By Eric Wainaina and Emeka-Mayaka Gekara
The effort to impeach Kirinyaga County boss Anne Waiguru is proving to be a tough test for the Senate, with claims that some members are out to rescue her despite the evidence to be presented against her.
The governor’s impeachment is morphing into a test for the political truce between President Uhuru Kenyatta and Opposition chief Raila Odinga because the war against corruption is one of the central pillars of their political relationship.
The Waiguru saga could also thrust the President and Raila into an awkward position considering the governor has been a key ally in the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) through which the two leaders have been highlighting the fight against theft of public resources.
While a senator close to Uhuru told People Daily that the Head of State remained ambivalent on Waiguru’s fate, Raila yesterday rubbished claims that ODM had resolved to save the governor, effectively placing the ball on the senators’ court.
“The things that should happen at the Senate (Waiguru’s impeachment) belong to senators and I cannot purport to discuss them. It is for the senators to do what they have been mandated to do by Kenyans. They should ensure justice is done,” said Raila.
“There is no rescuing, it’s for the individual person (Waiguru) to rescue themselves if they will be able to based on the issues that have been presented.”
As things stand, senators are caught between a rock and a hard place; they are damned if they do, damned if they do not.
If they make a decision in favour of the controversial governor on political considerations driven by the Handshake instead of evidence, they will be accused of failing in their oversight role.
If they impeach the governor, the Handshake coalition in the Senate could be accused of throwing one of their key members under the bus.
They might also be regarded as failures for allowing a group linked to Deputy President William Ruto, which wants the governor to go home, carry the day.
On Monday, we established that newly-elected Deputy Speaker Margaret Kamar, Majority Whip Irungu Kang’ata, his deputy Farhiya Ali, Cleophas Malala (Kakamega) and Rose Kwamboka (Nominated) were actively lobbying against Waiguru’s impeachment.
Kang’ata, however, denied the claims, saying President Kenyatta’s Jubilee Party had not taken a position on the governor’s ouster.
“I am not leading such a campaign. Jubilee’s stand on this issue is ‘we shall look at the evidence of the Kirinyaga MCAs plus Waiguru’s defence’. Then render a fair, honest and objective verdict. No decision has been made to exonerate her,” he said.
Besides, the senators are deeply divided over whether the matter should be handled by a full House or a select committee.
Whether it’s a committee or plenary that will hear the impeachment trial, Kang’ata said the decision will be made by the plenary today.
Kitui Senator Enoch Wambua, whose name has been included in a purported list of select committee members, yesterday indicated that he will not join the team and threw his weight behind a plenary hearing.
“I declined to join the committee because the matter before the Senate is weighty. If it is placed before a committee it will be determined by a simple majority. For fairness, let the motion be handled by the plenary to allow more delegations to ventilate on the matter,” said Wambua.
“Solidarity around the Handshake should not arise because the fight against corruption is one of the nine-point agenda in the BBI as guided by the President and the former prime minister. Even the issue of gender should not be on the table. Corruption is genderless.”
In their motion filed before the Senate, Kirinyaga MCAs accuse Waiguru of corruption and violation of procurement laws.
But women leaders led by Gender Cabinet Secretary Margaret Kobia have accused the MCAs of being against “strong women leadership”.
Kirinyaga Senator Charles Kibiru yesterday insisted that the matter must be handled by a full House to prevent any underhand dealings in the committee.
“For justice to be seen to be served, we would request that we go for the plenary because there are 47 delegations voting and you need 24 to uphold the impeachment. The threshold is very high even for the governor and if she is genuine and innocent as she claims; she should go for such a threshold so that she can be vindicated by a majority.”
He added: “If you look at that committee, some of the senators being proposed, without naming names, we know them. They are rent-seekers. We know each other and that is why I am saying that as someone who has been elected to look at the interest of people of Kirinyaga I have no confidence in the committee because someone can easily compromise six senators to survive.”
The politician said that some senators had been mobilizing colleagues to shoot down the impeachment motion by voting to have it handled by a committee.
“The problems we have is that some people, including powers that be in the party, including the secretary-general, are intimidating senators and giving them what they call the position of the government,” he said.