Battle-hardened politician braces for fight of her life

Tuesday, June 16th, 2020 00:00 |
Embattled Kirinyaga Governor Anne Waiguru. Photo/PD/FILE

Eric Wainaina and Emeka-Mayaka Gekara

Governor Anne Mumbi Waiguru, whose political career is hanging on a thread after the Kirinyaga county assembly impeached her last week, has always charmed her way out of scandals that have killed careers.

Described as a cat with nine lives, observers are keen to see whether Waiguru will weather the storm at the Senate, which could make her become the second governor, after Kiambu’s Ferdinand Waititu, to make a disgraceful exit over charges of stealing public funds.

The ground has been shifting fast to her disadvantage and after the impeachment, market women in Kirinyaga held a mock funeral in anticipation of the death of her political career.

They carried a dummy coffin covered with a Maasai shuka and cleverly corrupted a Kikuyu funeral song in which they fixed her name.

But there are indications of efforts by some senators to ensure the governor, who has been accused of corruption, is rescued against all odds, triggering protests by leaders including Kirinyaga Senator Charles Kibiru.

“I know that people are trying to say that Nasa is plotting to save Waiguru because her ouster will be seen as a Tanga Tanga win but the Kirinyaga people have nothing to do with Tanga Tanga and Kieleweke,” Kibiru said yesterday in reference to the Jubilee Party factions associated with President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto.

The Senator warned that if she survives the impeachment, it will no longer be business as usual saying the evidence against her was sufficient for her removal.

“If she is rescued, the verdict will be left to the people of Kirinyaga. We will ask ourselves if this is how we want to run our county. And I can tell you for a fact, this will not be the end,” Kibiru told People Daily.

If the Senate ratifies her impeachment, this will be the second time Waiguru will be forced out of a public office over allegations of looting of public funds.

Lighter duties

In 2015, she resigned as Devolution Cabinet Secretary following pressure from the Opposition to quit over the National Youth Service (NYS) scandal where officials and business people looted millions of shillings.

Ironically, it was ODM leader Raila Odinga — who is now being associated with efforts to save her from impeachment — who almost single-handedly forced Waiguru out of office. 

After sustained pressure from Raila and his party, Waiguru, who was regarded as among Uhuru’s best performing ministers, resigned on November 21, 2015, citing her doctor’s advice. She added the rider that she would have preferred “lighter duties” which the President would deem appropriate.

Two months before she quit, she had filed a defamation suit against Raila, accusing him of tarnishing her name.

One year later, Waiguru was again in a messy war with DP Ruto and his allies, including Leader of Majority in the National Assembly Aden Duale and Elgeyo-Marakwet Senator Kipchumba Murkomen, who claimed she bore the greatest responsibility for the NYS scandal.

Kiingereza mingi, mnatufanyia catwalk hapa around na ni wazi pesa ya umma imepotea, mwenye hiyo pesa anasema aliweka kwa gunia.(You are cat walking and speaking a lot of English yet it’s clear public money has been stolen and the one who took it says she used a sack to carry it),” Ruto lashed out at Waiguru in 2016.

In the 2017 election, Waiguru ran for the Kirinyaga governor seat against Narc Kenya leader Martha Karua and won. She also mended fences with the DP and there was even talk of a possible Ruto-Waiguru ticket in the 2022 election.

In the nearly three years that she has been governor, Waiguru has been accused of running an arrogant administration and mismanagement of the health sector, a move that saw Kerugoya Hospital closed over filth.

When Uhuru and Raila sealed a unity deal on March 9, 2018 following the disputed 2017 election, Waiguru swiftly changed camp, confirming the saying that there are no permanent enemies or friends in politics, just interests. 

Not only did Raila attend Waiguru’s wedding to lawyer Kamotho Waiganjo in July last year, the governor was among Jubilee leaders who trooped to Kibra to campaign for the ODM’s candidate Imran Okoth in last November by-election.

The tactical move saw Waiguru being touted as a possible successor to Uhuru as the kingpin of Mt Kenya politics. But it was not long before her critics told her to hold her horses and stop behaving like the region’s spokesperson.

Waiguru has also been on a face-off with the national government over100 acres of land in Kirinyaga for the construction of a Sh15 billion Kenya Medical Research Institute (Kemri) centre after she declined to surrender the title deed, nearly frustrating the project.

She lost the battle after the government compulsorily acquired the land leaving her clutching a piece of paper she was using as a rifle in the battle with Interior Principal Secretary Karanja Kibicho.

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