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Sonko: From frying pan into the fire

By Jacob Ng'etich | December 18th 2020 at 06:40:00 GMT +0300

The Senate last night overwhelmingly voted to impeach Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko.

In a vote that followed two days of trial, Sonko’s goose was cooked from the time, in the late evening, Majority Leader Samuel Poghisio responded to the impeachment Motion and announced that the hour of reckoning had come.

Senator Fatuma Dullo led the House in voting Yes from the first to the fourth impeachment charge. The vote reflected the prevailing political division pitting Tangatanga — led by Deputy President William Ruto, and Kieleweke — led by President Uhuru Kenyatta and ODM leader Raila Odinga.

Ruto’s troops in the House, led by Senators Kipchumba Murkomen (Elgeyo Marakwet), Susan Kihika (Nakuru), Kindiki Kithure (Meru) and Aaron Cheruiyot (Kericho) voted to save the governor, as senators allied to Uhuru and Raila, led by Poghisio and Majority Whip Irungu Kang’ata voted Yes to all the charges.

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Nairobi Senator Johnson Sakaja and Makueni’s Mutula Kilonzo Jnr abstained, while Senators Enock Wambua and Ledama ole Kina rejected the charges.

Earlier, Sakaja had implored senators to mind the people of Nairobi in whatever decision they made. But it was Kakamega’s Cleophas Malala who let the cat out of the bag when he announced that no amount of law citations could save the day for Sonko.

“Impeachment proceedings are as much political as they are legal. Let’s stop wasting each other’s time. Our minds are made up, and no authorities can change that,” Malala told Sonko’s lawyer Wilfred Nyamu.

And so it was at about 11.17 pm that Sonko’s fate was sealed with the last vote of the last charge, and with it went all the hopes of voters who chose him. The vote was won at 27-16 for each of the four charges.

“The effect of the vote is that the Governor of Nairobi, Mike Mbuvi Sonko stands impeached,” Speaker Kenneth Lusaka announced at 11.24pm.

Earlier, put to his defence before a pensive Senate, Sonko yesterday turned blue, the weight of the charges lost to him, as he rolled it back on the Members of the County Assembly (MCAs) who impeached him a few weeks ago.

On the second and last day of his impeachment trial, Sonko took to the dock — first to adduce his own evidence before the council of the assembly descended on him, tearing apart his rebuttals and painting the picture of a duplicitous, abusive and reckless man at the helm of the country’s capital.

It was a day like no other, when a fidgety Sonko, after evading the MCAs, showed up for grilling. He began on a high in the morning, but as the day wore on, and as the intensity of questioning rose, his voice drowned. He grew impatient and responded wearily.

He denied the accusations. He accused the most, describing the MCAs as “crooks” and “thieves” who had swindled the county executive of bursary funds. He said the whole impeachment process was a mere charade, a vendetta after he stopped the MCAs on their tracks.

Foreign travel

“The Bible says there is a time for everything. The same book says the wages of sin is death... but we are not asking you to kill him,” the assembly counsel summed their case thus.

Sonko had deflected most of the questioning by lawyer Ndegwa Njiru, saying he was not aware, and occasionally pleading for time and light to respond. He used his phone’s flash light to read the documents cited.

He denied that his daughter Saumu Mbuvi had drawn money out of the county for purposes of foreign travel. He partly admitted that her air ticket was paid for by the county even as the assembly produced documents affirming that she had travelled as a ward administrator.

“She travelled in the delegation, as a woman. Even the president does that, and the cost taken care by the State,” he said, contradicting himself.

Njiru claimed when MCAs were waiting for him to defend himself, the governor was busy sunbathing at the Coast in full contempt of the authority bestowed on the assembly by the people of Nairobi.

Asked whether he was an expert in voice recognition, he said yes. He also claimed his own trial began at the county assembly and described as fakes documents which did not tell his story.

Earlier while entreating the assembly to his side, Sonko played a clip where unknown people allegedly offered to pay him Sh5 million everyday if he agreed to condone corruption at City Hall. He seemed to suggest that he was being framed owing to his strong anti-corruption stance.

He claimed that the county assembly had, in an intended corrupt move, allocated him Sh50 million as petty cash. He said he did not spend the money, and that he returned the same to the county accounts.

being implemented

On Dandora Stadium, Sonko harped onto the doctrine of separation of power to insist that the stadium was being implemented by the Department of Sports and Youth Affairs and that the blame should have fallen squarely on the department leadership.

As part of his defence on the impeachment proceedings, Nominated MCA Silvia Museiya said that Michael Ogada, the Minority Leader and mover of the Motion, and former Majority Leader Abdi Guyo had told the MCAs that they had been councillors before devolution, that they knew how to do their work, and that the governor was an impediment to them.

Museiya testified that there was no quorum for the assembly’s impeachment Motion as 57 of them were in Kwale and did not vote. “I can confirm I did not vote. People around me did not vote and we had switched off our phones,” she said.

She claimed the impeachment process was borne out of clear interests by some of the county assembly leadership, who were keen to see off the governor.

During the defence, Emmanuel Kenga, a former police officer and an expert forensic document examiner on signature reading, said five signatures in the list of MCAs who had signed to impeach Sonko were by the same person.

“After an examination of the list, I established that some of the signatures were by one person. Entries 3, 4, 9, 69 and 85 were by the same author,” Kenga said.

Witness Douglas Ouma, a driver of Governor Sonko’s lawyer Evans Ondieki and his personal assistant Kevin Nyabera, said they were blocked from accessing the county assembly to serve the Speaker of the assembly with court documents stopping the removal.

The county assembly had accused Sonko of diverting Sh297 million meant for bursary for needy students.

Sonko tabled documents showing vouchers and bank accounts of the schools where the cash was channeled in the 2018-19 financial year.

The MCAs accused the county boss of diverting the money to pay lawyers. However, Sonko dismissed the claim and instead accused the sponsor of the ouster motion of engaging in character assassination. He accused some MCAs of using their wives and relatives to divert the money to fake accounts.

Sonko cited a firm which received over Sh4.5 million meant for bursaries for the poor students. “The mover of the motion was trying to divert the real issues. When he was talking about the cheques which I refused to release, it is true. There are some MCAs who opened fake educational accounts on River Road,” he said.

He said suspects involved in the bursary were charged in court and the case was ongoing.

Senate Governor Mike Sonko
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