Ferdinand Waititu

Former governors Ferdinand Waititu (Kiambu) and Mike Sonko (Nairobi). The two were impeached.

| File | Nation Media Group

Governors' impeachment: 11 attempts, Sonko, Waititu successes, but where is the accountability?

A wave of impeachment stemming from hostility pitting governors and county assemblies has characterised the last 10 years of devolution, frustrating service delivery and at the same time ending political careers.

A total of 11 governors and three deputies have been impeached by Members of County Assemblies since 2013, but only two – former Nairobi governor Mike Sonko and Ferdinand Waititu (Kiambu) – were successfully removed from office, with the others being rescued by the senate and the courts.

How the impeachment motions have been initiated and prosecuted at both the County Assemblies and the Senate has largely remained contentious and political, triggering suggestions to review the law to shield the provision from possible abuse.

Members of County Assembly (MCAs) have been accused of exploiting Article 181 – which spells out the procedure for impeachment – to settle political scores, with claims that some of the motions are sponsored by external forces.

Governors have found themselves in constant threats of impeachment from hostile MCAs, sometimes giving in to their demands to shield themselves from being kicked out of office.

BREAKING NEWS: Senate upholds Governor Mike Sonko's impeachment : 27 Yes, 16 No , 2 Absatain

But the MCAs through the County Assemblies Forum (CAF) maintain that most of the impeachments are done in the interests of the people to protect resources allocated to the devolved units.

The Senate has also witnessed scenarios where senators vote along party lines, raising questions about the credibility of charges levelled against the accused governors. It has also been allegedly turned into a platform for rent-seeking by both the MCAs and the Senators.

The impeachment of governors is guided by the County Government Act, which provides that a governor can be impeached on grounds of gross violation of the Constitution, abuse of office or gross misconduct.

Kawira Mwangaza in tears after surviving impeachement

Bobby Mkangi, a constitutional lawyer who participated in crafting the 2010 document, says they anticipated abuse of the provision at the county level.

This, he says, informed the decision to have the Senate take a vote on the decision by the MCAs to counter any misuse of the powers.

“The law actually anticipated proper use or misuse of the impeachment provision by the political class to settle scores and to meet political ends. That is why there is a two-tier level of the county assembly and a confirmation process at the senate,” says Mr Mkangi.

He notes that since the process is political, there is another appeal mechanism through the courts to protect governors in the event senators vote without considering evidence adduced by the MCAs.

“There is the facility to appeal the decision by the senate in a court of law. There are instances where courts have reversed decisions by the Senate,” he notes.

In an interview, Mr Sonko accused former President Uhuru Kenyatta of being behind his ouster. He says his removal from office and that of Mr Waitutu was because they were not on good terms with the last regime.

“My impeachment and that of Waititu were politically instigated because we differed with former President Uhuru. The system introduced Nairobi Metropolitan Services (NMS), and when I refused to sign for transfer of funds to NMS – because there was no law empowering us to do so - I was impeached,” says Mr Sonko, whose attempt to run for Mombasa governor in 2022 was blocked on the basis of the impeachment.

Kivutha Kibwana

From left: Former governors Kivutha Kibwana (Makueni), Mohamed Abdi (Wajir) and Martin Wambora (Embu). They were kicked out of office by MCAs.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

He also claims that his impeachment did not meet the required threshold since the assembly lacked the number after he allegedly took 65 MCAs to Kwale on the voting day. Mr Sonko was impeached after 88 MCAs out of 122 voted in favour of his removal.

“It is clear the threshold was not met because there was no quorum in the assembly. People know what happened in my impeachment. It was politically instigated,” he adds.

Apart from Mr Sonko and Mr Waititu, respective county assemblies voted to remove from office Meru Governor Kawira Mwangaza, Mr Mwangi wa Iria (former Murang’a boss), Mr Granton Samboja (former Taita Taveta governor), Kirinyaga Governor Anne Waiguru, Mr Paul Chepkwony (former Kericho boss) the late Nyeri Governor Nderitu Gachagua, but they were saved by the Senate that rejected their ouster.

Senators save Oduol from impeachment

In Makueni, former Governor Kivutha Kibwana was impeached by the county assembly, but obtained an injunction from the High Court stopping the Senate from considering his impeachment. His differences with the MCAs, however, escalated forcing him to seek dissolution of the assembly for making it “difficult for the government to function”. But former President Uhuru declined.

Former Embu Governor Martin Wambora and ex-Wajir boss Mohamed Abdi were kicked out of office by both the MCAs and their removal upheld by the Senators.

They, however, made a comeback to their offices after their removals were nullified by the courts. By the time the court made the decision, Mr Abdi’s then deputy Ahmed Ali Muktar had already taken up the role and subsequently appointed a new deputy, resulting into a case of a county with “two governors.”

Mr Wambora became the first governor in 2014 to face impeachment. The governor, who would later do his maximum two terms, was impeached a record four times in 2014, just a year after assuming then new office.

Kawira Mwangaza,

From left (Top row): Meru Governor Kawira Mwangaza, Mr Paul Chepkwony (former Kericho boss) and Mr Mwangi wa Iria (former Murang’a boss). (Bottom Row: Kirinyaga Governor Anne Waiguru, Mr Granton Samboja (former Taita Taveta governor) and the late Nyeri Governor Nderitu Gachagua.  They were impeached by MCAs but were saved by the Senate. 

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

In February 2014, the county MCAs voted to remove Mr Wambora and his deputy Dorothy Nditi from office, but the High Court quashed it on grounds that the court had halted the process. In April, they again impeached him. The resolution by the assembly was upheld by the Senate after 40 senators voted in support.

But Court of Appeal Judges GBM Kariuki, John Mwera and Hannah Okwengu nullified the impeachment for lack of evidence that he had violated the constitution, handing him a lease of life as a governor.

Senators vote on the impeachment of Kiambu Governor Ferdinand Waititu

Siaya Deputy Governor William Oduol and former Machakos deputy governor Bernard Muia Kiala also became victims of impeachment by MCAs but were served by the Senate.

Mr Oduol, who survived the latest impeachment attempt, told Nation that he found the Senate objective and impartial in determining his case.

“They gave me the opportunity to defend myself. The County Assembly on the other hand seemed to have been on a mission to annihilate me,” Mr Oduol says.

He adds, “From my assessment and those of the public, they seem to have been coerced as they had to shout out in the glare of the public how they were voting. This was obviously some way of intimidating them into submission. The assembly never gave me the opportunity to defend myself.”

In the Senate, the 11-member select committee recommended the impeachment of Mr Oduol, but it was defeated after a majority of Kenya Kwanza Senators rejected the report in a plenary vote.

Most of the Azimio lawmakers, however, voted in support of the report, pointing at the political angle the motion took. Mr Oduol’s impeachment was initiated after he fell out with Governor James Orengo, who enjoys the backing of opposition leader Raila Odinga.

According to Mr Oduol, the impeachment threshold needs to be raised so that ‘rogue county assemblies and governors do not abuse it.’

“There should be a proper process and procedure flaw. There is also a need to anchor the roles and responsibilities of the deputy governors on to the constitution or the county governments act. This way rogue governors and assemblies will not get the opportunity to frustrate elected deputy governors,” he suggests.

Former Kakamega Governor and Council of Governors (CoG) Wycliffe Oparanya says the provision has been turned into a tool of blackmail by MCAs.

He says that Mr Sonko and Mr Waititu were removed from office, not because of enough evidence linking them to the charges against them but for not aligning themselves with the main political formation at the time.

“Impeachment is more of a political process. If the political class don’t like you, it sails through like in the case of Sonko and Waititu,” says Mr Oparanya, who also serves as ODM deputy party leader.

“The provision has been abused at the county level. We have never had any attempts to impeach the President in the last 10 years, but at the county level every year there is an impeachment against a governor. This year alone we have had two motions that proceeded to the senate,” he notes.

Mr Oparanya suggests a review of the provision to protect county bosses from hostile MCAs, whom he says exploit the provision to settle political scores.

He suggests that instead of impeachment by MCAs, electorates should be handed the power to recall their governors through signature collections just like the case of MPs.

“Where voters feel aggrieved they can initiate a recall of their governor by collecting signatures because MCAs have turned the process into a blackmail tool. Governors cannot perform with this kind of environment where they are constantly seeking to protect themselves from MCAs,” says Mr Oparanya.

Former Senate Speaker, and now Bungoma Governor Ken Lusaka, has also suggested a review of the law. According to Mr Lusaka, the 10 days provided for the senate special committee set up to investigate proposed impeachment was inadequate.

He suggests a review to have more days so that senators can carry out a thorough probe in ascertaining the charges against the accused governors.

“Most of the charges, especially the ones touching on procurement, require time to investigate. Some of those charges fail to stand the legal test because some are too generic, with little evidence to link the governors,” says Mr Lusaka.

“The last 10 years are enough to make a review of the law to seal some of the loopholes because the impeachment has far-reaching implications. If you are impeached you cannot get any job, you cannot run for a political seat,” he adds.

Voting in the plenary, Mr Lusaka says, ‘is more of a political question. You are fried and sent home if you don’t have the backing of the majority political formation.’

Similar views were shared by Machakos Deputy Governor Francis Mwangangi, who says that there should be a standard threshold for impeachment to end political witch hunts. He argues that some of the impeachments were being sponsored by external forces to meet political ends in regional supremacy contests.

“The country needs to review the law to set a standard threshold of what constitutes gross violation of the Constitution, abuse of office or gross misconduct,” he says.

“I have seen people abuse the process to settle political scores. We have had instances where regional leaders who feel threatened by performing governors sponsor their impeachment. Governors have also been accused of sponsoring impeachment of their deputies,” states Mr Mwangagi.

But CAF Secretary General Chege Mwaura (Ngara MCA) says most of the instances have been as a result of skewed allocation of resources during budget making. He says governors need to develop a culture of engaging MCAs when coming up with development programs.

“It has nothing to do with bad blood. Most of these fights are because of development projects. Governors have to learn how to lobby in budget making. During the campaigns we both make promises, but the governors sometimes renege on some of the promises by allocating funds to non-priority areas,” notes Mr Mwaura.