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How Sonko rose to become Nairobi Governor and his dramatic fall from grace

Despite being overwhelmingly elected in 2017 as Nairobi’s second governor, Mike Sonko’s tenure will be largely remembered for all the wrong reasons, specifically his failure to address critical concerns of residents of Nairobi and the corruption claims that eventually forced him out of office.

The disgraced former governor actually got off quietly badly. For a start, shortly after assuming office, he fell out bitterly with his deputy, Polycarp Igathe, who resigned on January 31, 2018, less than six months after the pair was elected on a Jubilee ticket.

Then followed the unkept promises of Sonko’s troubled tenure. Governor Sonko struggled to address critical the concerns of many city dwellers, including access to water, better healthcare, an improved sewerage systems and garbage collection and disposal. Sonko also failed in his efforts to rid the CBD of hawkers and bringing order to the transport sector.

The flamboyant politician was also known for his endless controversies, theatrics and scandals which ultimately led to his downfall after he was arm-twisted into ceding certain functions of his office to the Nairobi Metropolitan Services (NMS).

Sonko would latter famously claim that he was drunk when he signed the Deed of Transfer at State House in the presence of President Uhuru Kenyatta, then Devolution Cabinet Secretary Eugene Wamalwa and Senate Speaker Ken Lusaka in February 2020.

“I was not sober. Hawa watu wa State House waliconfuse na pombe kwanza (The people at State House confused me with alcohol first) by the time I was meeting the President for the signing I was just seeing zigzag,” he claimed.

But the worse would follow many months later, when in December 2020, 88 ward representatives passed a motion to impeach Sonko and recommended his removal from office. The governor, who had claimed he had more than 90 MCAs in his camp, failed to appear virtually to defend himself against charges levelled against him.

The MCAs accused the governor of poor use of conditional grants from the national government. They also accused him of persistently intimidating, harassing and molesting senior staff, including blackmailing his county executive committee members and chief officers with one-year contracts, whose renewal he had undertaken arbitrarily.

A total of 27 senators would later uphold Sonko’s impeachment. In February 2021, Sonko would be arrested and charged with attempted terrorism. Sonko was also accused of recruiting a militia which was likely to destabilise security in the country. Sonko would then fail in his bid to access Sh15 million he deposited in court as cash bail when he was charged with corruption and abuse of office.

Sonko’s tribulations worsened when he together with his family was barred from travelling to the USA. Eric Watnik, Counselor for Public Affairs at the US Embassy in Nairobi said Sonko’s ban from was based on “involvement in significant corruption” during his short tenure at City Hall.

While his recent efforts at making a political comeback, as a gubernatorial candidate in Mombasa County, have ran into headwinds, this man Sonko remains one of the most influential political figures in the country.