Kenya: Sonko Asks Court to Let Him Go to Abu Dhabi

5 February 2020

The State has opposed Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko's request to have his passport and travel documents released by court so as to attend a conference sponsored by the UN-Habitat in the United Arabs Emirates (UAE) next week.

According to the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP), Sonko having been barred from accessing his office last December by the anti-corruption court means he cannot travel for official duties to represent Nairobi.

According to the DPP, Sonko is incapable of executing his official constitutional duties as a Governor following a ruling dated December 11, 2019 that barred him from accessing his office due to a pending graft case.

Millimani chief magistrate Douglas Ogoti heard that the embattled city boss has been invited to attend the tenth session of the World Urban Forum which takes place from February 8-13 in Abu Dhabi.

Through lawyer George Kithi, the governor said his Kenyan and Diplomatic passports are in custody of the court having deposited them on December 11, 2019 as a condition to have him released from detention on bond terms.

Upon release, the flamboyant county chief was required to be seeking permission of the court before travelling.

Mr Kithi said the governor was invited to the conference at his capacity as the governor of Nairobi County and is expected to engage in discussions with other participants on the theme of the forum. He will also have bilateral engagements at the conference.

"The forum is important to the people of Nairobi as it is a strategic opportunity for multi-stakeholder cooperation in the implementation of the New Urban Agenda and the sustainable Development Goals. Especially in making cities and human settlements inclusive, safe and resilient and sustainable," said the lawyer.

In the application certified urgent, the governor indicated that he was willing to provide surety that the court may impose to secure his return to Kenya.

To convince the court on honesty of the governor's intention, the lawyer provided Sonko's travel booking documents, his address of temporary domicile in Abu Dhabi and telephone contacts of the hotel where he will be staying.

Mr Kithi also produced the invitation letter sent to the governor by UN-Habitat executive director Maimunah Mohd Sharif.

But the DPP contended that the invitation letter needs verification to confirm its authenticity while questioning the governor's intention to ask for his travel documents a few days to the conference date.

Looking at the documents produced in court by the governor, the prosecution pointed out that Sonko had made the bookings of travelling and hotel using his personal finances and resources.

It was also noted that since Sonko had stated that he is travelling for official duties, he had not attached a clearance to travel by the government of Kenya.

"Though the session is sponsored by the UN-Habitat, looking at the documents the accused has made personal reservations and made payments using personal debit cards. Therefore he is not travelling for official duty rather than personal luxury and so he should not be granted the requests," the prosecution submitted.

But Mr Kithi responded that the prosecution should not comment on Sonko's use of personal resources to fly to UAE, because the DPP does not know the financial arrangements made by the UN-Habitat.

The court will make its ruling tomorrow afternoon.

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