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Senate committee recommends impeachment of Machakos Deputy Governor Bernard Kiala

Friday August 15 2014

Machakos Deputy Governor Bernard Kiala during a Senate committee hearing on his impeachment at County Hall on August 11, 2014. FILE PHOTO | DIANA NGILA | NATION MEDIA GROUP

Machakos Deputy Governor Bernard Kiala during a Senate committee hearing on his impeachment at County Hall on August 11, 2014. FILE PHOTO | DIANA NGILA | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

CAROLINE WAFULA
By CAROLINE WAFULA
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A Senate committee set up to investigate Machakos Deputy Governor Bernard Kiala has recommended his impeachment.

Of the 11 members of the committee, only Mombasa Senator Hassan Omar Hassan opposed the opinion, arguing that the accusations made against Mr Kiala did not meet the threshold for impeachment.

Mr Hassan's minority view is appended in the committee’s final report tabled in Parliament on Friday afternoon. He argued that the impeachment proceedings were prematurely initiated as other avenues for resolving the matters of complaint were available and ought to have been used.

“These charges are trivial and do not meet the threshold set by the Constitution and I will not be part to this,” he said, dismissing the allegations as a vendetta.

The final finding of the majority of the committee members is, however, that Mr Kiala be impeached on the grounds of gross violation of the National Cohesion and Integration Act and abuse of office.

'DIVISIVE WORDS'

Four charges, accompanied by several allegations, had been made against the deputy governor: gross violation of the Constitution and various Acts of Parliament, gross misconduct and abuse of office. The Senate confirmed two out of the four.

The committee, in its final report, said it had received evidence on allegations detailed in the four charges filed that the deputy governor had used derogatory language against people outside Machakos County and had uttered ethnically and regionally divisive and defamatory words during public rallies.

The committee said it also found Mr Kiala guilty of having used his office to cause anxiety and tension to investors, private sector professionals and members of the public who were not from Machakos County.

Mr Mutahi Kagwe, the chairman of the special Senate committee, presented the report on Mr Kiala’s case before the House at 2:40 pm on Friday. The senators took a half-hour break to review its findings and recommendations before returning to the chamber to debate the report.

The special committee comprised Senators Lenny Kivuti, Mutahi Kagwe, Sammy Leshore, Abu Chiaba, Martha Wangari, Ben Njoroge, Prof Peter Anyang’ Nyong’o, Kennedy Mong’are Okong’o, Dr Agnes Zani (vice chairwoman), Daisy Kanaiza Nyongesa and Hassan Omar Hassan. The team had ten days to report back to the House.

DEROGATORY LANGUAGE

Members of the special committee unanimously concluded that allegations touching on the violation of the Constitution had not been substantiated.

Mr Kiala was, however, found guilty of violating the National Cohesion and Integration Act. A majority of members of the committee found that the deputy governor had used derogatory language against people from outside Machakos County, particularly on ethnic discrimination and harassment on the basis of ethnicity.

He was also found guilty of having uttered ethnically and regionally divisive and defamatory words during public rallies.

The committee said evidence showed he had said there were too many people from outside Machakos serving in the county government arguing that the positions were for Machakos residents. He was also accused of saying the county government would continue to be poorly run unless they were removed.

'INFLAMMATORY' STATEMENTS

“These statements, the committee found, were inflammatory and defamatory and were intended to cause ethnic division in the county,” the report states.

The committee observed that the violations by the deputy governor had resulted in intimidation, harassment and loss of medical personnel at Machakos Level Five Hospital, a general state of anxiety and fear of possible attack, evictions and reprisals all resulting from ethnic-based tensions that his utterances had caused.

“All these violations, the committee observed, were harmful to the interests of Machakos County,” Mr Kagwe, the chairperson, said. “The utterances had begun to stir up ethnic hatred and tensions in the county.”

The committee, in its report, said the deputy governor’s conduct demeaned his office and was a betrayal of the public trust to serve and protect all residents of the county without discrimination on the basis of ethnicity or regional origin.

“The committee found that the derogatory utterances by Mr Kiala led to the loss of confidence and trust in his holding of the Deputy Governor’s office and further in his ability to carry out the functions of that office with integrity and accountability,” the report stated.

A majority of the committee members also found him guilty of abuse of office.

DISPUTE-RESOLUTION MECHANISMS

The special committee observed the need for intra-county dispute-resolution mechanisms that would help resolve disputes at the early stages, noting the high number of impeachment matters.

The Senate has in the span of about one and a half years considered three proposals for the removal of a governor and two proposals for the removal of a deputy governor.

The committee has recommended that legislation be developed and enacted to provide for and guide dispute-resolution processes within the counties.

The committee's decision came after the Court of Appeal on Friday declined to stop the impeachment.

Judges said the process was already in motion and could not be stopped as it had already moved to the next level.

An impeachment petition was forwarded to Senate Speaker Ekwee Ethuro by the county assembly on July 25.

However, because of a gap in the law on the matter, senators face a tough legal challenge as they grapple with how to proceed.

The Constitution and the County Government Act do not clearly indicate the procedure to be followed in impeaching a deputy governor.