The Senate has voted to kick out Mr Ferdinand Waititu as Kiambu County governor in a motion that had all the hallmarks of President Uhuru Kenyatta and Deputy President William Ruto duel.
There was a total of 38 senators in the House on Wednesday. Some 28 senators, most of them from opposition coalition Nasa, convicted the governor on all three counts levelled against him by the county assembly and voted to remove him from office.
In the first count of violating the Constitution 27 senators voted to impeach the governor while 12 voted against.
However, in the second count which the governor was accused of violating national laws, 28 senators voted for his ouster while 11 opposed, with the same pattern being repeated on the third count with was one of gross misconduct. This is the second time the House has voted to remove a governor out of the eight previous impeachments.
It was a dramatic end to the two-day process, eventually won by the President in a trial that had all the symbols of the numbers versus process debate that characterised the 2017 presidential petition which culminated win the nullification of President Kenyatta’s August 2017 win at the Supreme Court.
Perhaps as a sign that the gloves between the President and his deputy are finally off, all Dr Ruto’s men, and women, did not hide their preference or feelings in the matter that confirms the deep division in the ruling party.
The lawmakers went out of their way to robustly defend the governor, and at one point, Nandi senator Samson Cherargei declared on the floor of the House that Mr Waititu’s problems were largely authored by what he described as the “deep state of Kiambu”.
“Mr Waititu is being eaten by the politics of Kiambu. It’s the deep state that is behind this,” he said, echoing lawyer James Orengo’s assertion in 2016 that “regimes eat their own children.”
Mr Cherargei turned emotional and claimed that the county assembly of Kiambu had acted beyond its powers in impeaching the governor and went further warn the lawmakers they would be haunted if they voted to remove the governor out of office. It was the same case with Elgeyo Marakwet Senator Kipchumba Murkomen.
While the duty of moving the motion fell on his lap, by virtue of his position as the Leader of Majority, Mr Murkomen provided a rare moment of confusion.
Instead of moving the House to vote out the governor, he appeared to questioned the decision of the county assembly that eventually impeached the governor.
The same pattern was witnessed when key allies of the Deputy President’s Tangatanga wing of Jubilee vehemently opposed the motion. Senators Aaron Cheruiyot (Kericho), Susan Kihika (Nakuru) and Mithika Linturi (Meru) all opposed the motion questioning the process used by county Assembly to impeach the governor.
“We never got any evidence brought to the House as to whether the issue of quorum was ever addressed. It is our job to ensure that the impeachment process at the county assembly was properly handled. Regardless of the outcome of the matter in the House, I am glad that we have courts in this country,” said Ms Kihika, hinting that Mr Waititu may seek redress in court.
Bungoma Senator Moses Wetang’ula was the only non-Jubilee member who cautioned against impeaching the governor, and just like the rest questioned the process.
Mr Orengo blamed Mr Waititu’s lawyers for having failed their client. Mr Orengo said they failed to take the accusations raised against the governor with the seriousness they deserved.
He argued they had done little to rebut the evidence laid out by Kiambu County Assembly.
“It’s extremely unfortunate that this matter was treated casually. There were no rebuttals to the accusations against the governor,” Mr Orengo said.
Makueni Senator Mutula Kilonzo Junior said the report of the Commission on Administrative Justice (CAJ) against the governor was enough evidence to hound him out of office.
“The CAJ issued a ruling that is adverse to the governor and he ignores it. The finding is unchallenged. We are not here to assist the lawyers for the governor. We are here to follow the law. [Mr] Waititu must await his fate,” said Mr Kilonzo.
Murang’a Senator Irungu Mr Kang’ata, who was central to the voting out of a special committee that had been proposed to hear the charges against Mr Waititu, lambasted the defence lawyers.
He said that they ought to have been more strategic in filing documents to the House.
Mr Waititu was impeached on three counts of gross violation of the Constitution, abuse of office, gross misconduct and committing crimes under national law.
The governor was accused of disregarding the County Assembly as an arm of the county government and undermining its three cardinal roles of legislation, oversight and representation through systematic non-remittance of requisitioned funds in the 2018/19 financial year.
The assembly accused the governor of diverting funds intended for use by the assembly to projects where he would obtain personal benefits through irregular procurement.
It argued that this was a systematic scheme to compromises the independence of the House.
The assembly further accused the governor of failing to adhere to the stipulated dictates of the law in awarding Sh2.1 billion road tarmacking contracts against as approved total Roads, Transport, Public Works and Utilities Budget of Sh1.4 billion in the 2018/19 financial year.
“The purpose of the irregular awards was not to provide public roads but was intended to enable the governor obtain personal benefit through kickbacks,” the Assembly says in its articles.
The assembly has argued the governor’s conduct has exposed the county to huge losses through potential suits for breach of contract and the ever rising pending bills.
The assembly further accuses the governor of unlawful acquisition and occupation of property through forceful dispossession of Mrs Cecilia Njoki Mbugua, a widow of two prime plots of land within Thika Municipality. The two plots were part of the widow’s inheritance from her husband.
The assembly argued that Mr Waititu promptly facilitated the irregular transfer of the land totalling to 0.135 ha in January 2018 to Mrs Esther Wamuyu Nyatu.
The assembly further accused the governor of usurping powers of the County Public Service Board to regulate the engagement of persons on contract, volunteers and casual workers in the county by directly creating directorates and hiring staff on casual basis as directors and assistant directors, as well as sub-county administrators and ward page 5 of 6 Administrators.