Details: Why Uhuru saved Sonko from impeachment plot

Friday, March 20th, 2020 00:00 | By
Devolution CS Eugene Wamalwa (left) and Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko sign an addendum to Deed of Transfer of Services at State House on Wednesday. Photo/PSCU

Emeka-Mayaka Gekara

The need to prevent a costly by-election that could have destabilised the city is said to be one of the reasons President Uhuru Kenyatta’s government took over key services and saved Governor Mike Sonko from impeachment, people familiar with government thinking posit.

Last month, a section of MCAs tabled an impeachment motion which appeared to seal the governor’s fate but Uhuru prevailed upon them to shelve the plan.

Opposition chief Raila Odinga, who has been driving the Building Bridges Initiative campaigns alongside the President, told Nairobi County Minority Whip Peter Imwatok, a member of his ODM party, who was spearheading the impeachment, to go slow during a meeting at the party’s offices in Nairobi.

The besieged governor, who is barred from accessing his office over corruption allegations, was on Wednesday forced to sign away key responsibilities to the newly-created Nairobi Metropolitan Services at the President’s instigation, effectively rendering himself a mere figurehead in management of county affairs.

Politicians who spoke to People Daily linked the President’s decision to save Sonko to a desire to prevent a costly and divisive by-election amidst the BBI drive, which could bring him in direct confrontation with his national unity project co-principal Raila as well as provide ammunition for Deputy President William Ruto.

Under the bus

“If the Nairobi governor was to be impeached, we would end up in a very difficult scenario and perhaps it’s what the Executive is avoiding, a by-election, so it needed another solution,” argued Ndaragua MP Jeremiah Kioni.

Dagotetti North MP Simba Arati said that while Sonko had lost virtually all his powers in the takeover, the President decided to keep him for the sake of stability of the city. 

“He is also an old ally who the President didn’t want to throw under the bus,” Arati told People Daily.

Michael Mugo, a former Laikipia university lecturer, said there must have been serious “political undercurrents” for the President’s intervention.

“The President’s move must have been informed by the cost of a by-election that could be the consequence of the impeachment and the political instability and divisive campaigns,” said Mugo.

There is also the concern impeaching Sonko might drive him into the hands of Ruto, who could handily field him as his candidate in a possible by-election. Such a move would throw Jubilee Party leadership in an awkward position. 

A by-election may also force Raila’s ODM to field a candidate, a situation that could put him on a collision course with the President’s party.

Under the agreement between the two levels of government, the new team is tasked with management of health, water and sanitation, transport, planning and garbage collection. Taxes will be collected by the Kenya Revenue Authority, leaving the county with few roles.

During the official handing over on Wednesday, Uhuru said Nairobi is a unique county which deserves better attention.

“Nairobi is not only the capital city of government of Kenya. It is much more. Many regional and international organisations are based in Nairobi as the diplomatic hub for the region. Indeed, the only United Nations headquarters outside the Western Hemisphere is located in Nairobi,” he said.

Despite being barred from accessing his office and the takeover, Sonko has been flexing his muscle by influencing the recruitment of county staff amidst accusations of sponsoring proxies to file court cases to block the transfer of functions to the national government.

Court case

“Sonko is an old dog who can’t learn new tricks. You see he has been fighting the takeover by sponsoring proxies to block it in court,” said Arati.

Activist Okoiti Omtatah and lawyer Robbi Murimi have moved to court to block the transfer of functions.

In their case, Omtatah and Murimi are seeking a declaration that the transfer of the functions of the Nairobi County Government is unlawful and unconstitutional.

Omtatah argues that since it is the functions of a county government that are being moved, the transfer can only be done by the county government as defined in Article 176 of the Constitution.

“Sonko’s decision is unlawful, unreasonable, procedurally unfair and taken with an ulterior motive to prejudice the right of the residents of Nairobi as provided for in the Constitution,” argue the petitioners.

County Speaker Beatrice Elachi has also accused Sonko of using proxies to frustrate the transfer.

“The deal is between the state and the county government and is good for Nairobians and Sonko, too. He should not go behind the scenes and try to sabotage it,” said the Speaker.

More on News