Why me? Sonko protests US ban

Wednesday, March 9th, 2022 00:00 | By
Former Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko. PHOOT/PD/File
Former Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko. PHOOT/PD/File

Disgraced former Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko suffered a major blow yesterday after the US government banned him and members of his family from setting foot in the country over corruption.

In a press statement delivered yesterday, US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken accused Sonko of involving himself in “significant corruption” during his tenure as governor.

Blinken particularly accused Sonko of soliciting bribes and kickbacks in exchange for government contracts, adding that he also ensured his associates were awarded contracts in contravention of the law.

“His actions undermined the rule of law and the public’s faith in Kenya’s democratic institutions and public processes,” said Blinken, adding that Sonko was henceforth ineligible to enter the US.

Citing the relevant US laws that bar corrupt individuals and their families from entering the country, the official said the move to bar Sonko is prescribed by Section 7031(c) of the Department of State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Appropriations Act, 2021. 

“This designation is made under this authority, designated officials of foreign governments involved in significant corruption and their immediate family members are ineligible for entry into the United States,” Blinken said.

Sonko’s wife Primrose and daughters Saumu, Salma and a minor have also been barred. Blinken said he has credible information of Sonko’s corrupt dealings adding that some had been widely covered in both local and international media.

The official reiterated the commitment of the United States to combating graft and supporting the rule of law and “strengthening democratic institutions in Kenya”.

“We will continue to use all available tools to promote accountability for corrupt actors in this region and globally,” he said. 

The message was delivered by Ned Price, the department’s spokesman.

Political career

Sonko’s controversial political career ground to a halt after the Senate upheld his impeachment by the assembly in December 2020. Although he challenged the move in court, his efforts came a cropper.

The embattled former governor moved to stall the appointment of Ann Kananu as his replacement arguing that he had withdrawn her appointment as deputy governor.

Sonko had wanted the Supreme Court to stop the swearing-in of Kananu as Governor pending the hearing and determination of his appeal, but the case was dismissed, signalling the end of his controversial stint at City Hall.

But in a swift rejoinder yesterday, Sonko wondered why now and if his case was of priority to the US government: “I have learned of news barring my family and I from travelling to the US over unverified corruption allegations against me.”

“I’ve not been convicted on any corruption-related charges because the cases are still pending in court,” Sonko said.

“There are governors who have been charged in court for giving tenders to their wives and children but not me,” he explained, adding that none of his families was awarded any tender by the county during his tenure.

The former governor defended his family against the allegations saying: “And, it is in the public domain; the embassy should come out publicly and tell Kenyans the truth.

My wife and kids have never supplied even a spoon or toilet paper to City Hall either directly or indirectly.” 

He argued that he, in fact, helped the US embassy in Nairobi by demolishing a building next to it because the owners had become a ‘nuisance’ adding that they wanted to bribe him with Sh100 million but he rejected their offer.

Known thieves

“Why is this coming out a day after I said that I’ll be defending my seat in August?” he posed.

“Why are the biggest known thieves of Covid-19 and Kemsa being spared and they are the ones who’ve committed the biggest corruption scandals in the country,” he stated.

He said the US has bigger issues to handle like the war in Ukraine and wondered why they are focusing on a “small man” like him. 

The flamboyant city politician, who started as an MP for Makadara, was impeached on December 4 2020 in a dramatic fall from grace.

He has on numerous occasions had a run in with authorities. On December 6, 2019, Sonko was dramatically arrested on his way to Mombasa before he was handcuffed and shoved into a waiting chopper and flown back to Nairobi.

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