Sonko succession: Why the stakes are high in Nairobi

County Assembly expected to vet Ann Kananu to take over from impeached Sonko.

In Summary

•Before the 2017 election, the number of voters in Nairobi increased to 2,251,929 from 1,732,288 voters.

•From the 17 constituencies, ODM got 7 seats, Jubilee 9 seats and Wiper 1 seat.

Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko and Devolution CS Eugene Wamalwa after they signed the agreement at State House, Nairobi on February 25, 2020.
Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko and Devolution CS Eugene Wamalwa after they signed the agreement at State House, Nairobi on February 25, 2020.
Image: PSCU

On Friday, Ann Kananu is expected to be vetted for the Nairobi county deputy governor position.

If she is approved, Kananu will automatically become the governor following the impeachment of Mike Sonko last month.

The move to vet Kananu has however sparked mixed reactions within political circles, leaving sharp divisions especially in the Jubilee camp.

Ethnicity and tribal backing remains a key factor in Kenya’s political culture and democratic development.

This is usually manifested in electoral behaviour and of everyday negotiations and conflicts.

For instance, in the 2013 General Election, ethnicity played out at the national level when the Jubilee coalition brought together communities that had previously been at each other’s throats, the Kikuyu and the Kalenjin.

This move saw ODM seek alliances with the large Luhya community, in the Coalition for Reforms and Democracy (CORD).

The narrow victory by Jubilee leaders under running mates Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto - popularly known as UhuRuto - meant that the Luo- and Luhya-speaking constituencies were once again defeated in their reach for the leadership of the nation.

As a result, many scholars have concluded that voting in Kenya is ‘defensively and fundamentally an ethnic census’.

For the past few years, Nairobi County has been in the spotlight over its leadership.

Since impeached Governor Mike Sonko took over the reins of power from Evans Kidero, many Nairobians had high hopes that he would transform their lives.

Several years down the line, Sonko seemed to have disappointed many especially those within his circles.

As a way to appeal for help dealing with cartels, Sonko reached out to President Uhuru Kenyatta to intervene.

Seeing an opportunity to restore sanity at City Hall, Uhuru in February last year moved in swiftly and crafted a deal that saw four key functions taken over by the national government.

Pursuant to Article 187 of the Constitution, Sonko agreed to hand over the County’s Health services, Transport services, Public Works, Utilities and Ancillary services and  Planning and Development departments back to the national government.

This saw the head of state formulate the Nairobi Metropolitan Services –NMS - that would be in charge of service delivery.

But two months later, Sonko threatened to halt the transfer of the county's key functions to the national government.

In a bitter falling-out with top state officials in President Uhuru Kenyatta's circle, Sonko claimed he was hoodwinked into signing the transfer of critical county functions agreement, saying he did not know its contents when he signed.

He pledged not to allow "cartels" to take charge of the city.

In a clear signal that things were quickly falling apart between City Hall and the state, Sonko, on his Facebook Page, claimed he never saw the draft transfer of functions deed before signing it.

The governor said, however, that he went ahead and signed the document out of his "love for the great people of Nairobi" after he was told the transfer would enhance service delivery to residents.

Sonko’s goose was cooked when he vowed to starve NMS of funds to run its operations.

After refusing to append his signature on the county's Sh37.5 billion annual budget that allocated Sh27.1 billion to Nairobi Metropolitan Services leaving City Hall with Sh8.4 billion, an impeachment motion was tabled and the end result was that Sonko was impeached.

The courts and the Senate could not save him.

After his impeachment, Nairobi was yet again in the spotlight as Sonko had been serving without a deputy governor since Polycap Igathe resigned.

Speaker Benson Mutura was sworn in as the acting governor as the residents await an election to have their third governor.

The governor race has attracted several contestants, among them impeached Kiambu Governor Ferdinand Waititu and televangalist Margaret Wanjiru.

The election is currently perceived as a litmus test for the BBI referendum with Uhuru, Deputy William Ruto and ODM party leader Raila Odinga being the main players.

Sources however indicate that Uhuru and Raila who are handshake partners and founders of BBI are working hard to avoid a show off with DP Ruto allays after the duo suffered a defeat in the Msambweni by-election.

The Star looks at Nairobi’s voting patterns in the last two elections and what should be expected.

Nairobi County is one of the 47 counties of Kenya, the third smallest yet the most populous of the counties which is also the capital and largest city of Kenya.

Nairobi county was founded in 2013 on the same boundaries as Nairobi Province, after Kenya's 8 provinces were subdivided into 47 counties.

The county rests on 696km square with a population of 4,397,073 people as per the 2019 census report.

Nairobi county has 17 constituencies with 85 wards with Jubilee and ODM being the two dominant political parties.

Before the 2013 election, Nairobi was said to have a population of 3,138,369 people out of whom 1,732,288 were registered as voters.

According to IEBC, some 1,410,663 voters participated in the said election an equivalent of 81 per cent voter turnout in Nairobi.

From the constituencies, Starehe had the highest number of voters at 133,489, followed by Westlands with 118,983 voters and Roysambu with 112,972 voters.

Embakasi South had 108,521 voters, Dagoreti North 106,070, Makadara 105,388, Embakasi East 103,868, Kasarani 103,662, Embakasi Central 103,279 and Embakasi West 100,338 voters.

While Kibra constituency had 97,882 voters, Langata had 96,698 voters followed by Kamukunji with 95,959, Ruaraka with 89,647, Mathare with 88,053 voters, Dagoreti South87,241 voters and Embakasi North with 80,238 voters.

In this election,Uhuru and Ruto’s party, The National Alliance won 10 seats with ODM scooping the remaining 7 seats.

While TNA scooped the Senator and Woman MP seats, ODM bagged the gubernatorial seat giving it a say in the management of the city resources.

From the 85 wards within the County, TNA bagged 42 seats while ODM won 40 seats with the remaining three wards being won by other parties.

As a result, any election within the county has always been a hot contest between the two parties each working hard to outplay the other.

In 2017, tables turned against ODM when Jubilee party scooped the gubernatorial and Senator positions.

IEBC indicates that in the 2017 election, the national number of registered voters had increased from 14,388,781 to 19,611,423 voters.

This saw the number of registered voters in Nairobi increase to 2,251,929 from 1,732,288 voters.

The number of voters in Starehe increased from 133,489 voters to 166,397 voters followed by Westlands constituency with 150,712 voters.

Embakasi South had 150,314 voters, followed by Roysambu with 147,582 voters, Dagoreti North 147,214, Kasarani with 146,701, Embakasi East with 140, 740, Langata with 132, 572 voters, Embakasi Central with 131,991 voters, Embakasi West with 126,682 voters,  and Makadara Constituency with 126,048 voters.

While Kamukunji had 120,266 voters, Kibra had 118, 276 voters followed by Ruaraka with 116,301, Mathare with 115,559 voters, Dagoreti South with 107,239 and Embakasi North with 104,253 voters.

Uhuru and Raila were also the main contenders in the presidential election on Jubilee Party and ODM party respectively.

Though the presidential election was nullified by the David Maraga led Supreme Court, In Nairobi County Raila had bagged 828,826 votes compared to Uhuru’s 791,291 votes.

In the constituencies, Jubilee Party bagged 9 constituencies with ODM winning in 7 constituencies while Kalonzo Musyoka’s Wiper Democratic Movement winning one constituency.

Sonko garnered 871,794 votes to take over city hall from ODM’s Evans Kidero who was second with 696,888 votes.

Senator Johnson Sakaja got 832,841 votes defeating ODM’s Edwin Sifuna who got 691,414 votes.

Esther Passaris however managed to scoop the woman rep position with 865,124 votes on an ODM ticket defeating Jubilee’s Rachel Shebesh who got 703,293 votes.

From the 85 elective ward seats, Jubilee won 44 seats; ODM got 36 seats with Wiper scooping 2 seats.

Martha Karua’s Narck-Kenya won one seat, PDU one seat and an independent candidate managed one seat.

With the current political marriage between Uhuru and Ruto hanging on the balance, many political players say the gubernatorial by-election will be a big test for the handshake partners.

Though Jubilee party is fielding a candidate, DP Ruto through the UDA party is also fielding his candidate.

Though Raila said ODM instead of fielding a candidate would support Jubilee’s choice, the electorate are likely going to be subjected to a Msambweni reloaded contest where Kieleweke MPs gang against Tangatanga brigade.

Ruto has been on a charm offensive with his hustler narrative testing waters especially with the youthful voters, if his candidate won the by-election, it would be a big blow to the handshake partners ahead of the BBI referendum.

The DP seems to have a following in a number of constituencies where respective MPs support his hustler narrative.

In Eastlands for instance, Ruto enjoys support from MPs like Benjamin Mwangi-Embakasi Central, James Gakuya –Embakasi North, George Theuri – Embakasi West and Julias Mawathe – Embakasi South.

The constituencies have 131,991 voters, 104,253 voters, 126,682 voters, 150,314 voters respectively.

The DP would also get support from Dagoretti South and Langata constituencies through John Kiarie and Nixon Korir respectively as are MPs.

This means DP Ruto would have a sure bet of over 753,051 voters an equivalent of 33.5 percent of the total registered voters in Nairobi County.

As a way to avoid the showdown, Kananu is set to be vetted as deputy governor this Friday.

Kananu who was nominated by ousted Sonko early last year will appear before the county assembly’s vetting committee.

This is a deal that is said to have been crafted by President Uhuru and Raila.

If all goes well, Raila has lined up Elizabeth Ongoro to deputise Kananu.

However, human rights activist Okiya Omtatah has also filed a case in court seeking to stop the vetting arguing that Kananu did not assume office after her nomination.