Sunday, February 2, 2014

GOVERNOR WAMBORA'S PROPOSED IMPEACHMENT A CONSTITUTIONAL TEST

The Kenya constitution will this week face its first major test when the Senate sits to decide on whether or not to approve the impeachment of Embu Governor Martin Wambora.

The impeachment motion came with serious allegations from the Embu county assembly relating to procurement processes involving the upgrading of the Embu stadium. While details are sketchy about the inner details, the allegations must be serious enough to have pushed the assembly to censure Wambora and his deputy, Dorothy Nditi.

Kenyans will be watching closely to see how the Senate conducts itself because it will mark the first time that impeachment proceedings have been preferred against a sitting county executive since the coming of the devolved system of government last year. Whatever happens in the Senate will have far reaching constitutional implications. We will know as Kenyans whether or not our legislators are serious about implementing that part of the constitution fairly and justly. It will also be precedent setting. Whether it approves to impeach or not, the fact that the matter has reached the floor of the Senate sends a strong message to governors that there are limits in their actions.

What worries me, however, is the manner in which some governors have reacted to Wambora's tribulations. The chairman of the governor's council, Isaac Ruto, and others were swift in condemning members of the Embu county assembly and in declaring Wambora's innocence even before Senate investigations had begun.

The task of approving impeachments in the devolved system under the constitution rests with the Senate. This week, the Senate will meet in a special session to form a committee of inquiry to look into the charges against the two. It is only after it completes its inquiry and releases its report that Kenyans will know whether or not the allegations are true. For some governors to allude that "there is a hidden hand" in the decision of the Embu county assembly is ridiculous unless they can deduce evidence to that effect.

Even more ridiculous was the quote attributed to the Makueni governor, Kivutha Kibwana: "We will not be docile. We will protect one of us."

Protect, even where there is guilt? This is called impunity, the dragon we are trying to tame. I hope Wambora, a colleague in the 9th Parliament, will be exonerated. If not, he has to face the consequences.

Time of  protecting 'one of our own' are gone. We all have a moral duty to defend the constitution, protect the innocent and punish the offenders. I hope Wambora will be given ample time to defend himself. He has already rubbished the allegations via the media, but I would want to see him appear before the committee and explain to Kenyans what actually happened.

Governors know Wambora's impeachment would open a Pandora's box for more actions against other governors, many of whom are known to be engaging in unsavoury activities including extravagant use of public money.

One popular Kiswahili saying is pertinent here: if you see your neighbour's head being shaved, get yours ready.

Our governors must know they are not above the law. They may be flying the national flag; they may have emblazoned everything in their possession with "the Governor of...."; they may deploy hefty security details for themselves, but when it comes to the law they are not any different from any one of us.

No one envisaged that by establishing the devolved system of government we were creating small gods. The conduct of some of them is nauseating. There have been reports of debauchery and boorish behaviour amongst county executives.

All the campaign rhetoric about the devolved government bringing services closer to the people is turning out to be a nightmare for the majority of Kenyans. Apart from one or two counties, many of the jurisdictions are exhibiting suicidal tendencies due to a combination of poor leadership, runaway hubris and abuse of office.

Almost a year into the county system, people are still dying of hunger, unemployment is at a record high, many secondary school students are still at home because of lack of school fees etc etc,  while county officials embark on overseas junkets, building posh mansions for themselves and wasting time in unproductive seminars. To cover their tracks, they have been legislating meaningless taxes, adding a further burden to wananchi.

It is about time governors come down to earth and do what they were elected to do.

And that is my say.