Sonko, Kananu legal fight could deny city a governor until 2022

Former Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko during his impeachment debate in the Senate in December last year. [Elvis Ogina, Standard]

The legal battle between former Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko and Deputy Governor Anne Kananu could deny the county a substantive governor until after the 2022 elections.

The fate of the Nairobi Metropolitan Service also hangs in the balance because a deed of transfer of functions to the National Government is expected to expire in March next year. It can only be extended by a substantive office holder with the backing of the County Assembly.

With the General Election ten months away, Sonko’s move to the Supreme Court to stop the swearing-in of Ms Kananu as governor has lifted the lid on a ploy to delay her ascension to power through legal hurdles.

On Monday, the apex court stopped Kananu’s ascension to city boss after the ex-governor challenged a Court of Appeal decision on Friday that dismissed his case against her assumption of office.

The Appellate court declared that the former governor has been out of office for more than 10 months hence he is no longer the county boss.

This series of events has seen legal experts argue that the supremacy wrangles could lead to the governor’s office remaining vacant until August 9, 2022.

Constitutional lawyer Bobby Mkangi said Sonko’s appeals set in motion a series of litigation suits that continue to delay the selection of a substantive governor.

He noted that Kananu has no option but to wait until the “legal conveyor belt is complete” and the courts decide the way to go for Nairobi.  

Notably, there is also another pending case at the Court of Appeal that seeks to establish whether Sonko was illegally impeached. The case is coming up for consideration and determination next month.

“Sonko’s move to seek reprieve at the Supreme Court will definitely buy him time,” said Mr Mkangi.

Mkangi also suggested that it is possible the county could be headed for a by-election if the court finds Kananu’s appointment was unlawful. “If the courts find that she’s in office illegally and revert to the position that there is a vacancy, it then opens up the path for IEBC to prepare for a by-election within 90 days even as the Speaker occupies the seat albeit in acting capacity.” 

Kananu, who is the acting governor, is currently limited in terms of Executive functions as stipulated in Section 30 of the County Government Act and the Constitution. She cannot reshuffle the Cabinet, among other roles.

Sonko is, however, still hopeful of reclaiming his seat. In a video clip on his Facebook page, he told supporters to be patient and wait for November when the petition challenging his removal will be heard.

“Keep calm. That is the ruling, but we will be in the Court of Appeal in November and there is still hope. Our stay application has been dismissed. It is not the end of everything. There is still the Court of Appeal verdict,” he said.

But lawyer Peter Kaluma argued that by denying the stay order, the court confirmed that there is no likelihood of the pending appeal succeeding. “Orders of stay are given only where an appeal is arguable. The court has confirmed there is no likelihood that the pending appeal will succeed,” he said.

Mr Kaluma said Sonko should be advised to withdraw his appeal and call it a day.