City MCAs split over scheme to impeach Sonko

Monday, December 16th, 2019 22:28 |
Nairobi County Assembly Leader of Majority Charles Thuo with other MCAs affiliated to both Jubilee Party and ODM during a press conference at City Hall, yesterday. Photo/PD/Kenna Claude

Eric Wainaina and Nancy Gitonga

The prosecution of Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko over alleged theft of Sh357 million and a simmering impeachment plot have divided the County Assembly down the middle as the devolved unit’s fate hangs in the balance.

The divisions played out yesterday when 28 MCAs allied to the besieged governor, led by Majority Leader Charles Thuo, held a press conference to defend Sonko and vowed to scuttle any attempt to sack the governor.

“Let those who are sponsoring it to bring it and we shall deal with it. If you get the numbers, well and good but if you don’t, we shall meet another day,” said Thuo, who described the planned impeachment as “silly”.

Another group, said to have majority members, is led by minority whip and Makongeni Ward Representative Peter Imwatok.

The group wants Sonko ousted on grounds of incompetence and also because he has been barred from accessing his county office. This, they say, is detrimental because he has no deputy.

The governor’s office, according to Article 182 of the Constitution, can only fall vacant if the holder dies, resigns, ceases to be eligible to be elected, is convicted or is removed from office through an impeachment. Sonko’s opponents are exploring the latter to force a by-election in the city.

Last Wednesday, anti-corruption chief magistrate Douglas Ogoti released Sonko on a Sh15 million cash bail, with a condition he should not go near the county offices. The governor had denied 19 charges relating to corruption at City Hall.

Yesterday’s press conference demonstrated how deeply a section of MCAs have “gone to bed” with the executive, which has been accused of theft, casting doubts on the County Assembly’s oversight role. The pro-Sonko MCAs spoke on a day the governor suffered a blow after the court declined to stop his planned impeachment.

Though the Assembly is supposed to oversight the executive, Thuku, a member of the Jubilee Party, whose leader President Uhuru Kenyatta has declared war on corruption, said they will ensure the city runs smoothly.

The Dandora Area III MCA, replaced Matopeni Ward Rep and former Nairobi Majority Leader Abdi Guyo, who Sonko accused of playing a major role and “fixed” him in the Ethics and Anti Corruption Commission investigations that led to his arrest and prosecution.

Asked if they were not concerned that the governor’s absence will affect service delivery, Thuku, who on Sunday feigned ignorance of the impeachment plans despite attending a meeting where Sonko’s ouster was discussed, said he was aware of the possible consequences. 

“It’s true that his absence will affect operations at the county, but very minimal,” he said, and noted that MCAs cannot force Sonko to nominate a deputy.

New leadership

Imwatok said City Hall and Nairobi in general should not be allowed to suffer because of mistakes of an individual and, therefore, to save it, Sonko has to pave way for new leadership.

But even as Sonko’s supporters were defending him, Justice Weldon Korir yesterday declined to grant a request by George Bush and Lawrence Oyugi of Concerned Citizens Alliance to stop the planned impeachment which Imwatok said has a backing of about 70 MCAs out of 123.

“I decline to grant the order to stop the intended impeachment until a formal application is filed. I, therefore, direct a formal application to be filed,” said Justice Korir.

At the same time, the court declined to stop the criminal proceedings launched against Sonko following his arrest on December 6.

The judge directed the two to serve the director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) with the application they have filed seeking to stop Sonko’s criminal prosecution.

The DPP was granted 14 days to file his response in the matter where the two are challenging the prosecution of Sonko. In the application, the two want Sonko prosecution halted, saying his fundamental rights were violated during his arrest. 

Tomorrow, the flamboyant governor is expected to appear before a Voi court to answer to charges of assaulting a police officer during his arrest.

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