Why all animals aren’t equal in city approvals

Kiambu First Lady Susan Wangare Waititu when she appeared in court on August 15, 2018.
As questions linger on who approved the construction of the buildings that have been demolished, a leaked phone conversation offers a hint.

A leaked telephone conversation between two governors has turned the spotlight on the construction approval process in Nairobi.

The conversation brings to the fore the question of who approves the construction of buildings and whether all suspects in the ongoing demolitions are being treated equally.

The conversation was prompted by the arrest of Kiambu Governor Ferdinard Waititu’s wife, Susan Wangare (pictured), at a construction site in Nairobi. Mr Waititu reached out to his friend, Governor Mike Sonko.

Governor Sonko ‘ordered’ the release of Waititu’s wife and even set the bail amount himself, citing ‘orders from above’.

Reports indicate that Waititu’s wife and several workers had been arrested at the construction site of a building that City Hall suspected did not have the requisite county approvals.

The boss

Waititu sought the intervention of Sonko to secure the release of his wife. However, Sonko insisted that those arrested with her would only be set free if Waititu spoke to ‘the boss’.

In the leaked conversation Sonko is heard admitting that he was breaking the law for his friend’s sake.

Following is part of the conversation between the two governors:

Sonko: Hello, your excellency. I have freed your wife, she is going to be released shortly.

Waititu: Yes Sonko, you should actually release all those arrested. You remember how we have traversed Nairobi together? We are still going to go far together.

Sonko: For the other ones arrested you will have to call mdosi (the boss) because it is an order from above. I will break the law for your sake and release your wife, but for the rest you will have to take it up with the President.

Waititu: Why should I deal with the mdosi (the boss) and I’m dealing with you? Just make a phone call and they will all be released.

Sonko: For now I will instruct my officers to release your wife, but the rest I will try. But later make sure that you come to City Hall so that I can give you approvals for that building.

Waititu: I am not someone to go engaging in a confrontation with Sonko. Just make sure that everyone has been released immediately and we will sort out the issue.

Sonko: Okay let me try…

Immediately after that, Sonko calls an officer identified as Ochanda

Sonko: Hello, Ochanda. I am told you are the one that has arrested those people. Have you arrested the first lady?

Ochanda: Yes I have. She is in our custody.

Sonko: Give her the phone and let me speak to her...


Sonko: Hello, your excellency. I am very sorry about the arrest... you are speaking with Governor Sonko…you are going to be released immediately.

Wangare: Okay…

Sonko: You should, however, come and apply for approvals because you know it is a crime to build without approvals.

Wangare: But my people have also been arrested, governor. Kindly ensure they are released…

Sonko: The order is not mine and it has come from ‘high up’ so I am actually breaking the law by securing your release. As for the rest, I have instructed mzee (Waititu) to call above. I know police officers were also involved in your arrest and sadly they do not take orders from me. But for you, you are being released immediately, now now now.

Cash bail

Back to his conversation with Ochanda.

Sonko: Write her a cash bail of about Sh10,000 and tell her we are still investigating the matter, but for the rest, they must know that we do not want people building without approvals.

Ochanda: Okay Governor

Sonko: But you are sure that they do not have building approvals, right?

Ochanda: No they do not have the approvals, I am sure.

Sonko: …for both buildings? What about the second building they are putting up? What floor are they?

Ochanda: They are currently on the eighth floor...

Sonko: No! No! No! If it is about friendship let it end today… they cannot build an eight-storey building in the CBD without approval. As for the wife, release her immediately because she is not a contractor

Ochanda: Okay, okay mheshimiwa. 

Call ends.

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