The governor of Meru County in central Kenya has been impeached for the second time in 10 months by regional lawmakers, while several female governors defended Kawira Mwangaza as she faces the toughest fight of her political career.
An overwhelming 59 out of 69 members of the Meru County Assembly voted to impeach Mwangaza last week on seven counts. These include gross misconduct, misappropriation of county funds, making irregular appointments, nepotism, bullying and contempt of court.
“The governor has misused county resources to fund her personal charity organisation. We have lost trust in her. She must go,” Evans Mawira, the local leader of the United Democratic Alliance, said during the impeachment debate.
Mwangaza was elected on an independent ticket but is a close ally of President William Ruto.
She denies all the accusations levelled against her, calling it a political witch hunt targeting one of the few women leaders. Kenyans elected a record seven – out of 47 – female governors in 2022.
We want to be treated equally with other elected leaders
“Please pray for our county of Meru. Please pray for me, pray for justice,” she wrote on her Facebook page after being impeached.
Her fate now lies with the national Senate plenary, which will listen to the accusations from the regional parliament and make a final determination within 10 days.
“The impeachment motion will be heard and determined. There are a total of seven charges against the governor,” Senate Speaker Amason Kingi said on 31 October.
According to Article 181 of the Constitution, a governor can be removed from office for gross violations of the Constitution or any other law. Section 33 of the County Governments Act states that the impeachment process commences with members of the county assembly tabling a motion to remove the county governor.
Removal is also possible if there are credible reasons to believe that the governor has committed a crime under national or international law, or if there is evidence of abuse of office or gross misconduct.
When Mwangaza was impeached in December 2022, the senate saved her job after resolving that it did not find enough evidence against her.
The senators concluded that she had an acrimonious and contemptuous working relationship with county lawmakers and proposed a dialogue. That dialogue, if it occurred, has clearly failed.
Unfair attack against women leaders
Kenya’s women governors have come out in support of their Meru counterpart.
You cannot impeach someone twice
Machakos Governor Wavinya Ndeti has defended Mwangaza, saying she is being targeted as a woman and has served her people diligently. Earlier this week, Infotrak Research and Consulting, a leading market and social research company in Africa, ranked Mwangaza among the top 10 performing governors in Kenya.
“As a woman, I will stand with my sister Mwangaza. You cannot impeach someone twice,” Ndeti told a political gathering.
Anne Waiguru, the governor of Kirinyaga and chairperson of the Council of Governors, also voiced concerns. She has called for changing the impeachment laws targeting governors.
“We want to be treated equally with other elected leaders. The impeachment laws are so unfair,” Waiguru said.
Meanwhile, the Federation of Women Lawyers in Kenya (FIDA) is pledging its support and said it would offer legal representation to the governor.
“We are extremely concerned by the ongoing attacks towards the governor of Meru County. We shall stand with her,” FIDA-Kenya chairperson Nancy Ikinu said in a statement.
On Wednesday, Meru residents who support their governor took to the streets in solidarity with their embattled leader.
“We love our governor. She is being attacked because she is a woman. We elected her,” protester Beatrice Kanja tells The Africa Report.
Brian Wanyama, a political analyst, says Mwangaza’s woes were orchestrated by powerful political leaders who lost to her in 2022 and now want her out for their own interests. He says he does not see the senate saving her for a second time, however.
“She has lost support from President Ruto’s party, her allies which have the majority in the senate,” Wanyama says. And “the opposition won’t save her” either.
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