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Impeachment of the Kenyan Deputy President

03 July 2018 Chris Suckling

Kenyan Deputy President William Ruto agreed on 20 June to undergo a "lifestyle audit" requested by President Uhuru Kenyatta. Any resulting evidence indicating alleged misuse of public resources is likely to support impeachment proceedings that remove Ruto from office.

  • Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta's lifestyle audit is likely to form the basis of impeachment proceedings to block Deputy President William Ruto's 2022 election bid by removing him from office this year.
  • Kenyatta's allies in the ruling Jubilee party are building support for the two-thirds parliamentary majority necessary to approve Ruto's impeachment, primarily by co-operating with the main opposition Orange Democratic Movement.
  • Regardless of the outcome, resulting splits within the ruling and opposition parties will increase legislative disruption, reducing the likelihood of corporate tax increases and delaying the finalization of revenue shares within a proposed Petroleum Bill.

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta announced on 14 June that the deputy president and cabinet ministers must undergo a "lifestyle audit" as part of investigations into misuse of public resources. This followed the reopening on 26 May of anti-corruption investigations targeting several parastatal organizations. The latest initiatives were not previously agreed with Deputy President William Ruto and his allies from the former United Republican Party (URP), which in September 2016 merged with President Kenyatta's The National Alliance to form the Jubilee party, the governing party. Ruto's support for Kenyatta was premised on his running for the presidency in 2022.

Any evidence obtained during the investigations indicating alleged misuse of public resources is likely to form the basis of impeachment proceedings to remove Ruto from office. Kenyatta is undertaking his second and final term and is seeking to block Ruto's 2022 presidential election bid to favor of a hand-picked ethnic-Kikuyu successor.

Impeachment proceedings can be launched against the deputy president when there is evidence of:

  • A conflict between personal interests and public or official duties;
  • Receipt of a gift, donation, or personal loan (not exempt under existing law) that compromises integrity.

Targeting Ruto's allies
Historical corruption cases against Ruto's allies are being reopened. In June 2015, the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) instructed the then director of public prosecutions, Kariako Tobiko - who was appointed as environment minister in January 2018 - to close investigations into former energy minister Davis Chirchir and former agriculture minister Felix Kosgei. Tobiko publicly objected to this decision, which Ruto conversely supported. Chirchir and Kosgei denied all allegations but were suspended by Kenyatta in March 2015. Allegations against the ministers related to bribery in awarding a tender by Kenya Pipeline Company (KPC) and the licensing of sugar imports by the National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB). Chirchir was the URP's secretary-general and the Jubilee party's chief polling agent in 2017, focusing on Ruto's ethnic-Kalenjin strongholds.

These cases are being re-examined with mounting support within the Jubilee party to investigate and prosecute implicated individuals. Agriculture Minister Mwangi Kiunjuri alleged to a parliamentary committee on 30 May 2018 that the NCPB artificially increased maize prices and facilitated illegal smuggling. Kiunjuri claimed "powerful individuals" undertook such activity prior to his appointment in January. NCPB officials deny all allegations. Kiunjuri replaced previous minister Willy Bett, also a Ruto ally. Separately, on 4 June, the EACC questioned KPC officials over price inflation in procurement agreements. The investigation focused on KPC awarding a tender in 2014 to a Lebanese company to construct a USD476.2-million pipeline. The EACC alleged KPC had increased the contract price by USD26.8 million. KPC officials deny all allegations.

Kenyatta courts Odinga, while Ruto seeks disaffected ODM members' backing
Ruto is seeking to gain parliamentary support from disaffected opposition Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) members from the southeastern Coast region. These members are led by Mombasa county governor and ODM deputy leader Hassan Joho. Joho is viewed by his constituents as the ODM's next leader. However, rivals in the western counties would prefer an ethnic-Luo successor. The western regions are a stronghold of current ODM leader Raila Odinga, which increases the likelihood that Joho will defect to support Ruto if he is not chosen as Odinga's successor (see Kenya: 1 March 2018: Kenyan opposition party conference indicates contested leadership succession, motivating local political frustration of Coastal region development projects).

Joho's supporters have also opposed Odinga's 'handshake' deal with Kenyatta on 9 March. This established the 'Building Bridges' initiative, whereby Odinga will act on behalf of the government to tackle corruption and propose electoral reforms originally demanded during his boycott of the re-run presidential election in October 2017.

Kenyatta has since offered new concessions to Odinga. Most notably, on 6 June, allies from Odinga's stronghold were appointed to senior positions at several parastatal organizations. Odinga convened a closed-door meeting on 18 June in Mombasa with Joho and other aspirants to discuss the ODM's future direction and leadership.

Outlook and implications
Joho's appointment as the ODM's next leader would indicate that Kenyatta is likely to obtain the two-thirds parliamentary (National Assembly and Senate) majorities needed to impeach Ruto. A further indicator of Joho's parliamentary support being secured would be if his allies were offered parastatal or cabinet positions. In aggregate, the Jubilee party (with minority legislative allies) and the ODM hold 75% and 80% respectively of the seats in the National Assembly and the Senate.

To achieve this, Kenyatta must limit opposition from Ruto's allies within his own Jubilee party. Aside from engaging with the opposition, Ruto is seeking Jubilee support by proposing member of parliament Peter Kenneth as his future running-mate. Kenneth launched a failed candidacy bid with Jubilee for the Nairobi governorship in 2017. Ruto and Kenneth will hold a rally on 1 July. If few Jubilee members attend, this will indicate greater parliamentary support for impeachment. Kenneth is likely to be viewed as a weak candidate and his selection by Ruto indicates Jubilee's declining support for Ruto's presidential candidacy.

Even without impeachment proceedings, the passage of key legislation faces disruption this year given changes in parliamentary alliances. These imply reduced support for the raising of corporate taxation from 30% to 35%, proposed under the Income Tax Bill due to be tabled around 30 June, suggesting a smaller increase will be agreed. Separately, there will be reduced parliamentary support for finalizing the Petroleum (Exploration, Development, and Production) Bill this year, which has stalled at the second reading. The opposition would coalesce against downward revisions to the share of revenue in onshore oil production earmarked for local communities.

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