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Justice for Kiambu: Why Senate upheld Waititu's impeachment

The county assembly had its case well argued, though the witnesses weren’t up to par as required.

In Summary

• When the Senate convened to hear submissions of the county assembly and the governor, the defence lawyers misled their client in preparing only for preliminary objections based on technicalities.

• They never submitted any defence whatsoever and spent hours mumbling about points of law and glossing over weighty matters, and without responding to the accusations made.

Governor Ferdinand Waititu before the Senate on January 28.
IMPEACHED: Governor Ferdinand Waititu before the Senate on January 28.
Image: COURTESY

The Senate voted overwhelmingly on Wednesday to impeached Kiambu Governor Ferdinard Waititu after he presented himself in person on the floor of the House. This followed a prolonged battle for the heart and soul of Kiambu county.

It all started when Waititu was elected as Kabete MP after the murder of George Muchai. Having been elected on the basis of a mission to ‘tame’ then Kiambu Governor William Kabogo; it was an appropriate choice.

Waititu had previously been elected Embakasi MP to replace Mugabe Were, who had been killed by gunmen. In the race for the first Nairobi governor in 2013, Waititu came a close second after Evans Kidero.

In Kiambu, he teamed up with others such as James Nyoro, David Gakuyo, John Mugwe and Njoki Aquiline to form what came to be known as United for Kiambu (U4K) to appeal to the various types of voters.

Nyoro was the first runner-up to Kabogo in 2013. Seen as urbane, sophisticated and a technocrat, he appealed to the middle-class but didn’t quite connect with the masses, and, therefore, needed the streetwise Waititu. This was a clear case of mixing oil with water.

The understanding was for both to serve as co-governors, with Waititu running politics as Nyoro ran the county as a technocrat. That wasn’t to be. Immediately they got into office, Waititu discarded the MoU and ran roughshod over the county.

He is charged with irregularly awarding Sh588 million to upgrade roads to companies linked to him and his wife — they denied the charges. There were other awards to supply tyres and other supplies to the counties. This evidence was placed before the Senate.

As governor, Waititu put up an alcohol addiction recovery programme known as Kaa Sober in which hundreds of millions of shillings were siphoned from county coffers, ostensibly to rehabilitate young men and women.

In the so-called war on alcohol, county officers also raided bars and other outlets selling alcohol. In the process, many legitimate businesses were destroyed and property looted.

When Waittu was Kabete MP and smashing alcohol establishments and manufacturers, President Uhuru Kenyatta had to warn him directly against destroying property and legitimate businesses.

The combination of having Waititu and Nyoro to get the best out of the two was a masterstroke. However, it’s rare to get such a combination and that’s why in the old system, we had a minister as a politician, at the helm of a ministry, and a technocrat as a permanent secretary. This is a lesson to would-be gubernatorial and parliamentary aspirants that one needs both to succeed in politics.

When the Senate convened to hear the submissions of the Kiambu county assembly and the governor, the defence lawyers misled their client in preparing only for preliminary objections based on technicalities. They never submitted any defence whatsoever and spent hours mumbling about points of law and glossing over weighty matters, and without responding to the accusations made.

LATE EVIDENCE

Waititu made an application to have his defence evidence submitted but it was out of time and so the Senate voted 27 against 11 to reject its admissibility as this would have amounted to opening up the case afresh.

The county assembly had its case well-argued, though the witnesses weren’t up to par as required. In his concluding observations, Waititu chose to appeal for mercy rather state his case based on hard facts.

His defence started on a tweet that yours truly had used to convey the earlier decision, then he went ahead to disparage others, including his deputy and the key witness on account of their educational background. He then alleged that MCAs could only work with a governor through bribery and that senators should exonerate him and give him a ‘livelihood’ since even they would become future governors. Serious allegations such as transferring land belonging to a widow to his second wife weren’t canvassed.

However, it is quite clear there are a lot of lacunae in law and a comprehensive impeachment bill for relevant constitutional office holders is long overdue.

While the Senate sitting as a plenary guaranteed the impartiality of this exercise, it failed to delve deeply into the matters based on cogent evidence as submitted. It is very important for us as a country to develop not only proper jurisprudence but also sound laws that stipulate how to handle the situation in which a sitting governor who steps aside after having been charged with corruption, continues to hold office as the deputy acts as governor.

In addition, the threshold needs to be clearly set for the admissibility of evidence in an impeachment process, including whether the Senate can delve into the proceedings of either the county assembly or the National Assembly in determining whether or not to impeach any officeholder.

Further, what would happen in cases where Parliament has no jurisdiction on a particular matter? The people of Kiambu deserved justice and the Senate has vindicated them.