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It was a year of tough battles in corridors of justice

By Brian Otieno | Dec 29th 2021 | 5 min read

Former Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko. [Collins Kweyu, Standard]

At the end of 2020, a petition challenging the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) Bill at the High Court was the least of the Bill’s sponsors’ worries.

The realistic hurdles were getting the Bill through the county assemblies and the bicameral Parliament. By February, county assemblies had taken care of one; Parliament would clear the other in May.

Before President Uhuru Kenyatta and his handshake partner Raila Odinga showed off their might in the legislative assemblies, however, economist David Ndii and four other activists emerged as threats to the BBI process.

In February, a five-bench High Court issued orders stopping Wafula Chebukati’s Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) from conducting a referendum on the BBI Bill – a win for the petitioners.

But the activists’ threat was overshadowed by Uhuru and Raila’s impressive showing, and the ODM leader would declare that nobody could stop reggae. Confidence was high within the handshake camp.

Raila’s pet project – the BBI – was on the brink of success, and with it would come a momentum that would spring his 2022 presidential bid. All indications pointed at 2021 being his and Uhuru’s year.

In the wake of their victory at the National Assembly, pro-BBI lawmakers addressed a press gathering, mocking Deputy President William Ruto’s “imaginary numbers” in Parliament.

That was on May 6, seven days shy of the bombshell that awaited at the Constitutional and Human Rights division of the High Court, one that would turn Uhuru and Raila’s dreamy year on its head.

“It is likely that today’s Court of Appeal ruling is not the end of the conversation and the parties involved will each make their own decisions on how to proceed from the decision that has been delivered today. But we feel that we have to move on,” the ODM leader tweeted after the Court of Appeal gave its verdict, perhaps aware that he could not afford to spend much time sorrowing over BBI’s fate.

“Reggae is not dead, it’s on halftime,” he said repeatedly.

A five-bench High Court issued orders stopping IEBC from conducting a referendum on the BBI Bill in February 2021. [Elvis Ogina, Standard]

The President has seemingly had a harder time shaking off the BBI loss, using whatever moment to assert his interest in turning the tide.

“The need for political stabilisation is the most urgent task facing Kenya today, and it is the foundation upon, which our greater justice, fairness, health, wealth, and security will be built on. For that reason, it shall happen,” Uhuru said during the State of the Nation address in Parliament, a message he echoed in his Jamuhuri Day address.

Equally as optimistic as Uhuru and Raila had been in 2020, was former Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko, who had lost his plum job in December of that year.

Bolstered by Embu Governor Martin Wambora’s success in overturning his impeachments, the former governor, believed he had a chance to plead his case at the courts. Earning back his seat was the top of his agenda.

Fifteen days into the new year, the Nairobi County Assembly took serious what Sonko intended to be a joke, approving his nominee for deputy governor, Anne Kananu, presenting a new headache for the disgraced Sonko.

The former county boss would futilely argue that he had revoked Kananu’s nomination and moved to court to block her ascension to the governorship. A series of body blows from the Judiciary – first at the High Court, which declared, in June, that his impeachment procedural, and the Supreme Court, which threw out his appeal in November – left Sonko deflated. He was done.

Earlier in April, the Wajir County Assembly impeached Governor Mohamed Abdi Mohamud, for, among other things, he was alleged to have done, surrendering his powers to his wife. At the time, Mohamud was no stranger to turmoil.

Elected in August 2017, Mohamud had his victory overturned in January 2018 by the High Court, a decision upheld by the Court of Appeal. The Supreme Court would reinstate him in February 2019.

Surviving that did not prepare him for what this year would bring. In May, the Senate voted to remove him from office. He swiftly moved to court and secured an order blocking his deputy, Ahmed Ali Muktar from assuming office. But that happened after Muktar was sworn in as the substantive governor.

For months now, the two, have battled to seize control of the county that has two governors. Each claims to be lawfully in office. While Muktar enjoys the support of leaders from Wajir, the Council of Governors recognises Mohamud as the county boss.

Earlier in June, a teary Wilson Sossion announced his resignation as the Secretay-General of the Kenya National Union of Teachers (Knut).

Wilson Sossion announced his resignation as the Secretay-General of Knut in June, 2021. [Okwiri, Standard]

His tears told the story of the tough recent years he had to endure as Knut boss. When he took over in 2013, Knut was the most vibrant teachers’ union, boasting more than 180,000 members.

By June, a gradual exodus had reduced its membership to 15,000. Taking the flak for the decline was Sossion, who faced blame over his combative style, which had earned Knut a formidable enemy in Nancy Macharia’s Teachers Service Commission (TSC).

At the height of the Sossion-Macharia dispute, the nominated MP would issue strongly-worded press conferences, accusing the TSC boss of dictatorship, vowing to stay put.

“I have today decided that in the interest of KNUT continuity, its membership and myself I hereby today the 25th day of June 2021, bow out of KNUT leadership honourably,” Sossion fell to a fear he had vowed to surmount.

 Mercy Wambua may be smiling the way into the new year following her reinstatement as the Law Society of Kenya (LSK) Chief Executive Officer.

Her past year, however, has been full of tribulations, extended from 2020.

In June, an LSK special general meeting, chaired by LSK president Nelson Havi, resolved to suspend Wambua and expel eight council members. The embattled CEO had been suspended in 2019 but was reinstated by the LSK council.

That was only the latest round in a series of suspensions and counter-suspensions by the rival LSK factions, which has often degenerated into wars of words and in another instance, resulted in allegations of assault.

Download the BBI Judgement by all seven Judges - Civil Appeal No. E291 of 2021
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