In a dramatic fall from grace, the colorful former governor of Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, is now going through quite a few felony expenses together with money-laundering and terrorism. So who’s Mike Sonko and the way did he rise to turn out to be certainly one of Kenya’s most high-profile politicians?
Recognized for his glitzy way of life, flashy garments and costly jewelry, Gidion Mbuvi Kioko earned the nickname Sonko – Swahili slang for a wealthy individual – after publicly distributing money to his supporters in Nairobi’s slums.
The title caught.
Lengthy earlier than he entered politics and earned his nickname, he was imprisoned within the Nineties over a land fraud case. He managed to flee from jail by bribing his guards, earlier than he was caught and despatched again to jail.
After being freed, he arrange profitable companies together with a vibrant matatu (minibus taxi) agency, an actual property firm and an evening membership in Nairobi, and he now had the cash and guts to enter politics.
On the age of 35 he grew to become an MP in 2010, rising to senator three years later earlier than Mr Sonko was lastly voted in as Nairobi’s governor in 2017.
It was a spectacular rise and there have been excessive hopes that he would lead a metamorphosis of the capital as he had promised, regardless of a modest instructional background, having solely studied as much as secondary degree.
He was a maverick who appeared to have defied the chances, and to know the town’s many issues.
And for many who doubted his skills, he had a former oil firm chief government as deputy governor to assist him implement his massive plans for the town.
However simply as his rise was epic, his downfall was equally outstanding. He was impeached in December for gross misconduct and abuse of workplace.
Mr Sonko additionally faces quite a few expenses within the courts, together with a number of corruption circumstances, assault and terrorism-linked offences. He denies all of them.
He’s alleged to have embezzled greater than 300 million shillings ($2.7m; £1.9m) partly by the irregular awarding of contracts to buddies’ firms which can be mentioned to have wired cash to his private accounts after receiving their funds from Nairobi county.
He was additionally lately accused of recruiting and arming a militia, procuring army clothes related to terrorist teams and financing terrorism actions.
A picture of him and his personal safety in full army uniform at a public discussion board, which he’s mentioned to have posted on his social media pages, is a part of the case towards him.
There is no such thing as a indication when Mr Sonko will truly go on trial – he faces quite a few expenses, a few of which date again to 2019.
He and his supporters say the costs are politically pushed and meant to intimidate him.
His relationship with the ruling administration is a far cry from the one that had efficiently requested President Uhuru Kenyatta to do his bidding, a number of years earlier.
‘The president’s on loudspeaker’
In 2014, as nationwide authorities despatched bulldozers to demolish residential homes allegedly constructed on public land in Nairobi, Mr Sonko, then the senator for the town, rushed to the scene.
A part of the gang was watching in desperation, seeing their investments razed to the bottom.
The senator made a name to President Uhuru Kenyatta, and put him on loudspeaker: “Your Excellency, sir,” the senator mentioned, “right here in Balozi [an estate in Nairobi], homes value billions of shillings are being destroyed.”
“Who’s demolishing them?” the president requested.
“It is the minister for agriculture… I had written a letter to his workplace and he assured me that he wouldn’t do it. He is right here and now the homes are being pulled down,” Mr Sonko replied.
The president mentioned he would cease the demolitions. The gang shouted in pleasure.
Moments later the minister confirmed that he had been directed to cease the demolitions, till the dispute over the land had been resolved.
“The president is my good friend. I put him on speaker name as a result of I’ve confidence in him – he’s essentially the most accessible president on the planet,” Mr Sonko mentioned on the time.
For all his affect and entry to energy, Mr Sonko had by then been in politics for lower than 5 years.
‘I used to be a felony and former prisoner’
Mr Sonko began his political journey in 2010, when he contested a parliamentary by-election.
He was a nearly unknown entity in politics, however he was wealthy and flamboyant – he splurged his cash and endeared himself to the lots. He gained simply.
Mr Sonko’s unconventional behaviour has typically been criticised, together with his brash and informal model, and love for bling.
In 2011, as a brand new MP, he was thrown out of parliament for sporting ear studs and sun shades. “I signify the youths who elected me to parliament,” he instructed the BBC. He mentioned he would struggle to vary the costume laws, though he by no means succeeded.
As a legislator, he took half in numerous demonstrations, which noticed him roll on the street and punch a wall. He used his privately funded NGO to supply free providers whereas he was senator, going through criticism for searching for to undermine the then governor.
He at occasions recorded personal conversations and posted them on social media, incomes himself the epithet “recording artiste”.
At the same time as governor, his antics carried on. Because the coronavirus pandemic arrived in Kenya, he was criticised for together with small bottles of Hennessy cognac in meals parcels handed out to susceptible Nairobi residents.
“It has been believed that alcohol performs a serious position in killing the coronavirus,” he mentioned. The World Well being Group cautions that ingesting alcohol can weaken the immune system.
“We may have some small bottles of Hennessy within the meals packs that we are going to be giving to our individuals…” – Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko
Observe: WHO warns that ingesting alcohol doesn’t shield you towards COVID-19 and will be harmful pic.twitter.com/vuSuVAb8dy
— Citizen TV Kenya (@citizentvkenya) April 14, 2020
In addition to his idiosyncrasies, Mr Sonko’s previous felony document has additionally typically surfaced in public discussions about his integrity, particularly in gentle of his reputation and noteworthy rise in politics.
In 2012, Kenya’s Committee on Administrative Justice – an workplace which investigates complaints towards public entities and officers – listed Mr Sonko amongst politicians decided to be “unfit to be cleared for elections for factual integrity points”.
Mr Sonko at all times dismissed such criticism.
“My critics seek advice from me as a felony… sure I am a former prisoner, I used to be a former felony, however immediately I am the governor of this nice metropolis,” he mentioned in 2019.
‘He didn’t run a metropolis’
When Mr Sonko was sworn in on 21 August 2017, he promised that the town would by no means be the identical once more.
“I shall work across the clock to ensure environment friendly and well timed providers for all our residents,” he mentioned.
But his brusque method and unorthodox managerial method led to a string of resignations, sackings and fixed fallouts with metropolis officers.
The promise that the governor would remodel the county was to not be.
“Sonko did not know how you can handle the formal buildings of presidency, and he’s leaving the scene in the identical method and drama that he got here in with,” senator Isaac Mwaura later mentioned.
Ultimately, the governor signed away a few of the county’s capabilities to the nationwide authorities below the Nairobi Metropolitan Providers (NMS) headed by a normal.
On the time of signing the deal, a court docket order barred him from accessing the workplace. He additionally confronted a menace of impeachment.
‘It was all hype’
Though Mr Sonko initially declared he had voluntarily handed over a few of his powers, he recurrently fought to reclaim them, at one level alleging that he had been duped.
President Kenyatta mentioned the governor had failed to control the town, and had provided the NMS to assist him.
“I instructed my good friend Sonko, in case you need assistance I’ll attempt to get somebody in, however he targeting placing on goggles and bragging in regards to the work he mentioned he was doing,” the president mentioned lately.
The president says he initiated Mr Sonko’s removing over his non-performance and acrimonious management model.
It was a disappointing finish for many who desired actual change and believed that Mr Sonko’s administration would ship it.
He had promised higher providers – and whereas he cited some accomplishments, together with reclaiming grabbed public land and rebuilding roads, to many it appeared in the end to have been all hype.
His quick-fix nature and handouts that originally endeared him to some meant little accountability for the guarantees that he had made to the general public who had elected him.
Now free of the duty of public workplace, he has plenty of time to organize for the various authorized challenges that lie forward.