The supremacy wars in President Uhuru Kenyatta’s Jubilee party played out in the Senate Tuesday after a motion to establish an 11-member select committee to hear impeachment charges against Kiambu Governor Ferdinand Waititu was defeated in favour of a whole plenary.
This left Senate Leader of Majority Kipchumba Murkomen (Elgeyo-Marakwet), who was pushing for the establishment of a special committee, with egg on the face.
Questions were raised on the composition of the committee that was to be chaired by Kakamega Senator Cleophas Malala with his Nakuru counterpart Susan Kihika as deputy.
A section of the Jubilee party senators allied to the Tangatanga wing pushed for the formation of a committee.
However, when the matter was put to vote, those from Kieleweke side that is allied to the President ganged up with their Nasa colleagues in favour of the plenary.
The House had 44 senators at the time the matter was put to vote with 28 senators voting in favour of the plenary, while 16 supported the formation of a special committee.
Interestingly, Mr Malala voted against the establishment of the committee despite being proposed as chairperson.
Governor Waititu was impeached by Members of the Kiambu County Assembly on December 19, 2019, for gross violation of the Constitution, the County Government Act, the Public Finance Management Act and abuse of office and gross misconduct.
Some senators said the committee membership did not possess the requisite independence to come up with a fair verdict on the charges.
They argued that the membership of the committee was disproportionately formed in favour of the Tangatanga group.
Senators James Orengo (Siaya), Prof Sam Ongeri (Kisii), Samuel Poghisio (West Pokot), Kimani Wa Matangi (Kiambu), Isaac Mwaura (nominated), Farhiya Ali (nominated), Johnson Sakaja (Nairobi), Ali (Wajir), Irungu Kang’ata (Murang’a) and Abshiro Wako (nominated) felt that the impeachment be heard by the plenary of the Senate.
At some point, Mr Orengo requested for a timeout to have the House leadership reconsider the list.
“Let us adjourn debate for 10 minutes so that we agree on the list. What is going on could be tantamount to blocking people from expressing their views. Let’s not proceed as a divided House. I am persuaded by the views expressed by members,” Mr Orengo said and proceeded to vote in negative when the matter was put to vote.
However, when the leadership emerged from the consultation, it proceeded as if nothing happened.
“Let us have the whole plenary consider this matter and have at least 24 leaders of delegation determine the matter as opposed to the committee whose verdict will only be determined by six members,” Mr Sakaja said.
According to Senate Standing Order 175, the impeachment ends at the committee level if it determines that the charges do not merit.
This made those opposed to the committee believe that the membership could be easily manipulated to clear the embattled governor.
At some point, Mr Mwaura hurriedly addressed a press conference at the parliamentary media centre as debate was going and accused the leadership of the Senate of insincerity.
“Senate cannot be used to sanitise governors, pre-empting the outcome of the impeachment by this committee and therefore stealing the outcome. We cannot have a situation where Jubilee failed to consult on the list,” Mr Mwaura said.
He continued: “Some of those proposed do not even attend House businesses. They have been put there because they can be manipulated easily. They have been put there to save Governor Waititu.”
Mr Kang’ata wondered why the committee did not have a representative from the Central Kenya region.
“The whole Senate should be given an opportunity to contribute on this matter other than a report of a small committee. We believe the more senators dealing with this matter the better,” Mr Kang’ata said.
Attempts by Bungoma Senator Moses Wetang’ula to have the motion withdrawn because it had run into turbulence failed.
“Withdraw the motion Get another day to gazette another sitting,” Mr Wetang’ula pleaded.
Mr Poghisio, who was the first to challenge the composition of the list, said it favoured some political formation within Jubilee.
Ms Ali wondered why the leadership of the Jubilee Party in the House could not consult and agree on the list before it was presented to the House.
“Objectivity and confidence in the committee is important. Some of us are not happy with this list. This matter, from the look of things, is like it is already predetermined,” Ms Ali said.
Mr Wamatangi, the Kiambu Senator, expressed doubts whether the outcome of the committee would march expectations of the Kiambu people.
“Will the outcome of the committee rise to the expectations of the people of Kiambu? Doubts have been cast about the committee and if it is the one that is going to render justice, I doubt. I don’t want to carry the shame of going with an answer that does not satisfy the people,” Mr Wamatangi said.
Those who had been proposed as members included Sylvia Kasanga (nominated), Mohamed Faki (Mombasa), Eric Okong’o Mogeni (Nyamira), Fredrick Outa (Kisumu), Hargura Godana (Marsabit), Aaron Cheruiyot (Kericho), Anuar Oloitiptip (Lamu), Mithika Linturi (Meru) and Iman Falhada (nominated).