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Kenya's Senate impeaches stone-thrower Governor Waititu in dramatic showdown

By Abuga Makori in Nairobi , Garowe Online
Kiambu Governor Ferdinand Waititu before the Senate at the Parliament Buildings, Nairobi, on January 29, 2020 during the hearing of his impeachment motion. PHOTO | DENNIS ONSONGO | NATION MEDIA GROUP

NAIROBI, Kenya - Ferdinand Waititu, the governor for Kiambu County, became the first county boss to face the wrath of the Senate in the second devolved government.

Known for his stone-throwing habits while serving as MP, Governor Waititu's fate was cemented on Wednesday evening after a two-day plenary hearing.

Among others, Waititu was convicted of gross misconduct, abuse of office and engaging in corruption.

The Senate's resolution upheld the earlier decision by Kiambu County Assembly, which labeled the allegations against him before impeachment last year.

Waititu fails to persuade Senate

For two days, Governor Waititu, who has been in charge of the home county for President Uhuru Kenyatta, was given time to defend himself.

He said: "I am a victim of toxic politics. My competitors have worked extremely hard to kick me out. Please save me from these politics."

Mr. Waititu also questioned the procedure used by the county assembly when kicking him out, arguing that the quorum was not met.

He added: "Someday you'll be governors and you'll meet these obstacles. It's prudent that you differentiate between politics and substantive evidence."

But his cries fell to the deaf ears of the Senate, which voted almost unanimously against him. Almost 28 Senators of 40 present upheld his impeachment.

Politics overrides impeachment

Although Waititu is facing corruption charges in court, politics marred his dramatic impeachment, something that could shape Kenya's 2022 politics.

Those allied to President Uhuru Kenyatta and Raila Odinga supported the impeachment while allies of DP William Ruto voted in Waititu's defense.

Susan Kihika, an ally of Ruto, said: “We never got any evidence brought to the House as to whether the issue of quorum was ever addressed."

But Senator Irungu Kang'ata, an ally of Uhuru, added: "Waititu is a thief. We shall not condone such habits. He must go home."

A sharp ideological difference between Uhuru and Ruto has dominated politics, with the pair struggling with a strained relationship despite being jointly elected.

Pundits attribute their differences to succession politics, of which the president has since seemingly renounced his support for his deputy.

Waititu's succession in Kiambu

And Dr. James Nyoro, would be sworn-in as the new governor, having served as deputy for the last three years. The pair never worked smoothly together.

Kenneth Lusaka, the Senate Speaker, confirmed the gazettement of the impeachment, thus effectively ending Waititu's grip in power.

"I signed off a Gazette notice after the vote was taken," Lusaka told the Nation Thursday morning.

He added: "As to whether it has been published, I really can't say. But, yes, I signed it."

Judiciary also confirmed the deployment of a judge, who is set to oversee the planned swearing-in, which might, after all, face rebellion.

“High Court Judge Onyiego will today January 30 preside over the swearing-in ceremony of the new Kiambu Governor James Nyoro,” the Judiciary said.

Nominated Senator Isaac Mwaura also dismissed claims of a planned swearing of Deputy Governor James Nyoro as county boss.

"This is a desperate act by the people who lost in the Senate. There is no swearing-in ceremony in Kiambu," Senator Mwaura said.

Waititu moves to court

But the controversial governor, who had been barred from accessing his offices over corruption charges, expeditiously moved to court on Thursday morning.

Among others, the governor is expected to challenge the threshold in the assembly during his impeachment and Senate's delay in sending a communique after assembly's impeachment.

During his assembly impeachment, Waititu argues, only 57 MCAs were present contrary to the Standing Order's set prerequisite of 62.

Should Waititu get a court order, lawyer Wilkins Ochoki says, "Nyoro's assumption of office will be declared null and void."

Before his election as governor, Waititu served as a civic leader and MP for both Embakasi and Kabete constituencies in Nairobi and Kiambu.

Fallout with President Uhuru Kenyatta

However, he's synonymous with violent confrontations which he has often defended saying "I am passionate when fighting for the rights of my people."

Before his ouster, Waititu had irredeemably fallen out with President Uhuru, who often accused him of persistent politicking.

In fact, he is said to have been blocked from accessing presidential functions twice last year, over the corruption cases he's facing.

President Uhuru is keen on the fight against corruption, often insisting that "everybody must carry his cross. I won't pick their calls."


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