Governor Kawira’s make-or-break week as impeachment trial begins
Embattled Meru Governor Kawira Mwangaza is facing a make-or-break week before the Senate as her two-day impeachment trial begins on Tuesday (tomorrow).
The first-term governor is walking a tightrope after the Senate adopted the plenary route, as opposed to the committee way, to consider her removal from office.
Facing the Senate for the second time in less than a year, Governor Mwangaza will follow a delicate route that ended the careers of two other governors.
Set to appear before the Speaker Amason Kingi-led House on Wednesday, the Independent Governor will be the third governor to be taken through the whole House sitting, known as the plenary.
Former Governors Mike Sonko (Nairobi) and Ferdinand Waititu (Kiambu) were removed through the same route after a majority of senators voted to uphold their impeachments.
The governor was given a warning sign last week when a majority of senators allied to President William Ruto shot down a proposal by the Opposition to have her tried through an 11-member special committee, a route that saved her in December last year.
A majority of impeached governors who were tried through a special committee were let off the hook after the lean team absolved them of the charges levelled by their assemblies.
Senate Majority Leader Aaron Cheruiyot, a close confidant of the President, led his troops to reject the committee route that was being championed by Senate Minority Whip Ledama Olekina and Nairobi Senator Edwin Sifuna.
The heated debate served as a chilling reminder to the besieged governor that she might not be second time lucky as Kenya Kwanza senators are baying for her “blood”.
“The deputy president tried to mediate the fallout but she rejected the offer. She has exhausted the goodwill she had with Kenya Kwanza and this time no one will save her,” said Nandi Senator Samson Cherargei.
“When Senate let her off last time I predicted she would be brought back. For the sanity of Meru County, it is high time she takes a backseat. She has failed to be a stabilising factor and it is high time she pursues other duties,” he added.
“This time no one has tried to intervene to have her saved. We have been left to vote openly,” said a Kenya Kwanza senator who sought anonymity.
On their side, Azimio confirmed they will not dictate to any member how to vote as they “cannot undermine the authority of the Senate as it is only the senators who can determine matters before them”.
“As a coalition, we are not in the habit of dictating to our members their Constitutional mandate. We have maintained that even in other impeachment cases,” said Senator Sifuna.
“We have faith in the ability of the senators to evaluate the law and evidence to make a judgment that is in line with the same,” the ODM Secretary-General added.
Complicating matters for Ms Mwangaza is intense lobbying by Meru political leaders who have petitioned the UDA leadership to whip its members in the House to uphold the impeachment.
The governor, who is facing seven charges including misappropriation and misuse of county resources, and nepotism and related unethical practices as well as bullying, vilifying and demeaning other leaders, making illegal appointments and usurping statutory powers, has fallen out with elected leaders in her backyard.
Elected on an Independent ticket, the county boss appears to be a lone ranger, with no political affiliation to her rescue to marshal the support to scuttle the impeachment process.
The development resulted in the troubled governor being sidelined and deserted by the leaders from the region.
On Tuesday next week, the senators will have a marathon special sitting from 8.30am for a pre-hearing before MCAs take the stage to present their case.
The governor will then face the plenary on Wednesday to defend herself against the accusations by the MCAs.
Thereafter, the senators will vote on whether to rescue her or confirm the resolution by the Meru County Assembly.
On Wednesday last week, the Senate served to the governor and her accusers, the county assembly, notifying them of the impending trial.
In the notice, the Senate gave the parties until Saturday to submit a list of lawyers who would represent them in the case, a list of witnesses, exhibits and evidence they would use in their arguments.
All the 67 senators will now participate in the trial during the cross-examining of the witnesses but only elected senators from the 47 counties will be allowed to vote on the governor’s impeachment. The governor needs the support of 24 senators to save herself.