Meru Governor Kawira Mwangaza has survived second attempt to remove her from office by way of impeachment after the Senate found all seven charges facing her unsubstantiated.
In her impeachment, Ms Kawira faced seven charges including misappropriation and misuse of county resources, nepotism and related unethical practices, bullying, vilification and demeaning other leaders, illegally appointments and usurpation of statutory powers, contempt of court, illegal naming of a public road after her husband and the contempt of the county assembly.
Senators voted 7 times, one for each of the 7 charges:
Vote one - misappropriation and misuse of county resources: YES: 19 | NO: 28
Vote two - nepotism and related unethical practices: YES: 5 | NO: 42
Vote three - bullying, vilification and demeaning other leaders: YES 3 | NO 44
Vote four - illegally appointments and usurpation of statutory powers: YES 20 | NO 27
Vote five - contempt of court: YES 3 | NO 44
Vote six - illegally naming of a public road after her husband: YES 4 | NO 43
Vote seven - contempt of the county assembly: YES 10 | NO 37
Ms Mwangaza was for a better part of Wednesday evening fighting for her political life against a strong push to send her packing.
Put on her defence for most of the two-day trial, Ms Mwangaza denied all the allegations leveled against her, claiming the impeachment was a witch hunt by a section of political leaders in the county.
Through her lead counsel, Mr Elias Mutuma, she presented a trove of evidence, both video and documentary, to prove that her impeachment was orchestrated by external forces.
“I am forced to answer allegations that are done or some issues that are not directly involving the governor of Meru. There is nowhere I have signed any document or delegated to anyone as per the allegations tabled before this House,” said Ms Mwangaza.
“I don’t count this day as an unfortunate day for me because the whole world has at least known the truth. I urge this honourable Senate, as you sit today, to consider and give justice,” she added.
But from the questions posed by various senators during the impeachment trial, there were some indications that she had lost the confidence of legislators allied to President William Ruto’s Kenya Kwanza Alliance, which has controlling the majority in the Senate.
The Kenya Kwanza legislators asked questions that tore into the evidence adduced by the governor’s legal team while the minority side poked holes into evidence presented by the Meru County Assembly’s team.
When she took to the stand to protect her political career, Ms Mwangaza used all manner of tactics to fight the allegations levelled against her, fully aware of the ramifications of the impeachment being upheld on her political career.
Ms Mwangaza’s defence was mainly anchored on claims that her tribulations were orchestrated by outside forces that included high-ranking officers in the national government, elected Meru leaders and the political opponents she defeated in the August 9 elections.
She also alleged the existence of some 10 cartels, whom she did not mention, that she said were keen on frustrating her leadership with an eye on the 2027 elections.
The governor denied all the charges against her, saying she is being “persecuted” just because she is a woman and an independent governor.
Ms Mwangaza said since the day she left the Senate during the first impeachment, she has been working well with the county assembly members until the last two months when external forces tried to interfere with the county leadership.
“As I stand here, I know the MCAs have no issue with the governor apart from the external forces forcing them to cause a lot of confusion in Meru for those who have decided they will run for the position of county governor and to have space via the deputy governor or making it look like Meru does not work,” she said.
However, the county assembly team maintained that the motion is the only way to rid the people of Meru of a defiant governor and a repeat offender with no valid defence against charges facing her.
The assembly’s lead counsel, Muthomi Thiankolu, said this is the third time Ms Mwangaza is facing similar charges in a year but is not willing to mend her ways, and saving her will be killing devolution and Chapter Six of the Constitution.
“This is the third time we have an impeachment motion against the governor of Meru. But all through from the first impeachment motion to today, the governor’s position has been that the problem is everybody else and she is the foremost peacemaker in Meru,” said Mr Thiankolu.
“For how long can we in good conscience allow Meru to be in this perpetual circus of crisis? It cannot be said that the governor is being falsely accused, harassed, and intimidated,” he added.
Mr Thiankolu urged the senators not to fall for the many “trick” the governor had used before the House, presenting herself as “a humble, meek and vulnerable-looking governor whose defense was ‘it wasn’t me, it was someone else’”.
“Right now, she will tell you she will stop because her career is on the line, but we know she will not stop. Even if you give her another chance, whether on account of pity or sympathy, I swear she will sting again and we will be back in this assembly,” said Mr Thiankolu.
“But for how long can we endure this embarrassment? Is it fair? The time to stop this madness in Meru has come. If you have to jettison one person to save the ship, your act is justifiable even in the Holy Book,” he added.
Ms Mwangaza faced seven charges, including misappropriation and misuse of county resources, nepotism and related unethical practices, and bullying, vilification and demeaning of other leaders.
Other charges were illegal appointments and usurpation of statutory powers, contempt of court, illegally naming a public road after her husband and contempt of the assembly.
But appearing as the fourth and last witness, Ms Mwangaza shared video clips of Meru Senator Kathuri Murungi, Tigania East MP Mpuru Aburi and her deputy Isaac Mutuma conniving to frustrate her.
She also presented a video that allegedly showed Meru County Assembly Speaker Ayub Bundi telling a crowd that the community will be led by Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Mithika Linturi.
The governor said she has facilitated the ward development fund for all the MCAs to the tune of Sh10 million last year and has increased it to Sh15 million this year. The ward fund was one of the issues that came up during her previous impeachment.
Earlier, through her key witness Josphat Kinyua, who is also the Nyakii East MCA, she submitted that the MCAs were induced and coerced into appending their signatures in the impeachment motion tabled at the Meru County Assembly.
Mr Kinyua, in his testimony, told the senators that the MCAs were promised various goodies, including increasing the ward development fund from the current Sh15 million to Sh30 million, if they supported the impeachment motion. He said Mr Mutuma, Ms Mwangaza’s deputy, made calls to the MCAs promising the goodies.
“Everyone who signed for the impeachment motion was induced through promises,” said Mr Kinyua.
But Mr Thiankolu poked holes in Mr Kinyua’s allegations, saying that he had not tabled any evidence showing that the MCAs were threatened or induced.
No shred of evidence
“There is no shred of evidence of coercion as claimed. The person who claims must prove how that coercion happened. As it is now, it is just an allegation and allegation is the easiest thing to do,” he said.
The other witness, Adrian Ayararu, alleged that the Njuri Ncheke conducted an oath on the MCAs and threatened them with dire consequences if they backtracked on the impeachment motion against Ms Mwangaza.
Mr Ayararu, a member of the Njuri Ncheke, told the senators that the over 40 MCAs were warned that if they did not participate in the exercise, a curse would befall them and their families.
By the time of going to press, Ms Mwangaza was awaiting the Senate’s decision on whether she will be second time lucky, or become the first governor after last year’s election to be impeached.
So far, the Senate has only found the charges in support of removal from office of a governor substantiated in four cases. These include former Embu governor Martin Wambora on two occasions—but was saved by the courts—and Mohamed Abdi of Wajir, who was also reinstated by the courts.
Ex-Kiambu Governor Ferdinand Waititu and Mike Sonko of Nairobi were unlucky as their impeachments sailed through and their court bids to overturn them failed.
Other governors who were impeached but the accusations brought against them were dismissed by the Senate were Paul Chepkwony (Kericho), Mwangi wa Iria (Murang’a), Nderitu Gachagua (Nyeri), Granton Samboja (Taita Taveta) and Anne Waiguru (Kirinyaga).