Kenya: How Kenyatta Call Dimmed Sonko Hopes

27 February 2020

On Tuesday at around 11am, Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko received a call from State House Comptroller Kinuthia Mbugua.

The message was simple and clear: President Uhuru Kenyatta wanted to see him within 15 minutes.

Mr Sonko was at his Upper Hill office preparing to receive a section of ward representatives over his looming impeachment. Surprised by the call, the governor rushed to State House.

Two other county officials had also been summoned.

"He wasn't really prepared for the meeting. In fact, he had to quickly dress up on his way there," the source said.

A similar call was placed to the Nairobi Urban Planning chief officer Justus Kathenge, who was at City Hall, having taken over as acting county secretary from Mr Leboo Morintat.

Mr Kathenge had been scheduled to attend a session at the county assembly to respond to queries raised by ward reps.

However, the call changed everything.

Mr Kathenge and Mr Sonko joined a meeting chaired by President Kenyatta and attended by Devolution CS Eugene Wamalwa and Mr Morintat.

Then the bombshell was dropped.

Mr Kathenge and Mr Morintat watched as a document, in which they were listed as witnesses, was signed by Mr Sonko and Mr Wamalwa.

The county officials were unaware of its contents.

The governor, sources said, had to accept the President's demands and cede key functions to the national government.

"Nobody was in the picture. We never saw it coming and even the boss (Sonko) had not mentioned it to any of us," said the source. The Nation on Wednesday established that the President's move was the best option available to save the capital from the mess at City Hall.

President Kenyatta is also said to have been uncomfortable with any idea that would have resulted in the resignation of the governor, precipitating a by-election.

This was dropped because the Treasury advised against it, saying funding a by-election was the least of priorities for a struggling economy.

There was also the question of the rigmarole that accompanies a by-election. The option was not only going to disrupt business in the capital but also raise political temperatures.

Chances were also high that both Jubilee and ODM would field candidates in what would put to further test the "handshake" between the President and ODM leader Raila Odinga.

The Nation has also established that the Nairobi Leaders Caucus and the Multi-Sectoral Initiative Against Corruption Steering Committee had urged the Ministry of Devolution and the Office of the President to sort out the mess at City Hall.

The Nairobi Leaders Caucus conveners include Fwamba NC Fwamba, Ahmed Yusuf alias Johnny, Prof Hezron Mugambi, Muthoni Ouko, Brian Weke and Jack Owino.

The Multi-Sectoral Initiative Against Corruption Steering Committee members are Wilfred Kiboro (media sector), Patrick Obath and Lee Karuri (private sector) who proposed that the city be turned into a metropolis in which the boss is not elected but appointed.

By Monday, 102 out of the 122 Nairobi ward reps had agreed to support the impeachment motion. On Wednesday, the governor tried to play down the deal by sharing an old clip of himself imploring President Kenyatta to take over some of the county's functions, citing frustrations from "cartels" .

In the Senate, Nairobi's Johnson Sakaja said both levels of government had consulted him before the decision was made.

"It was the most logical option if Nairobi is to be saved. Other options were untenable and expensive," Mr Sakaja told the Nation.

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