Twice lucky: Senators save Meru Governor Kawira Mwangaza from impeachment, again

Kawira Mwangaza impeachment: Senators now debating ahead of voting

With the clock ticking towards 1am on Thursday and palpable tension in the Senate, Meru Governor Kawira Mwangaza survived a second attempt to remove her from office, throwing her a political lifeline.

In a voting pattern that defied party lines, the Senate found all seven charges facing the 50-year-old unsubstantiated, dismissing the impeachment motion by the Meru County Assembly.

An emotional Governor Mwangaza could not hide her joy as she shed tears of joy.

"The result of the division shows that the Senate has not upheld any of the charges.... the Senate has failed to remove from office by impeachment Governor Kawira Mwangaza and the governor accordingly continues to hold office," announced Senate Speaker Amason Kingi. 

Speaker Kingi will now notify his Meru counterpart, Ayub Bundi, of the resolution.

On the charge of misappropriation and misuse of county resources, 28 senators voted against the charge to 18 in support.

On the second charge of nepotism and related unethical practices, senators resoundingly found the charge unsubstantiated with 42 votes against 5.

Meru Governor Kawira Mwangaza (centre) at Parliament Buildings

Meru Governor Kawira Mwangaza (centre) at Parliament Buildings after senators voted against her impeachment.

Photo credit: Dennis Onsongo | Nation Media Group

The trend continued on the third charge of bullying, vilification and demeaning of other leaders where the vote was 44 against 3.

On the charge of illegal appointments and usurpation of statutory powers, 27 senators voted the charge unsubstantiated against 20.

The contempt of Court charge resoundingly flopped with 44 against 3, the same as on the charge of illegally naming a public road after her husband.

And on the last charge of contempt of the Assembly, 37 senators voted against the charge against 10 in support.

During the debate, Majority Leader Aaron Cheruiyot urged his colleagues to be neutral arbiters as they voted on each of the seven charges and ended up with a Solomonic verdict.

Capturing the gravity of the situation, the Kericho senator said senators were even considering invoking Article 192 of the Constitution to dissolve the county government and give the people of Meru a fresh start.

"There's one part of Meru that is dead and another that is alive. It is now up to you to decide which mother you will give the baby to. Whatever you decide, the people of Meru are looking at you," said Mr Cheruiyot.

"It cannot be that all these 59 MCAs on two different occasions in less than a year say you are unfit for office and they are wrong. Should God grant you the grace to lead the people of Meru, then change your ways and find it in your heart to find a way to work with other leaders," he added.

Meru Governor Kawira Mwangaza at Parliament Buildings

Meru Governor Kawira Mwangaza (centre) at Parliament Buildings.

Photo credit: Dennis Onsongo | Nation Media Group

Seconding the motion, Minority Leader Stewart Madzayo echoed the sentiments of his counterparts, urging his colleagues to desist from voting on party lines and vote based on the evidence at hand.  "The trouble in Meru is not new but has been there for long. Impeaching governors is not the only solution," said Kakamega Senator Boni Khalwale.

Kitui Senator Enock Wambua also tore into the evidence presented by the Assembly, saying it failed to meet the basic threshold for impeachment.

"I am very disappointed and I cannot see any evidence that can warrant the removal of a governor," said Machakos Senator Agnes Kavindu.

Narok Senator Ledama Olekina added: "We have been entertained to innuendos that cannot be proven. I have gone through the seven charges and none of them have been substantiated."

Homa Bay Senator Moses Kajwang' said it's a "damned if we do, damned if we don't" situation.

"It seems everyone in Meru is mad and that's a big problem that an impeachment cannot solve. I want to encourage the people of Meru to call for dissolution of the County and send everyone back to the people," said Mr Kajwang'.

Edwin Sifuna added: "My expectation was to meet a case that meets the threshold set out in the Constitution. From the evidence, it seems a decision was made that Kawira must go and then steps were made to achieve the same. It is difficult for me to get behind the case by the county assembly as a sworn defender of devolution."

Embattled Meru County governor Kawira Mwangaza

Embattled Meru County governor Kawira Mwangaza before Senate, Nairobi County on Wednesday, November 8, 2023 during her impeachment motion.

Photo credit: Dennis Onsongo | Nation Media Group

Vihiga Senator Godfrey Osotsi dismissed the evidence presented by the assembly.

"A House of Parliament is a house of records. We cannot be made to sit here for hours to listen to evidence from a document that is not verified and is unlawful," he said.

Mandera Senator Ali Roba faulted Meru leaders for having a premeditated position to push the governor out.

"We have handled many impeachment cases but this will be the most testing in terms of consciousness on the decision we are going to take. I dont see light at the end of the tunnel whichever way we vote," he said.