Why Baba Yao’s impeachment is a game changer

It will slow down governors who have been on the gravy train

BY JACOB OKETCH

Watching two different impeachment proceedings, one of the US President Donald Trump and another of our very own Kiambu Gorvenor Ferdinand Waititu a.k.a baba Yao, leaves one with a number of observations to make regarding the efficacy of the process and how it can be enhanced in Kenya to aid in good governance.

I watched with admiration, the seamless procedure of the US impeachment proceedings. I was particularly awed by how the questions from senators were meticulously channeled to the chief justice who then read them out. Even more impressive is the response from the President’s counsels and the house managers. Inotherwords, this is a process that is so thoroughly lawful that the verdict will leave no doubt regarding veracity. This is not to overlook the shenanigans of President Trump’s men attempting to block certain crucial evidence from being adduced.

There was something quite disturbing about how proceedings of the impeachment of Kiambu Governor by our Senate was conducted. You see, even if the penultimate stage of it was a plenary, the idea of limited time allocated to the Senators, in a sense, stifled certain voices of reason which could have been beneficial to the House. I could not quite be comfortable with the idea that even an experienced hand as Hon Amos Wako, the indefatigable former Attorney General failed to air his last point due to time constraints. A matter as weighty as impeachment behooves the Senate to give unlimited time to each of the senators to reflect an exhaustive debate on the matter.

One of the House managers in the impeachment proceedings against President Trump said that “Impeachment is not about punishment, it is about cleansing the office. It is about restoring the honour and dignity of the office”. This is something that the Senators in Kenya who are charged with the responsibility of adjudicating an impeachment procedure ought to take into cognizance. I was disappointed when Bungoma Senator implored upon members of the House not to punish Hon Waititu if they were not sure. His statement was alluding to some form of sympathy to the person of the Governor as opposed to focus on the office of the Governor of Kiambu County.

The flawless way in which questions were being channeled in the US impeachment proceedings is something the Kenyan Senate should borrow a leaf from. Presidential impeachment proceedings are such a complex affair that you can imagine what would occur if there were no evidence. I am not suggesting that Kenyan Senators do it that way but if the Senate can preside over a proceeding that is devoid of evidence of one kind or another then it suggests that there is a legal lacuna that must be bridged. How could certain crucial evidence be missing from such high profile proceedings?

The view by some of the Senators that the Deputy Governor ought to be prosecuted alongside the Governor for misdemeanors is a good thing but it cannot be executed with the current statutes. It is a not a secret that there are rogue governors who run their counties like a fiefdom. It was not surprising that the accused Governor had even employed some people in the county flouting key regulations regarding hiring of public servants. 

Some deputies are totally sidelined from the administration of the county. I remember the tiff between the Muranga governor and his deputy in the last government. There are other examples. If we have to charge deputies alongside their bosses then we have to enhance their powers and responsibilities to warrant such a move.

This is the first successful impeachment of a governor since the advent of Devolution. It is a strong message that corruption and other ills will not be tolerated. Be that as it may, the senate ought to up its game to improve the quality of the proceedings. The idea of preserving the dignity of an office when it comes to impeachment should insulate the Senators from the temptation to side with the section that appeals to their political persuasion. It was interesting to see the Leader of Majority Hon Kipchumba Murkomen moving the motion and according to a senior Senator, “unmoving” it at the same time. It was clear that he was attempting to sanitize the accused Governor due to political persuasion.

Going by the number of impeachments that have not resulted in the removal from office of a sitting Governor, it is accurate to point out that the Senate has not done a better job previously. This impeachment has actually cemented this administration’s commitment to slay the dragon of corruption. I am appalled by certain comments from leaders who say that governors are a fearful lot who see themselves as targeted. The moment we start sympathizing with those deemed corrupt is the moment we start losing the war against this hydra headed monster called corruption. It is this feeble argument that condones corruption.

The impeachment of the Kiambu Governor may also set off a political realignment. Not many politicians would want to closely associate with the embattled former governor because at the moment, he is the certified face of corruption in the country. Many governors have plucked lessons. 

Kiambu is one of the largest counties in the country and it is literally the bedrock of Kenyan politics having produced the founding father of the nation, the late President Mzee Jomo Kenyatta. The unanimity with which the County Assembly voted for this impeachment bespeaks of leaders who spoke in one voice to preserve the dignity of a county deemed to be at the apex of them all.

Partisan political interest does not seem to benefit county politics in anyway. What matters most are the issues that enhance the lives of the people. County leaders who kowtow to their party bosses without evaluating their bosses’ record of dignity are doing it the wrong way. Going by the Kiambu example, the county assembly realized that they stood to lose a lot as a county by continuing with the current leadership. That is a bold move considering the role political patronage plays in Kenyan politics. Or perhaps, Kiambu County, populated by moneyed businessmen who control chunks of businesses in Nairobi could have stretched their enormous economic resources to ensure that there was a change of the status quo will nilly.

Whichever way one looks at it, this impeachment is a game changer because it sets a precedent that governors can actually be held to account for their actions. From now onwards, no governor will take an impeachment lightly especially looking at how casually Governor Waititu treated certain crucial steps of the proceedings, how he failed to take advantage of the opportunity to defend himself and provide evidence. It is this impeachment will surely slow down the governors who have been on the gravy train. 

At another level, the prosecutorial authorities have a leg up on this. The enthusiasm that we have seen as far as prosecution of public officials is concerned has probably gone a notch higher because of the outcome of this particular impeachment process. And make no mistake, the President must be thoroughly impressed by this one and his supposed opponents, particularly governors, must be a very worried lot. Keep it here.  

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