Blow to Sonko as judges reject his comeback bid
Former Nairobi governor Mike Sonko’s bid to make a political comeback suffered a major blow yesterday after the High Court threw out his case on grounds that it lacked merit.
A three-judge Bench comprising Justices Said Chitembwe, Wilfridah Okwany and Weldon Korir ruled that Sonko’s impeachment by both the Senate and the County Assembly was constitutional and that his case challenging his removal did not have substance.
The judges dismissed his arguments that he had not been properly informed of his impeachment and that he was not given a chance to adequately defend himself before the Assembly.
“We cannot fault the County Assembly for their decision to impeach Governor Mike Sonko.
We do not see any external hand in his impeachment,” ruled the judges.
The judges also ruled that the vetting and swearing in of Anne Kananu to become Nairobi Deputy Governor was conducted according to the provisions of the law.
“The nomination, vetting, approval and swearing in of Kananu as Deputy Governor was constitutional.
All petitions challenging her ascendancy are without merit and are hereby dismissed,” said the judges.
On Sonko’s impeachment process, the court ruled that 88 Members of County Assembly (MCAs) signed the motion to impeach him and none of them came to court to dispute their signatures.
Justice Chitembwe said that each MCA signed against his or her name and that only 44 were needed and had surpassed the required threshold.
The judges noted there was no requirement for MCAs to be physically present to vote for the motion as argued by Sonko.
The judges instead ruled that the exercise could be conducted virtually considering the Covid-19 pandemic.
The court also noted that logging credentials were given to all the MCAs to log into the sessions from wherever they were.
On Kananu’s appointment, the judges noted that before he was impeached, Sonko had nominated Kananu as his deputy and upon the nomination, his mandate ended there.
“Upon nominating Kananu and after the County Assembly received the nomination, Sonko’s role in the process ended and were it not for the court order in the Agoro case, the process would long have been concluded,” ruled Justice Okwany.
The judges said that Sonko never withdrew Kananu’s nomination as deputy governor as he had alleged.
The court said the attempt to withdraw Kananu’s nomination was unlawful and driven by ill-motive.
“The attempts by Mike Sonko to withdraw the nomination of Ann Kananu as the Deputy Governor on December 7 last year were unlawful and without basis,” she added.
“Before his impeachment, Sonko had voluntarily nominated Kananu as deputy governor, but later after his impeachment, he decided to withdraw her nomination.
“The Speaker, Benson Mutura, was allowed by law to bring that process of Kananu’s nomination to fruition.
Although a speaker acting as governor has no power to appoint a DG, this case was different because there was already a nominated DG in place.”
The court ruled that there was appropriate public participation in Kananu’s vetting, dismissing Sonko’s arguments that there was no public engagement.
Justice Okwany said the nomination of Kananu had been received by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) and Sonko could not withdraw her name without the approval of the County Assembly.
“The conduct of Hon Sonko was that of a person who was not in a hurry to nominate a deputy.
We find it hard to believe that a governor can take instructions on phone on who to nominate as deputy governor,” the judge said.
The judges noted that even though it was unlawful for the then acting governor Mutura to swear in Kananu, the case was unique.
“Under normal circumstances, the Speaker who is the acting governor holds office for 60 days as he waits for the by-election, but in this case there was a nominated deputy governor in place before the governor was impeached,” observed the judges.
The court agreed with IEBC that a court order staying the occurrence of a constitutional event, a by-election in this case, did not amount to breach of constitutional timelines.
The IEBC cannot be faulted for calling a by-election before Kananu had been approved by the County Assembly as deputy governor.
So the order stopping the by-election is no longer necessary, the judges noted.
Sonko, activist Okiya Omtatah and other petitioners had challenged Kananu’s nomination, claiming it was unconstitutional and illegal.