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Nairobi in crisis as Sonko barred from office

Thursday December 12 2019

Mike Sonko

Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko at the Milimani Anti-Corruption Court on December 11, 2019, where he was freed on bail. PHOTO | PAUL WAWERU | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

COLLINS OMULO
By COLLINS OMULO
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A leadership crisis is looming in Nairobi County after Governor Mike Sonko was on Wednesday barred from accessing his office yet the devolved unit lacks a deputy governor.

All eyes are now on the beleaguered governor, President Uhuru Kenyatta and ward representatives to chart the way forward to avert a crisis.

NOMINEES

Will Sonko appoint a deputy, will President Kenyatta suspend the county government, or will the ward reps take the bold step to impeach the governor and pave the way for Speaker Beatrice Elachi to act in the position?

These are the questions that need to be resolved in the coming days.

The Nation has learnt that three names have been floated as possible nominees for the position of deputy governor, which has been vacant since the resignation of Mr Polycarp Igathe in January last year.

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A source privy to the succession plans at City Hall told the Nation that former Dagoretti South MP Dennis Waweru is being fronted by the Kieleweke faction in the ruling Jubilee Party.

On the other hand, the name of Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) secretary-general Edwin Sifuna, according to the source, has been forwarded by the opposition party for consideration.

HANDSHAKE

Former Kiambu Governor William Kabogo is also being mentioned as a possible nominee.

“What I know is that Mr Waweru is the front-runner for the deputy governor’s position as he has been discussed for a very long time. On the other hand, Nasa wants Sifuna to be considered in the spirit of the handshake,” said the source.

Mr Waweru, however, steered clear of the talk, saying “I have not heard anything.”

However, another source said Mr Waweru no longer sees eye to eye with Sonko and convincing the governor to appoint him would be a long shot. “Sonko will only appoint somebody who will take care of his interests.''

SPECIAL SITTING

“He (Sonko) feels it is the system that is behind his current woes. The only thing that can convince him is if a trade-off is negotiated; his case being dropped in exchange for appointing their preferred choice,” added the source, who sought anonymity.

Nairobi Senator Johnson Sakaja has also written to the Speaker of the Senate Ken Lusaka asking for a special sitting to discuss the situation in Nairobi County.

“The exceptional situation that has arisen affects Nairobi City County and indeed creates an unprecedented state of affairs that requires the urgent attention of the Senate.

“This is, therefore, to request you to exercise your jurisdiction under Standing Order No 1 and call an urgent special sitting of the Senate in order for the Senate to discuss the exceptional situation prevailing in Nairobi with the aim of giving direction and/or resolving to take legal or legislative action in the interest of Nairobi residents,” the letter, dated December 11, says.

TURNED CHAOTIC

On the other hand, the Council of Governors (CoG) is also expected to hold a summit with President Kenyatta on the status of Nairobi before December 20.

The council had on December 8 said it would reach out to the President to convene an emergency summit to address the evolving situation in Nairobi following Sonko's arrest.

At the same time, a Nairobi County Assembly plenary sitting almost turned chaotic as Jubilee and ODM ward reps took sides, with the former accusing their counterparts of having a hideous plan to bring an impeachment motion against Governor Sonko.

This was preceded by a heated House Business Committee meeting where members from the two sides could not agree on a common stand to take, prompting a delay of the sitting for more than an hour.

ON RECESS

ODM ward reps walked out of the sitting after Speaker Elachi ruled that the House would proceed on recess but would be ready for any recall should the need arise.

She also declined to give Minority Whip Peter Imwatok a chance to ask for the extension of the plenary sittings for three more days as they sought an advisory opinion from Attorney-General and the Supreme Court.

The remaining Jubilee MCAs taunted their counterparts shouting “no impeachment, we had long seen your intentions”.

They insisted that there was no vacuum, maintaining that Sonko was still the governor.

HIT BACK

“Following the ruling of the court this morning and the speculation on the leadership vacuum in the county, this situation is unique, hence it is important that we wait for an advisory from the institution of the Attorney-General and the relevant bodies on the matter to allow us to proceed.

“In that regard, the assembly will proceed on recess as we wait for a recall for a special sitting pursuant to provisions of Standing Order No 30 should the need arise,” ruled Ms Elachi.

However, ODM ward reps, in a hurried press briefing, hit back at their Jubilee counterparts, accusing them of always operating on the “fear of the unknown” and turning a blind eye yet there is a crisis in Nairobi.

“If our party leader orders us to bring an impeachment motion we will do it. We are not afraid. Whatever direction the party will give, we will abide by it,” said Minority Leader David Mberia.

COUNTY AFFAIRS

The MCAs said they had agreed in their kamukunji to wait for directions from their party leader Raila Odinga.

“Jubilee is always afraid of the unknown. We only wanted to discuss issues affecting the county. However, we will ask for a special sitting to discuss the county affairs,” said Mr Imwatok.