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Shouting match in vicious fight for Waiguru in Senate debate

Wednesday June 17 2020
By IBRAHIM ORUKO

Drama, a shouting match and myriad point of orders characterised the Senate as it voted to have the trial of Kirinyaga Governor Anne Waiguru done through an 11-member special committee.

The debate, or lack of it, exposed the bitter rivalries between senators allied to President Uhuru Kenyatta and ODM Raila Odinga on one side and those of Deputy President (DP) William Ruto on the other.

A total of 45 senators voted to subject Ms Waiguru to a trial by the committee amidst great opposition from 14 senators who wanted the governor subjected to a trial of the whole House, like was the case with Kiambu Governor Ferdinand Waititu last January.

Mandera Senator Mahamud Mohamed abstained.

As was expected, senators allied to the DP vehemently resisted the motion and fought it tooth and nail but all they had was their say as the majority had their way.

They were led by Kipchumba Murkomen (Elgeyo Marakwet) John Kinyua (Laikipia), Mithika Linturi (Meru) Aaron Cheruiyot (Kericho), Susan Kihika (Nakuru), Christopher Langat (Bomet) all who voted to reject the committee route.

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At one point, the House almost degenerated into a shouting arena after Minority Leader James Orengo accused individuals he didn’t name of using the floor of the House to dictate to the Senate how it should conduct its business.

Mr Orengo also accused the group of not pursuing justice but baying for Governor Waiguru’s blood, claiming there are an elite few out to have her head and not the Kirinyaga populace.

“Some people have danced so well and are not looking for justice. They are looking for somebody’s head. Ms Waiguru’s is not being asked for by the Kirinyanga MCAs….I have evidence,” Mr Orengo said, triggering a storm in the House that culminated with his contribution being drowned by an avalanche of jeers and boos from a section of the House.

Mr Orengo did not mention names but the statement attracted the anger of Mr Murkomen, who shouted himself hoarse, as he sought to catch the Speaker’s eye to counter the claim.

Yet, the debate on the motion is just proof of how the Senate has sunk so low in the recent times that it has become captive of some forces without, who appear to be dictating proceedings from a safe distance.

In recent days, the House has become an extension of the bitter political fights that are being waged of it, and yesterday was no exception mainly because the debating and voting patterns took the usual sectarian lines.

Starting off as a strong Ruto ally, Ms Waiguru jettisoned the group and was the public face of anti-Ruto sentiments, and the Building Bridges Initiative in the Mt Kenya region.

Without a doubt, the fall out between the President and his deputy and the entry of Mr Odinga in the mix has rather confused House proceedings, which of late has appeared more of political slugfests than dignified House proceedings.

While Mr Murkomen was categorical that the committee had been formed to specifically acquit the governor, Ms Kihika, besides voting to reject the committee, described it as a “Capitol Hill Sanitisation Committee” in reference to Mr Odinga’s private office which has lately been active in receiving defectors from Dr Ruto’s camp.

Tuesday events was proof of the volatility of Kenyan politics. In January, during the impeachment of Mr Waititu, the senators who were pushing for the committee, were yesterday against it, going to the extent of casting aspersions on the capacity of such a medium to deliver justice on either side.

At that, Mr Murkomen was the Majority Leader and he openly pushed for a committee. Yesterday he was rejecting the method as one with the potential of not ensuring fairness in both instances.

Those who supported the committee route argued that a small team of senators will be more effective in interrogating issues and that, if adopted, it will only entrench the system Parliamentary of committee.

 “Committees are an integral part of Parliamentary democracy. They have same powers as the plenary and can summon witnesses,” Mr Orengo said.

In supporting the Committee route, Makueni Senator Mutula Kilonzo Jnr said those who were pushing for the plenary were all interested parties in the dispute in Kirinyaga and accused them of “forum shopping” for the most convenient method to achieve their aims.

“In law, when you have an interest in a matter you dont choose the judge and the forum on where the trial is to be held,” he said, even as he insisted that the committee is the method to interrogate the intricate issues raised by Kirinyaga MCAs

Kakamega Senator Cleopha Malala said the committee route is thorough and provides room for probity of the evidence that will be submitted by the MCAs.

He also argued that the mode of removal of a governor from office through the special committee is also provided for in the House rules. “The business of the House is always conducted through committees,” he said.

Those who pushed for the plenary advanced integrity issues, arguing that the method will give all the senators an opportunity to hear out the MCAs and make an informed decision when voting.

Those approved to sit in the committee include Mr Malala, Abshiro Halake (Nominated), Moses Kajwang (Homa Bay), Michael Mbito (Trans Nzoia ), Beth Mugo (Nominated), Anwar Loitoptip (Lamu), Phillip Mpayeei (Kajiado), Beatrice Kwamboka (Nominated), Stewart Madzayo (kilifi), Judith pareno (Nominated) and Mwangi Githiomi (Nyandarua).

The governor is accused of gross violation of the Constitution by failing to deliver the annual State of the County address to the assembly, among other issues.

They also accused her of violating Section 46 of the Public Procurement and Disposal of Assets Act 2015 by usurping the powers of the accounting officer in establishing an irregular tender evaluation committee, composed of partisan staff

Another charge against the governor was that she used her office to improperly confer a benefit to herself when she was irregularly paid travel allowances by way of imprests amounting to Sh10,634, 614, “yet she did not travel”.

The assembly also accused her of violating the right to health of the people of Kirinyaga County.

Since she was elected as governor in the 2017 General Election, Ms Waiguru has managed to survive the rumble and tumble of Kirinyaga politics, from one high to another low which has constantly kept her in the eye of a political storm.

And so when 23 out 33 MCAs voted to impeach her on Tuesday, it was no surprise coming at a time when the governor has marked interest in having a stake in the Mt Kenya politics come 2022.

The High Court declined to nullify the impeachment of Ms Waiguru.

Justice Weldon Korir ruled Thursday that the Kirinyaga ward representatives did not violate any court order.

In his ruling Justice Korir said the ward reps proved sufficiently that the Covid-19 outbreak in Kirinyaga had been contained and were free to proceed with the impeachment motion without seeking the authority of the court.

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