Should Deputy Governors Be Forced to Vacate Office in the Event their Bosses (Governors) are Impeached?

Posted by on 3rd February 2020

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During the debate on the impeachment of former Kiambu Governor Ferdinand Waititu, Kakamega Senator Cleophas Malala made clear his intentions to propose amendments to the Constitution on the basis of lessons he drew from the process.

When a governor is elected, he’s elected on a joint ticket with his deputy but when he’s impeached, he’s impeached alone. We will be making proposals to the Constitution that when you impeach a governor since he was elected on a single ticket with his deputy then both are deemed to be impeached (sic),” said Malala.

He went ahead to note that his proposal intends to deter temptation by deputy governors to maliciously engineer the removal of their bosses with an objective of succeeding them.  While the concerns raised are valid and indeed conceivable, the proposed solutions seem unreasonable and unfair for a number of reasons.

Firstly, this proposal will force the deputy governors to erroneously assume responsibility for violations over which they exercise virtually no control. According to the Constitution, the Executive authority at the County Government is domiciled at the Governor’s Office. The powers of the deputy are in fact limited so much so that there are some functions that he/she cannot execute even in an acting capacity as Governor. They are exclusively within the Governor’s domain. Despite being elected jointly, they assume different responsibilities, naturally implying that the power to control an undesirable outcome in which one is implicated might not necessarily be the same. It would, therefore, be logically unsound to commit both of them to the same guillotine yet the degree of responsibility differs. A popular song by the Arusha choir says, Kila mtu atauchukua mzigo wake mwenyewe, to mean everyone will carry their own load come judgment. In the spirit of fairness and justice, any governor involved in malpractice should be held accountable without tarnishing a deputy’s reputation and costing them their job.

Secondly, the impeachment of a deputy governor is provided for in the law. This mechanism ensures that deputy governors are themselves not immune from the force of the law should they contravene any of its provisions, and which would qualify for removal from office. As a matter of fact, the law anticipates that Deputy Governors would have to be accountable for any wrongdoing independently from the Governors. Their removal from office were it to get to such a point, would not rope in the Governors, except of course, to the extent that the Governors share in the violation. Just like governors, deputies can be impeached by the county assembly and the Senate if proven to be guilty of the charges levelled against them.

Thirdly, Article 182 (2) of the Constitution states that if a vacancy occurs in the office of county governor, the deputy county governor shall assume office as county governor for the remainder of the term of the county governor. Through this provision, taxpayers are cushioned from the expensive cost of elections. To imagine a by-election in the second-most populous county, or indeed any other county, under the current economic conditions is unfathomable. Besides, the status quo guarantees continuity and stability necessary for orderly administration and attendant benefits. Such would face potential interruption were affected counties to be subjected to disruptive elections in the course of the term.

If the fear is that the current framework would be subject to abuse, especially by deputy governors keen to sabotage their bosses so they succeed them, then the fear of manipulation and abuse would even be more compounded by the suggested amendment. It is not entirely inconceivable that interests alien to a particular administration would artificially generate a crisis, whose sole objective is to implicate the governor and by extension his/her deputy with an objective of removing them both by a single process to pave way for an election to install their preferred interests.

It is therefore wise to let the current law to take its course and justice be dispensed equally. After all, a joint ticket means that the pair on the ballot has proven to have the capability to attain the vision of the county. When the holder of the top county seat is impeached, it should be possible for their number two to oversee the completion of that term to the satisfaction of their electorate.

In the case of Kiambu County, Dr James Nyoro will now serve as governor until 2022 barring any radical dynamic.  Kiambu is looking to him to right the wrongs of his predecessor.