Kenya: Odinga Allies Plot to Impeach Ruto Over 'Gross Misconduct'

President Uhuru Kenyatta with his private secretary Jomo Gechaga and Deputy President William Ruto during their meeting at the DP's Harambee House Annex office in Nairobi, March 26, 2019.

The political war between Deputy President William Ruto and Orange Democratic Movement leader Raila Odinga is now headed to Parliament after Mr Odinga's confidant, Senate Minority leader James Orengo, said he would mobilise legislators to support an impeachment motion against the DP for "gross misconduct".

PROCESS

Mr Orengo, the Siaya Senator, said he will rally both ODM and Jubilee Party legislators in both Houses of Parliament once he tables a motion to remove Mr Ruto from office. He accuses the DP of refusing to resign in the wake of corruption allegations against him.

None of the claims against Mr Ruto have been proven in court or elsewhere, and there has not been any official communication that he is under any investigation, but Mr Orengo said his move had the support of a good number of legislators across the political divide.

Should he go ahead, however, Mr Orengo will not have a walk in the park against the DP, as the process of removing a deputy president from office is not easy.

Like removing a president from power, the Constitution stipulates that, to impeach a deputy president, a member of the National Assembly must have the support of at least a third of all the members before moving the motion. The grounds for removal are gross violation of the Constitution or any other law, and gross misconduct.

Once the motion is approved by the Speaker, Parliament must convene a meeting of the Senate to hear the charges against Mr Ruto, after which a committee comprising 11 senators will investigate Mr Orengo's allegations.

Should the committee find no substantive wrongdoing on the part of Mr Ruto, Mr Orengo's motion would be moot.

THRESHOLD

However, if it confirms the allegations, the Senate, after according Mr Ruto an opportunity to defend himself, will vote on the impeachment charges. Mr Orengo will need at least two-thirds of his colleagues to vote against Mr Ruto for his impeachment motion to succeed.

On Sunday, a group of Jubilee leaders led by MP Maina Kamanda asked Mr Ruto and his allies to resign from their respective positions if they were uncomfortable with President Uhuru Kenyatta's quest to unify the country through his political pact with Mr Odinga, as well as the ongoing war on graft.

Mr Orengo is pegging his argument on article 150(1)(b) of the Constitution, which provides for removing a deputy president through a political process, and not necessarily through legal means in court.

"The Constitution also says he can be removed for gross misconduct," he told a charged crowd in Ugenya. "The threshold for the removal of the Deputy President on constitutional grounds is much lower than going through criminal trial or prosecution."

But National Assembly Majority Leader Aden Duale termed Mr Orengo's assertions as "the joke of the year". He dismissed them as "roadside and funeral sentiments" that cannot be discussed in the legislature.

"Mr Orengo can only rally his members in the Senate, and I dare him to take that action. It's like driving on Thika Superhighway without brakes; he will crash."

Mr Duale vowed that all Jubilee members will stand by their two top leaders no matter what, stressing that they cannot be directed by members of other parties.

SCANDALS

"Jubilee is behind its party leader (Mr Kenyatta) and his deputy (Mr Ruto). Orengo is a stranger in the Jubilee family," he said.

Deputy Majority whip at the Senate Irungu Kang'ata distanced himself from the planned impeachment motion against the DP.

"We have not received instructions from the party leader Uhuru Kenyatta for such a move. Therefore we are not party to it," Mr Kang'ata said, adding: "Our views are that we shall stick with his Excellency the President who has told us to shun politics and concentrate on development."

Cherangany MP Joshua Kuttuny said the discussion about the DP's impeachment should be a wake-up call to him.

"Why would people talk about impeaching him? He should soul-search on this because impeachment happens when there is misconduct, and he has been mentioned in too many scandals," Mr Kuttuny told the Nation.

While faulting the DP for "his defence of corruption", he, however, said that since there has not been any investigation on Mr Ruto on the claims, Mr Orengo's impeachment motion would be ill-timed.

"He openly castigates the institutions investigating graft as if he is not part of the government. All these issues paint an image of a public officer not committed to side with the government's initiatives," Mr Kuttuny said.

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