A governance and human rights organisation has asked the anti-graft agency to initiate the removal of Migori Governor Okoth Obado from office over alleged abuse of office and the murder of a university student.
Mr Obado is accused of murdering Rongo University student Sharon Otieno and her unborn baby in September. He is out on bond pending trial, which starts next year.
The Migori County boss is also being investigated by the Ethics and Anti- Corruption Commission (EACC) for allegedly using his position to steal Sh2 billion in public funds through companies registered by his relatives.
The International Centre for Policy and Conflict (ICPC), in a petition to the EACC, wants the commission to invoke its powers under its Leadership and Integrity Act, the Anti-Corruption and Economic Crimes Act and Chapter Six of the Constitution to have the governor resign or forced out of office.
“Obado’s case provides a watershed moment for EACC to deal with impunity and corruption, a mortal blow through enforcement of accountability, integrity and ethics on all state office holders consistent with the ongoing campaign against corruption and impunity,” ICPC Executive Director Ndungu Wainaina said.
He added: “It is not only imperative for the holder of the office of governor to have the highest standards of integrity, but independently that the integrity of the institution must be preserved”.
Mr Wainaina noted that having criminal elements in politics, whether they are convicted or not, tarnishes the image of the office they hold.
The two cases against Mr Obado, said Mr Maina, provide enough grounds for a county governor to be removed from office under article 181 (1) of the Constitution.
The grounds include gross violation of the Constitution or any other law, abuse of office or gross misconduct and physical or mental incapacity to perform the duties of the office of a county governor.
Quoting Supreme Court Judge Jackton Boma Ojwang’ in the Nancy Baraza tribunal, which removed her from office for assaulting a private security guard, the ICPC boss said “the determination of the allegations is no longer solely a legal process of sifting through the evidence and finding whether the facts proved support the charge”.
The organisation said public power is exercised in trust for the public and individuals to dignify the public office and promote public confidence while in the office.
“There is urgent need to prevent people with criminal background from entering and retaining State political offices. Political popularity and holding political office does not oust constitutional ethics and integrity threshold requirements,” Mr Wainaina said.
He added: "How the EACC will address the suitability of the governor is the acid test and tipping point in executing its mandate of enforcing ethics and integrity on public office holders.”
Previously, the courts have set a precedent that any public officer can remain in office unless the individual has exhausted all the appeal mechanisms after a conviction.
But Mr Wainaina believes that integrity matters do not have to be determined through the criminal administrative process to prove the guilt or innocence of an individual.
“Such individuals are tainted and their mere presence in public institutions damages the function and the trust of people in those institutions.
"Their presence is the main reason for deterioration in the credibility enjoyed by institutions and therefore the time has come to make efforts to regain it," he said.