Governors are more likely to be charged with a crime than senators and MPs in Kenya, reveals an analysis of Court data.
Documents from the National Council of Law Reporting archives shows that 10 out of the 47 serving governors, or a fifth, are facing a criminal case or had been prosecuted in the past. In comparison, only one out of the current 67 senators (less than two percent) and 24 out of 349 MPs (seven percent) have had charges brought against them.
The charges against the governors range from kidnapping, destruction of property, assault, corruption to murder.
Perhaps the highest profile of the cases is the murder charge against Migori Governor Zacharia Okoth Obado. In September 2018, the body of Sharon Belyine Otieno was discovered dumped in Wire Forest in Homa Bay County with eight stab wounds. An autopsy revealed that the deceased was raped and strangled. The governor and two of his personal assistants were charged at Milimani Law Courts for the murder of Sharon and her unborn child. Obado is out on bail and the case is active.
Five years ago Embu Governor Martin Nyaga Wambora was accused of kidnapping the Embu County Assembly Speaker, Mr Justus Kariuki Mate. The speaker was found abandoned on Limuru road five days after the abduction. The High Court granted the Governor anticipatory bail that prevented his arrest and the case later fell apart due to lack of evidence.
Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko, Ferdinand Waititu (Kiambu), Moses Kasaine Lenolkulal (Samburu), Mwangi wa Iria (Murang'a) and Charity Ngilu (Kitui) have faced corruption charges. The high number of graft cases against governors might be an effect of them having more money under their supervision. All the governors, except of Ms Ngilu, were accused while in their current office. Ms Ngilu was charged with corruption when she was a Cabinet minister.
Every year since 2015, at least two governors appeared in court to answer to criminal charges.
On January 20 this year, the Senate voted to remove, Waititu from office for gross violation of the Constitution of Kenya 2010, the County Governments Act, 2012, the Public Finance Management Act, 2012 and the Public Procurement and Disposal Act, 2005. In 27 out of 39 counts, the Senate voted to uphold the County Assembly of Kiambu vote to impeach him. He became the first Governor to be removed from office by the Senate. His counterpart from Embu Martin Wambora faced an impeachment vote in 2014 that was upheld by the Senate, but nullified by the Court.
Sonko is facing prosecution in a Sh357 million corruption case. The High Court temporarily barred MCAs from discussing the impeachment motion against him earning the governor temporary relief.
No governor has ever been found guilty of a criminal offense in court. The Senate appears to provide a much easier path to the ouster of a governor but the process begins at the county where divided loyalties exist among MCAs. Nevertheless, the real number of elected officials involved in graft is much higher than those that are registered in court.
Six impeachment proceedings came to the floor of the Senate but in only two cases did senators uphold the vote of county assemblies. Governors Mwangi wa Iria (Murang’a), Paul Chepkwony (Kericho), Granton Samboja (Taita Taveta) and the late Nderitu Gachagua (Nyeri) all survived impeachment. The Senate in its deliberations gives the benefit of the doubt to the governors.
House of Cards
Out of 10 currently serving governors who have had criminal cases, seven are ongoing. Kakamega Governor Wyckliffe Oparanya faced an assault charge in 2008 for slapping a man in Butere. The initial investigating officer closed the case on the ground of lack of evidence. However, the police re-opened the case soon after his election as governor. A Butere court acquitted him of the assault charge. In contrast, the Director of Public Prosecution charged Ms Ngilu along with six others for obstruction under the Anti-Corruption and Economic Crimes Act in 2015 when she was the Cabinet Secretary of Lands, Housing and Urban Development. The case did not impede her election as the governor of Kitui County.
Every year since 2015, at least two governors appeared in court to answer to criminal charges. All except one have been male. Notwithstanding, the case against Ms Ngilu came before her election as governor. She joined Anne Waiguru and Joyce Laboso as the first female governors in the 2017 General Election. The low number of female governors might be a the reason for the few number of cases against them. But would the number change with the election of more female governors? The jury is still out on that.
The most prevalent charge against legislators and governors is corruption, followed by assault, and incitement. Despite these cases, the conviction rate is very low.
The MP for Sirisia John Waluke is one of the few lawmakers who has been found guilty in a court of law. The legislator was convicted of corruption and sentenced to 67 years behind bars or a fine of over Sh700 million. In 2018, Changamwe MP Omar Mwinyi was found guilty of assaulting two police officers during the ODM party nominations.
Out of the 24 active cases against MPs, eight were concluded with a verdict of guilty in one case.
Chris Orwa is a data scientist