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Sakaja confronts corruption cartels in ambitious fight

By Kenn Okaka February 29th, 2024 2 min read

“I will never bow to pressure from cartels.”

This is is the solemn vow made by Nairobi Governor Johnson Sakaja moments after he assumed office in September 2022.

Fast forward and Sakaja, who easily defeated his closest challenger Polycap Igathe in the 2022 gubernatorial contest, has been keen to advocate corruption as a thing of the past at City Hall.

In the most standout example, Sakaja wrote to the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC) to investigate alleged corruption in the Nairobi County employment process.

The county boss told the EACC there have been instances where job seekers have been dupped to give money in exchange for employment in the devolved unit.

“This practice, which is essentially a form of corruption and extortion, is not only unethical but blatantly illegal, severely undermining the integrity of employment practices in the public sector,” he said.

“In light of these disturbing reports, I respectfully request your intervention to conduct a comprehensive and unbiased investigation into these allegations,” he said.

For eons, Sakaja’s predecessors have publicly complained of  an environment that enables corruption and threats while at work. Some have publicly complained about being held hostage.

At one time, former Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko lamented the influx of cartels in his office.

The complaints continued for some time, leading to the flamboyant ex-governor handing over some key roles of the county to the national government. Sonko, who was eventually impeached amid corruption related allegations, would later complain that he handed over the functions while under duress.

This move led to former president Uhuru Kenyatta creating the Nairobi Metropolitan Services, (NMS) an outfit that managed a number of criticial functions including revenue collection on behalf of the county government.

In sharp contrast, Sakaja has elected to take the cartels head-on, while vowing to end the vicious circle.

And perhaps as a revenge, the cartels are fighting back.

This past week, Sakaja has been under fire on social media, with cartels sponsoring smear campaigns with hashtags such as “Nairobi under siege”.

The messages from most of the Twitter posts appear to indicate that Sakaja is struggling to develop the capital. Others have referred to him as an absentee county boss.

The smear campaigns are attributed to Sakaja’s adamant position in dealing with the cartel’s pipelines, and refusing to allow operations such as land grabbing, payment for ‘air’ supplies, corruption, among other vices.

The corrupt elements, while believing their operations must continue regime in, regime out, have resorted to funding Sakaja’s political nemeses in a bid to maintain their place in the corruption cartel.

Political opponents like Embakasi East MP Babu Owino, Nairobi Senator Edwin Sifuna, and former Nairobi Education CEC Muthoni Ouko have emerged as the loudest mouthpieces of Sakaja’s supposed failures.

Meanwhile, Sakaja has vowed not to succumb to pressure from the sponsors of the “Nairobi Under Siege” smear campaign even if it means an end to his political career.

In a recent interview, the county boss stated that he was willing to sacrifice his political journey to help put an end to the corruption ring at City Hall, for the sake of Nairobi residents.

According to sources, the corruption cartels at City Hall are wealthy and powerful individuals who wield immense power, having held senior positions in the city and some still holding senior positions in the national government, alongside well-known notorious city businessmen.

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Kenn Okaka is a media and communications consultant.