In Summary
  • The impeachment sentiments have largely been interpreted by the Deputy President’s supporters as Mr Odinga’s plot to politically vanquish Mr Ruto.
  • Dr Khalwale fears majority of the cases are a result of politicians keen at using impeachment as a weapon to fix perceived political opponents.

Senate Minority Leader James Orengo last weekend stirred up a heated political debate by suggesting Deputy President William Ruto is impeachable on account of gross misconduct — utterances that immediately raised political temperatures.

Backers of the Deputy President even claimed that ODM leader Raila Odinga is eyeing Mr Ruto’s job through the senator.

On Friday, the Deputy President broke his silence on the matter when he assured his supporters he is going nowhere until the end of his term with President Uhuru Kenyatta.

“What we don’t want is politics of people masterminding things for their selfish interests,” Mr Ruto said during his tour of Vihiga County.

The reaction to Mr Orengo’s threat was not entirely unexpected, for as renowned novelist Chinua Achebe has observed, “an old woman (or man) is always uneasy when dry bones are mentioned”.

UHURU-RUTO MEET

In the context of Kenyan politics, “impeachment” and “vote-of-no-confidence” are the dry bones, whose mention is a source of discomfort to many, their political experience notwithstanding.

Mr Orengo has previously moved a vote of no confidence motion against retired President Daniel arap Moi and supported another against former Vice President George Saitoti, while Mr Ruto has previously survived a censure motion while serving as Agriculture minister.

In some way, Mr Ruto and Mr Orengo are “impeachment veterans”, which explains the heightened anxiety in the Deputy President’s camp.

A couple of days after the impeachment threat, President Kenyatta visited Mr Ruto in his Harambee Annex office, a development that the Deputy President’s handlers have fully exploited to demonstrate healthy relations between the two Jubilee Party leaders.

The follow-up press conference by Jubilee allied MPs was not only a statement of renewed confidence but a daring message to Mr Orengo and the Orange party to bring it on (impeachment motion).

ODINGA'S POLL PLOT

The excitement by the Jubilee allied MPs over the meeting, whose details remain hazy, is separately an indicator of how bad the situation in the ruling party has been, or is.

The impeachment sentiments have largely been interpreted by the Deputy President’s supporters as Mr Odinga’s plot to politically vanquish Mr Ruto.

Mr Orengo has however categorically disassociated his party leader from his actions, maintaining his sentiments are purely personal.

There are also indications that Mr Odinga is not happy about the Senate Minority Leader’s recent utterances.

Nonetheless, Mr Orengo is surprised at the panic his sentiments have drawn among legislators allied to Mr Ruto and particularly the speed with which they have rushed in defence of the 2022 presidential aspirant.

FAILURE RATE

According to Mr Orengo, there is “unnecessary panic over almost everything”.

The vocal senator explains that a censure motion is just that and he, or any other legislator, has a democratic right to bring forth an impeachment motion against whoever they are strongly opposed to.

“Why is there panic over a Ruto impeachment? Is he untouchable? Must he be my president by force? If I did it against (President) Moi, who was then a very influential and authoritarian leader, under a non-friendly constitution, why would anyone imagine they will scare me from instituting impeachment proceedings against Mr Ruto?” Mr Orengo poses.

Impeachment motions, couched as censure or vote-of-no-confidence motions, have over the last half a century been moved in the National Assembly, targeting at least two presidents, two vice presidents and some Cabinet ministers.

Except for Dr Josephat Karanja, who served as VP under Moi, and then-Finance minister Amos Kimunya, the failure rate of such motions has been extremely high.

The separate moves against Dr Karanja and Mr Kimunya only succeeded because of the backing of the powers that be.

GRAND REGENCY

Dr Karanja, for instance, was hounded out of office by Embakasi MP David Mwenje for reportedly usurping the President’s powers.

And with the full backing of President Moi, Mr Mwenje alongside other vocal legislators subjected Dr Karanja to mob lynching in Parliament over his perceived arrogance.

His tendency of demanding respect and asking parliamentarians to pay him homage also earned him the unpopular “kneel-before-me-politician” nickname.

The one against Mr Kimunya was perhaps the most dramatic, with then-Ikolomani MP Boni Khalwale leading the onslaught.

In a captivating speech, which he poetically punctuated with the chorus “Kimunya Must Go”, Dr Khalwale put to task the Kipipiri MP over the controversial sale of the Grand Regency (now Laico) Hotel to Libyan investors.

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