Ousted Kiambu Governor Waititu vows to take fight to court
Hillary Mageka and Antony Mwangi
The entrenched divisions in Jubilee Party yesterday cost Kiambu Governor Ferdinard Waititu his seat after senators voted to impeach him.
Differences between the Kieleweke group, that is allied to President Uhuru Kenyatta, and that of Tanga Tanga, associated with Deputy President William Ruto, played out on the floor of the Senate during proceedings that were characterized by name calling, shouting and character assassination.
The new-found alliance between Uhuru and ODM leader Raila Odinga also played a role in condemning Waititu to the political dustbin. Majority of the Uhuru-Raila senators voted to remove Waititu.
By the end of the day, Waititu was impeached on all three charges tabled against him. The governor sat through the proceedings and only walked out when it became evident that he was losing.
In the first charge of gross violation of the Constitution, County Government Act, Public Finance Management Act, and Public Procurement and Disposal Act, 27 senators voted for the motion while 12 voted against.
In the second charge on crimes under the national law, 28 voted in support of his impeachment while 11 backed the governor.
In the third charge of abuse of office and gross misconduct, 28 senators backed his removal while 11 voted to rescue him.
“The net effect of these votes is that the Senate has decided to remove from office by impeachment the Governor of Kiambu Ferdinard Waititu Babayao.
The Governor accordingly ceases to hold office,” declared Senate Speaker Ken Lusaka after the vote that ran into the night.
It was a double blow for the governor who had been barred from accessing his office following a High Court decision in a corruption case.
Yesterday’s vote came despite spirited campaigns by Ruto’s allies, led by Senate Majority Leader Kipchumba Murkomen, to save Waititu’s job.
Others who made spirited efforts to rescue him included Senators Susan Kihika (Nakuru), Anwar Loitiptip (Lamu), Mithika Linturi (Meru) and Aaron Cheruiyot (Kericho).
Incidentally, the four had been picked to be part of an initial special team that was to investigate the governor, but the move was rejected in favour of the plenary consisting all senators.
Others were John Kinyua (Laikipia), Samson Cherargei (Nandi), Christopher Langat (Bomet) and Millicent Omanga (Nominated).
They suggested that Waititu may move to court should the House uphold the Kiambu County Assembly’s position.
An emotional Murkomen regretted that the House had turned itself to a quasi-judicial institution.
“The counsel for the governor raised a fundamental question; did the Assembly meet the constitutional two thirds majority?
In fact during the cross-examination, it was revealed that it was not met,” Murkomen said while moving the motion.
He accused his colleagues of playing to the gallery instead of defending counties and county governments.
“Whereas other decisions we make politically, I hope the decision we will make today will be for posterity,” the Elgeyo Marakwet senator said.
Murkomen insisted the stakes were high, “if it fits, it does fit, you acquit”.
“We must put weight on the documents and evidence supplied by county assembly.
If the charges and evidences lead to a conclusion we will acquit, we will do so without any apologies, but not the political inclinations that we are being whipped to support,” the senator noted as he appealed to his colleagues to support the motion.
Seconding the motion, Minority Leader Senator James Orengo termed the impeachment motion as an “unfortunate case” saying the Senate’s decision will overturn the Kiambu voters’ verdict in 2017.
Quoting, Raila’s 2013 presidential election petition, Orengo said it was on the side of the governor to provide evidence.
“There was no rebuttal on the allegations and evidence presented by county assembly, there was no document for rebuttal,” Orengo said.
“The only document I saw was the document for preliminary objections, there was no counter evidence, Governor Waititu has been given a lot of dishonour by his lawyers.
I invite the senators to look at individual charges to find whether it meets the threshold.”
Cheruiyot and Cherargei claimed the governor was being impeached because of his political stand.
“Because, it’s politically convenient today, please let us mind our conscience. You don’t know where you will stand tomorrow,” Cheruiyot said.
“In case of Waititu, it is a government eating its own people because of politics,” Cherargei said in reference to the now famous quote by Orengo in a past senate hearing.
However, there was a moment of confusion, when Cherargei rose on a point of order and asked his Murang’a counterpart Irungu Kang’ata to recuse himself from the proceedings, claiming he was an interested party.
Cherargei claimed Kang’ata was one of the partners in Muchoki, Kang’ata, Ndegwa and Company Advocates, one of the law firms that represented Waititu in the impeachment hearing.
“Mr Speaker, I hope when we proceed to vote and other decisions of the House, we will need a ruling on how or when we release Senator Kang’ata from participating on the final deliberations,” the Nandi Senator said.
However, Kangata told the Senate he had left the law firm to form his own.
Section 99 of the Senate orders on declaration of interest says: “A senator who wishes to speak on any matter in which the Senator has a pecuniary or proprietary interest shall first declare that interest.”
While responding to objection by the Nandi legislator, Kang’ata affirmed his relationship with Charles Njenga, who appeared for Waititu, saying they had worked together in the same law firm.
“In respect to this matter, we have met and hereby declare that I do not have any pecuniary interest in the matter being handled by the House, Mr Speaker I ask you find that rule does not apply,” he said.
“Because I have an obligation to the government led by President Uhuru Kenyatta by which he has appointed me as his deputy majority whip, I really need to be in this House to do my duty. Therefore, I ask that don’t let that rule apply.”