The acquittal of Kirinyaga Governor Anne Waiguru of impeachment charges by the Senate has given critics of President Uhuru Kenyatta new ammunition to attack his legacy agenda and the government’s resolve to fight corruption.
Governor Waiguru, a former powerful Cabinet minister perceived to be close to President Kenyatta, survived the two-day impeachment trial after an 11-member Senate Committee ruled that the county assembly—her accusers—had failed to prove any of the charges against the governor.
“The committee having investigated the matter in accordance with its mandate under… the County Governments Act reports to the senate that it finds that the two charges against the governor have not been substantiated,” said the committee in its report tabled in the House on June 26.
The members of the county assembly had on June 9 voted to impeach Ms Waiguru on grounds of corruption and abuse of office, including rigging county government tenders worth millions of shillings and receiving payments for foreign trips she didn’t make.
In her final remarks before the Senate Committee on June 24, Ms Waiguru sought to link her impeachment to political proxy wars because of her loyalty to President Kenyatta and support for his constitutional reforms agenda under the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI).
“Some national issues have fallen on my shoulders particularly pertaining to the equitable and fair share of national resources… This has meant taking political decisions including support to the President in his BBI. My stand has made me enemies with people of deep influence inside and outside my county,” she said.
But Ms Waiguru’s acquittal, coming weeks after President Kenyatta orchestrated changes to the ruling Jubilee Coalition’s leadership in parliament and senate, has entrenched the perceptions that a friendly committee had been set up to undertake a whitewash for political reasons regardless of the validity of allegations of corruption and abuse of office.
Critics have accused the president and opposition leader Raila Odinga—whose ODM party’s MPs are voting with the majority side in Parliament under the March 9, 2018 post-election agreement known as the “handshake”—of influencing the outcome of the impeachment hearing.
“Not news at all. That matter was settled before the committee was established,” former senate majority leader Kipchumba Murkomen tweeted on June 25 when reports of Ms Waiguru’s acquittal first emerged on social media.
Mr Murkomen was last month ousted as majority leader alongside former deputy speaker Kithure Kindiki and former majority Chief Whip Susan Kihika in the changes sanctioned by the president.
A number of senators were also de-whipped from membership of House committees in a move President Kenyatta said was meant to purge the ruling coalition’s parliamentary leadership of rebels undermining his legacy agenda.
The victims of the Jubilee purge, which ended with the sacking of long-serving National Assembly majority leader Aden Duale on June 22, are mostly loyal to Deputy President William Ruto, who has since fallen out with his boss over the succession race in 2022.
The pro-Ruto camp in the senate opposed the establishment of a committee to handle the impeachment against Ms Waiguru, arguing for a plenary hearing similar to the one that removed former Kiambu governor Ferdinand Waititu from office in January.
Mr Waititu, who had fallen out of favour with the president, became the first county governor to be removed from office since Kenya started implementing the devolved system of governance in 2013.
The others have either been cleared of the charges by Senate committees or obtained court decisions overturning their ouster.
The senate is expected to come under sharper scrutiny in the coming weeks amid reports that at least four more governors are targeted for impeachment by county assemblies.
Charity Ngilu, one of only two female county governors in the country and a supporter of the President’s BBI constitutional reforms agenda, might be next after the Kitui county assembly issued a notice of an impeachment motion against her last week.
By The EastAfrican