Senate split on how to handle Waiguru affair

Already, some of the members proposed are opting out of the committee, insisting on the more popular plenary route.

The Senate will on Tuesday decide whether an 11-member team formed by the House Business Committee to conduct impeachment hearings against Kirinyaga Governor Anne Waiguru will stand or not.

Already, some of the members proposed are opting out of the committee, insisting on the more popular plenary route, which sunk former Kiambu Governor Ferdinand Waititu.

Fears have been expressed that a committee could easily be compromised on account of its numbers. However, this has also cast integrity doubts on the Senate, given the impression created that individual senators are susceptible to monetary manipulation.

The proposed members of the committee are Gideon Moi (Baringo), Beth Mugo (nominated), Anwar Oloitiptip (Lamu), Mohamed Mahammud (Mandera), Johnson Sakaja (Nairobi) and Abshiro Halaqe (nominated).

National Super Alliance (Nasa) coalition members include Moses Kajwang (Homa Bay), Cleophas Malala (Kakamega), Enoch Wambua (Kitui), Beatrice Kwamboka (nominated) and Judith Pareno (nominated).

No sooner were the names leaked than cracks began to emerge. Yesterday, Wambua said he was declining his selection and had communicated to the Minority Whip his reservations.

“I prefer the plenary session since the precedent has been set in the Waititu case. The plenary process is more honest, especially on a political issue with a lot of interests. The process for the ouster is much higher and more inclusive,” he said.

Nominated Senator Isaac Mwaura said both plenary and committee processes have been applied before, for instance, in Taita Taveta Governor Granton Samboja’s and in Waititu’s cases.

“The committee is the best as it gives senators more time to scrutinise the evidence rather than the 67 of us seated in a plenary. Both can be abused but the plenary one is harder. There is less scrutiny in the plenary while the committee one is easier and with more in-depth analysis,” said Mwaura.

During Waititu’s impeachment process, cracks emerged within the ruling party, where members clashed openly on the composition of the select committee to consider charges brought against the county chief, accusing the House leadership of not consulting in nominating colleagues.

The debate was characterised by voting patterns pitting legislators allied to President Uhuru Kenyatta and opposition chief Raila Odinga against Deputy President William Ruto’s supporters.

Similar fears are now being expressed in the Waiguru matter, following threats by Kirinyaga MPs, some avowed Ruto allies, against Senate leadership with regard to the impeachment process. Led by Woman Rep Purity Ngirici, the MPs said they would settle for nothing but plenary.

“The House Business Committee can only recommend. Their proposal is not binding. The communication of the list of members will be made on Monday and the plenary will decide which route to take in the proceedings,” said Majority Whip Irungu Kang’ata.

According to Kang’ata, the senators will make their contribution on the floor of the House on which route is the best.

Senate Minority Whip Mutula Kilonzo Jnr (Makueni) said the Business Committee has remained consistent in its recommendation of setting up a select committee like in the case of Waititu. It is members who always flipped it the other way.

“The work of the Senate is done through 18 committees and, where necessary ad hoc committees, like the case of Solai dam, maize scandal, and the current one of medical equipment scheme. The decision is ultimately the members’. There is no one size-fits-all framework in these processes,” said Mutula.

“Needless to say, the committees have in the past produced detailed reports that we make reference to, unlike the plenary session, which has no report.”

His Bungoma counterpart Moses Wetang’ula rooted for the plenary session to probe the allegations against Waiguru, arguing that the process is more transparent and less susceptible to manipulation.

“The plenary gives all the senators an opportunity to engage. The precedent had already been set in Waititu’s case,” said Wetang’ula.

Whichever way the Senate settles this, it will have a bearing on the success of the impeachment against Waiguru or lack of it.
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