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‘Impeachment season’: Kenyan senator inflates how many governors,  deputies subjected to impeachment hearings

Kenyans were treated to high drama in June 2020 as some of the country’s governors battled to hold on to power.

On 26 June the senate dismissed all charges against Anne Waiguru, the prominent governor of Kirinyaga county in central Kenya. She had been accused in the county assembly of violating national laws, abuse of office and gross misconduct.

The dust had barely settled before the battles in another county, Kitui, to the west of Kirinyaga, started to attract national attention. There, governor Charity Ngilu is also fighting not to be hauled before the senate. 

One Kenyan newspaper has suggested that at least five other governors may face impeachment procedures, while another called it “impeachment season”. 

Impeachment is the formal process by which a legislative body addresses charges of serious misconduct against a public official. If these are proven, the official can be removed from office. (Note: For more details on the threshold required for impeachment, see here.)

Waiguru’s senate defence began on 9 June after a majority of county assembly members voted to impeach her. 

The senate first wrangled over how to conduct the hearing - by special committee or a plenary. The issue spilled into national TV as two spurring senators on 16 June made a case for each approach.

Kipchumba Murkomen urged the plenary approach, while Ledama Olekina favoured the committee.

Murkomen is the second-term senator of Elgeyo Marakwet county in western Kenya and a former majority leader in the senate for the Jubilee Party. He was recently removed from the position for political reasons

Olekina is a first-term senator for Narok county in the southwest of the country, bordering Tanzania. He represents the Orange Democratic Movement

“We have dealt with more than 10 impeachments in the senate,” Murkomen said on 16 June, as he sought to highlight Olekina’s relative inexperience.

Has the senate really been kept busy with more than 10 impeachment hearings? We checked.

Senator included Embu deputy governor ...


Murkomen told Africa Check his tally included two impeachment proceedings against Dorothy Nditi, the deputy governor of Embu county, northeast of Nairobi.

The county governor, Martin Wambora, and Nditi were the first county leaders in the country to face impeachment in the senate. But Murkomen said the charges against the two were not handled together.

“Each was considered separately,” he said.

A special committee prepared two reports, one on the charges against Wambora, and the other on those facing Nditi. On 14 February 2014, the senate voted on its first impeachment proceedings against Wambora. 

But the charges against the deputy governor were dismissed. According to the law, if the special committee fails to verify the charges against a governor or their deputy, then the senate has no business discussing the matter.

“As far as the senate is concerned, under the law, the matter of the deputy governor is concluded and will not be the subject of any further deliberation in the senate,” Ekwee Ethuro, then speaker, told the senate.

Murkomen was therefore correct when he said the charges were considered separately.

After the senate approved Wambora’s impeachment, he countered by going to court. The court ruled that because the senate had disregarded court orders, the impeachment was null and void.

… but double counted investigation into deputy


On 13 May 2014, the senate voted again to impeach Wambora. The second time, his deputy Nditi was not considered by the senate. Therefore Murkomen ought not to have included her in his count.

Clerk to the senate, Jeremiah Nyegenye, confirmed to Africa Check that the impeachment proceedings against deputy governor Nditi were only held in the senate once.

Before the process against Anne Waiguru, a senate report shows it had handled nine impeachment proceedings.  

Nyegenye shared a list of all hearings considered by the senate from 2013, when senators were first seated under a new constitution, to date.


 
Impeachment proceedings conducted by Kenya’s senate
Year Governor/deputy governor County
2014 1. Martin Nyaga Wambora, governor Embu
2014 2. Dorothy Nditi, deputy governor Embu
2014 3. Martin Nyaga Wambora, governor Embu
2014 4. Paul Kiprono Chepkwony, governor Kericho
2014 5. Bernard Kiala, deputy governor Machakos
2015 6. Mwangi wa Iria, governor Murang’a
2016 7. Nderitu Gachagua, governor Nyeri
2019 8. Granton Samboja, governor Taita Taveta
2020 9. Ferdinand Waititu, governor Kiambu
2020 10. Anne Waiguru, governor Kirinyaga

Of these, only two were impeached: Wambora and former Kiambu governor Ferdinand Waititu.

The total number of hearings is therefore 10, and not more, as senator Murkomen claimed. But watching Kenya’s political windvane suggests it is only a matter of time before this tally is exceeded.

 

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