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Impeachment trial: Sonko’s defence lawyer Kinyanjui steals show with Kiswahili eloquence

By Japheth Ogila | December 18th 2020 at 00:00:00 GMT +0300

Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko (left) flanked by his lawyer Harrison Kinyanjui at the Senate-Assembly during his impeachment debate at parliament buildings, Nairobi. December 17, 2020. [Elvis Ogina, Standard]

As the curtain fell on the impeachment trial of Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko on Thursday evening, his defence team mounted a strong rebuttal against his charges.

Sonko’s lead counsel Harrison Kinyanjui seized his moment as the last man on the microphone as he persuaded the Senate to save the governor. He rose to his feet to punch holes on the allegations of governor Sonko’s accusers, saying the assembly could not verify any of their single claims.

Dressed impeccably and balancing between the two languages—English and Kiswahili— Kinyanjui not only stole the show with his arguments but also his prowess in language coloured with dramatic pauses.

He questioned the assembly for failing to provide proof of 88 lawmakers who signed Sonko’s ouster motion. This had been raised by Elgeyo-Marakwet Senator Kipchumba Murkomen who asked the Nairobi County Assembly defence team to account for the signatories of the motion, including those who participated virtually.

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“All that we are being told is that 88 people voted, who were they? Who voted? You don’t have the threshold for this impeachment. It must fail,” Kinyanjui said.

The lawyer averred that the mover of the motion, Minority Leader Michael Ogada, failed to show the House evidence of public participation as required in the impeachment procedure. 

“There was no public participation even in the ward of the mover of the impeachment motion. Can he be able to produce even one person who took part in the formation of the impeachment motion?” he posed.

It forced the interjection of Senate Speaker Kenneth Lusaka to prompt the lawyer to stick to one of the languages as he shredded the case of the governor’s accusers.

He argued that the assembly failed to prove that the governor flew his daughter to the US on taxpayers’ money.

“Where is the evidence that the governor’s daughter was moving from this place to the next in the helicopter? None,” he said.

Before Kinyanjui rose for the moment, two defence lawyers also persuaded the lawmakers to vote against the ouster motion.

Lawyer Wilfred Nyamu argued that the assembly defied the court order that stopped the motion making the process illegal. He absolved Sonko of the blames on county fund mismanagement saying no annexures had been provided to show that the governor had contravened the public procurement act or any other law to that effect.

Nyamu argued that the “governor does not unilaterally make decisions” but sits with the county committee to execute such duties and therefore cannot bear the burden.

He said, “They county assembly ought to have suspended the motion and obeyed the court order instead of proceeding.

They have the power to summon the governor which they never did. And, impeachment should be the last resort…This process was premature and the assembly and the mover of the motion did not explore all the available options.”

Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko's lawyer Harrison Kinyanjui during Sonko's impeachment debate at parliament buildings, Nairobi. [Elvis Ogina, Standard]

Another lawyer, Evans Ondieki told the House that the assembly failed to serve Sonko with the impeachment motion. He argued that the MCAs were hypocritical when they said Sonko was barred from his office, while at the same time, they were claiming to have served him notice at his office.

He argued that some of the charges failed to meet the threshold of impeachment

 “Impeachments comprise serious offence of misdemeanours, there is no serious offence here,” he said.

Sonko needed a majority of 24 senators to vote in his favour to salvage his job. Currently, 46 electing senators are allowed to take part in the voting process after the demise of Machakos Senator Boniface Kabaka.

He was being accused of gross violation of the constitution, abuse of office among other crimes.

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