Governor Waiguru wins round one as senators clash
Eric Wainaina @EWainaina
Senators allied to President Uhuru Kenyatta and opposition leader Raila Odinga yesterday fought to ensure Kirinyaga Governor Anne Waiguru, who is facing impeachment, is tried by a special committee amidst resistance from a group that supports Deputy President William Ruto.
While the DP’s supporters pitched for a full House hearing for the sake of transparency, the Uhuru-Raila Handshake coalition viciously rallied for the select committee route with Senate Minority leader James Orengo casting doubts on the motive of Waiguru’s ouster.
In a nearly chaotic sitting which saw differences between the Uhuru and Ruto camps play out on the floor of the House, an agitated Orengo, a close Raila ally, suggested that powerful forces outside the Kirinyaga County Assembly were fighting the governor.
“Waiguru’s head is being asked for, not by the county assembly. I can tell you and I have the evidence, the people who are looking for Waiguru’s head are not the county assembly,” said the Siaya Senator, who voted for the special committee, attracting protests from those who were against the move.
It was a dramatic reversal of roles after pro-Raila forces that agitated for her removal from the Devolution ministry in 2015 over graft claims put up a spirited fight in her defence yesterday amidst opposition from senators allied to Ruto.
The voices of senators pushing for the plenary were drowned out by the Orengo group which garnered 45 votes against 14 who voted in favour of the House plenary while one abstained in what appeared like a first round win for Waiguru.
Kirinyaga Senator Charles Kibiru, who was against the select committee, said that judging from the determination by some members to support the committee, the die is cast.
“No body is saying that the governor is corrupt and I don’t want to persuade the Senate to think that way.
The people of Kirinyaga are watching and it’s unfortunate that the die is cast. By going the committee way, the verdict is known,” Kabiru said.
The disappointed senator told the House that given the composition of the special committee and the fight against a plenary hearing, there was a strong indication that a decision to shield Waiguru from impeachment was already predetermined.
Those picked for the committee during the session that was marred by shouting are Cleopas Malala (Kakamega), Moses Kajwang’ (Homa Bay), Mwangi Githiomi (Nyandarua), Anuar Loitiptip (Lamu), Stewart Madzayo (Kilifi), Philip Mpaayei (Kajiado), Michael Mbito (Trans Nzoia), and Nominated Senators Abshiro Halake, Beth Mugo, Beatrice Kwamboka and Judith Pareno.
Elgeyo Marakwet Senator Kipchumba Murkomen, who in 2015 stood ground in favour of Waiguru, went down fighting, even as he cried foul that from Orengo’s contribution, it was clear that some members had been whipped to defeat the impeachment regardless of the evidence to be provided.
Change of tune
“The people of Kirinyaga have been suspecting that a decision has already been made to save Waiguru.
Orengo has gone off record to confirm that this committee is being picked to sanitise Waiguru. This is a sanitising committee,” Murkomen said.
Waiguru, who is battling claims of presiding over a criminal enterprise that has been siphoning money from the county coffers, registered her first win when senators voted to reject a motion by Murkomen for the extension of debating time with 41 members voting against the proposal and 18 supporting.
The governor has been accused of paying fictitious companies millions of shillings for work not done.
The MCAs also accuse her of approving huge payments for companies associated with her family “for supplying air” at the Kerugoya referral hospital.
Waiguru, a key proponent of the Building the Bridges Initiative (BBI), a product of the Uhuru-Raila Handshake, has also been accused of allegedly pocketing Sh10 million imprest for no travel done and also helping his close aides to take Sh14 million in allowances which has not been accounted for.
Ironically, Malala, who during ousted Kiambu Ferdinand Waititu’s impeachment had been proposed as the chair of a special committee but rejected it, was the one who seconded the motion that was moved by Nominated Senator Farhya Ali.
Yesterday, Malala said he did not believe that the plenary would be fair to the governor, saying it cannot thoroughly probe the allocations.
Last time we transacted the Waititu impeachment in the plenary and I was not satisfied with how we did is because the evidence that was adduced was never interrogated deeply.
We appeared like a political gathering meant to make a decision but a committee will be thorough,” Malala said.
While standing on a point of order, Murkomen said Malala’s change of tune was an acknowledgement that senate should have tried Waititu through a committee.
“What Malala is doing is confessing sins and making an apology because during the other time, we sat with him in the House business committee and we agreed to pick a committee but without explanation he came here and voted against it,” Murkomen said.
Meru Senator Mithika Linturi, who in 2015 initiated an abortive impeachment against Waiguru at the National Assembly, was among those who led the unsuccessful push for the plenary route.
“What is shocking today is the change of heart by the same proponents of the plenary. They don’t want to try Waiguru through the plenary,” he said.
Kitui Senator Enoch Wambua, who was among those who opposed the establishment of the committee, told the House that Kenyans expected nothing short of a plenary for justice to be seen to be done.
“If this Senate will choose to benefit from the opinion of a long serving journalist in the name of Enoch Wambua, the people of Kenya want a plenary. It does not matter the outcome of the process,” the Wiper senator said.
But it was Njeru Ndwiga from Embu who warned that any move to save Waiguru through the committee would fuel hostility against the governor as well as party leaders in future.
This, he said, was because “Kirinyaga people will be very unforgiving if we don’t give the plenary”, adding that already there was a negative perception about the committee.
He added: “I want to advise the political players and leaders to watch out. This path is not even as they think.
It’s slippery and two years is not far away and time will come when we will need the people of Kirinyaga and I doubt the people of Kirinyaga will forget what we will do to them.”
Makueni Senator Mutula Kilonzo Junior said he would not have supported the plenary route because it appeared like the House was being pushed to make a certain decision by Kirinyaga leaders.
“I cannot support the insistence that you must go the Kirinyaga way because we will be confirming that the members of this House, without exception, are subject to corruption and influence,” Mutula said.