko’s differences with his then-deputy Polycarp Igathe led to the latter’s resignation in 2018, months after their election. Others who have had public disputes among themselves include Kirinyaga Governor Anne Waiguru and her former deputy Peter Ndambiri and former Kiambu governors Ferdinand Waititu and James Nyoro.

Nyeri Governor Mutahi Kahiga and his former deputy Caroline Karugu also collided in Kahiga’s first term in office. Perhaps the most awkward relationship was that between former Wajir Governors Mohamed Abdi Mohamud and Ali Muktar, both of whom occupied the governor’s office at the same time. Muktar was Mohamud’s deputy until the latter’s impeachment in 2021.

The Senate committee will hear from Siaya’s County Assembly and its witnesses of the allegations against the deputy governor.

Oduol will also get the chance to defend himself against the charges with evidence and witnesses, through written and oral submissions.

Happier times; DG William Oduol and Governor James Orengo on the campaign trail in 2022. [File, Standard]

The embattled deputy county boss recently promised to table a dossier at the Senate that will substantiate his claims of “wanton corruption in Governor James Orengo’s administration”, which he said the County Assembly ignored.

His said evidence, which Oduol hopes will save him from being the first DG to be ousted from office, will be put to test by the Senate committee that comprises senators William Kisang (Elgeyo Marakwet), Abass Mohammed (Wajir), Mwenda Gataya Mo Fire (Tharaka Nithi), Okong’o Omogeni (Nyamira), Dan Maanzo (Makueni) and Richard Onyonka (Kisii). Others are nominated senators Betty Batuli Montet, Catherine Mumma, Tabitha Mutinda, Raphael Chimera and Miraj Abdullahi. 

Siaya Senator Oburu Oginga said the wrangles between Orengo and Oduol had adversely affected the county. “When two bulls are fighting, it is normally the grass that suffers. The grass is the people of Siaya who expect to get services from their county. Those services cannot be sufficiently and efficiently delivered when there is this kind of a situation,” Oburu said in Senate on Thursday.

As he moved the motion proposing the committee, Senate Minority Leader Aaron Cheruiyot urged the committee to recommend a framework through which disputes between governors and their deputies should be handled.

“This committee cannot be simplistic about Siaya alone. I hope they will say something about the relationship between governors and their deputies across all 47 counties. It was not the desire of the drafters of the constitution for deputy governors to just take tea, read newspapers and go home. Unfortunately... that is the obtaining situation in many of our counties,” said the Kericho senator.

In endorsing Cheruiyot’s proposal, Tana River Senator Danson Mungatana recounted how his county’s governor withdrew the deputy’s vehicle and shut his office after a dispute.

Deputy Speaker Kathuri Murungi urged his colleagues to be objective in handling the matter to find a lasting solution to the troubles bedevilling the county. “Let them listen to both sides. Let them listen to the deputy governor of Siaya and the County Government of Siaya, which has impeached him so that everyone can get justice,” the Meru Senator said.

Minority Whip Ledama ole Kina urged his colleagues to be keen in ensuring that charges are substantiated. The committee has until Friday to table its report.