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In footsteps of Babayao, Sonko now awaits fate

By Roselyne Obala and Moses Nyamori | December 10th 2020 at 00:00:00 GMT +0300

Besieged Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko was last night following closely in the footsteps of his felled ally, former Kiambu Governor Ferdinand Waititu, into what seemed an ignominious end in the hands of Senate plenary.

The latest move by Senate completes the picture of Sonko and Waititu conjoined fates. Both popular by their monikers, which they ended up officially adopting, they presided over chaotic reigns in their respective counties – Sonko in Nairobi and Babayao in Kiambu.

In his last days before the Senate sent him packing, Waititu pulled out all the stops to block his date with destiny, including last-minute court interventions, all which failed.

Yesterday, activist Okiya Omtatah dashed to court to stop the Senate from proceeding with the impeachment motion against Sonko.

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“The Senate should not be allowed to proceed and determine an illegal resolution. The virtual sitting and voting online, as done by the Nairobi MCAs, was in vain since it is not provided for in law and the resolution they made to impeach the governor is not backed by any law,” Mr Omtatah argued in his pitch for Sonko.

He was filing the petition on the day another judge, Justice Nzioki wa Makau, disqualified himself over allegations that he received a bribe of Sh7 million to stop the County Assembly from ousting Sonko.

Justice Nzioki ruled that although the allegations that he had received the bribe from the governor were untrue and laughable, he would refer the file to the Employment and Labour Relations Court principal judge to allocate it to another judge.

The happenings in court earlier in the day paved the way for Senate show in the afternoon, where attempts to have his case heard by an 11-member committee flopped at the last minute.

When the Senate Clerk Jeremiah Nyegenye read out the Order Paper on the floor, Majority Leader Samuel Poghisio pulled a surprise when he declined to move a Motion seeking the House’s approval on the membership of the select committee.

The Standard learnt that senators Samson Cherargei (Nandi-Jubilee), Okong’o Omogeni (Nyamira-ODM), Abdullahi Ali (Wajir-Jubilee), Hargura Godana (Marsabit-Jubilee), Charles Kibiru (Kirinyaga-Independent), Alice Milgo (Nominated-Jubilee), Fred Outa (Kisumu-ODM), Mohammed Faki (Mombasa-ODM), Judy Pareno (Nominated-ODM), Christine Zawadi (Nominated-Jubilee) and Petronilla Were (Nominated-ANC) had been picked.

“For the convenience of the House, I propose we skip,” Mr Poghisio told the Speaker.

Lusaka said since there were only two options of investigating the matter – through a special committee or plenary – if one fails, the other wins in default.

“I, therefore, wish to inform you that I will gazette Thursday 17th and Friday 18th as the dates of which the Senate shall undertake the investigation of this matter in plenary,” he directed and adjourned the sitting.

The Senate will now hear the three charges of gross violation of the Constitution and related laws, abuse of office and gross misconduct, in plenary on Thursday and Friday next week after which the 47 senators will take a vote to uphold or reject the decision by the Nairobi County Assembly.

This decision could spell doom for the besieged county boss, who has publicly lectured the senators and now faces their onslaught in the same route that sealed the fate of Waititu.

The sharp divisions in the Sonko case played out when hours to the afternoon special sitting yesterday, there was still a standoff on the composition of the select committee. The tension was rife among the senators, forcing the leadership to rescind the list.

Earlier, pleas by senators to Lusaka to suspend his directive for a hybrid sitting, which allows their colleagues absent in Parliament to participate in the House business, was also rejected.

The calls by senators Moses Kajwang’ (Homa Bay), Kipchumba Murkomen (Elgeyo/Marakwet), Moses Wetang’ula (Bungoma), Mithika Linturi (Meru), Aaron Cheruiyot (Kericho) and Ledama ole Kina (Narok) followed a communication by Lusaka on the conduct of the special sitting.

“It will be via Zoom video communication. The senators must contact the office of clerk 30 minutes before start. They must log in with full names and videos on at all time. The powers and immunity bestowed on Parliament applies as well as attire and decorum,” directed Lusaka.

The senators opposed the move, saying allowing senators to participate and vote virtually through Zoom would compromise the integrity of the vote and the independence of August House.

Mr Murkomen cautioned that the House might find itself in a situation where at some point they would be told so and so was part of the proceedings, but they cannot verify the results of those proceedings.

Mr Linturi questioned how the Speaker would ensure compliance with his rules when senators participate virtually.

Nominated senator Abshiro Halakhe faulted her colleagues, saying they had been conducting committee meetings virtually. “What is unique about the impeachment? Why is today special? Unless there are other reasons. We must be honest”.

But Lusaka ruled that they (Senators) were the ones who passed the Standing Orders.

“We must start somewhere and we’re saying let’s see how it works. Of course, it may not be perfect, but we’ll also be able to make certain changes as we go ahead,” said Lusaka.

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