Ann Kananu makes her first address after she was sworn in as Nairobi’s third and its first female governor at an event held at the Kenyatta International Convention Centre (KICC) Comesa grounds on November 16, 2021.

| Jeff Angote | Nation Media Group

Kananu’s winding path to becoming new City Hall boss

Little-known Ann Kananu had been cooling her heels at City Hall for more than two years as a Disaster Management and Coordination chief officer.

This was before former Governor Mike Sonko nominated her as the deputy governor on January 6, 2020.

But her surprise nomination was intended to buy time and ease pressure on Mr Sonko as Ms Kananu was not meant to be anywhere close to the top power matrix in the Nairobi County government.

The 41-year-old was not even among four women the ex-governor had in August 2020 shortlisted as likely candidates for the position.

The four included seasoned politician Bishop Margaret Wanjiru, corporate guru Agnes Kagure, and lawyers Karen Nyamu and Jane Weru.

Ms Kananu was to replace Polycarp Igathe, who had resigned as deputy governor a year earlier after falling out with his boss.

Despite her clearance by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission in February of the same year, her vetting for the position would not just happen.

A Nairobi voter, Peter Agoro, would go to court obtaining orders barring the vetting. He questioned the legal capacity of Mr Sonko to nominate a deputy when he had been barred from accessing office due to graft.

However, a quirk of fate on December 3, 2020 would be the unlikely beginning of Ms Kananu’s march to power in the capital city.

In just under a year, she would move from being a mere deputy governor-nominee and a chief officer to “Madam Governor”.

The impeachment of Mr Sonko on that fateful day in December would set the ball rolling that culminated in the swearing-in of Ms Kananu in November 2021.

Even an attempt by the former Makadara MP to block her vetting, claiming he had revoked her nomination as deputy governor on December 7, 2020, would not work this time around.

“On January 13, 2020, he sponsored petition No1 of 2020 seeking orders to restrain the assembly from vetting me for appointment as the deputy governor,” Ms Kananu would say.

Mr Sonko was impeached by Nairobi MCAs on December 3, 2020 when 88 ward representatives voted to remove him from office over gross misconduct, abuse of office, gross violation of the Constitution and other national laws as well as crimes under the national law.

The Senate, two weeks later, upheld the resolution by the assembly confirming the impeachment.

With the Senate sealing the fate of Mr Sonko by upholding the assembly resolution to send Mr Sonko home, in less than two weeks, Ms Kananu was sitting pretty as the successor to Mr Igathe.

This is after her vetting by the county assembly, which had been put on hold by a litany of court cases questioning the legality of her nomination to the position, was completed within hours, paving the way for her eventual swearing-in as deputy governor.

Ms Kananu would on January 15 assume office as Nairobi County deputy governor after her approval by the county assembly.

“I affirm my commitment to serve the people of Nairobi with utmost dedication, focus, discipline and integrity,” was Ms Kananu’s pledge after taking over.

Three days later, she took over as acting governor, with Speaker Benson Mutura handing over the instruments of power.

But as it was before she became a deputy governor, court cases would delay her becoming the third governor of the capital city.

The Law Society of Kenya (LSK) rushed to court and obtained orders stopping her planned swearing-in as a substantive governor.

But the case would be thrown out, clearing the way for Ms Kananu’s swearing-in after 10 months as acting governor.

“We find that the issue of the swearing-in of the 11th respondent was not raised in the High Court and the impugned judgment did not address or determine that issue,” justices Wanjiru Karanja, Jamila Mohammed and Jessie Lesiit said.

At a colourful ceremony at the Comesa Grounds, KICC, presided over by High Court Judge Lilian Nabwire Mutende on November 15, Ms Kananu finally took the oath of office after a protracted legal battle with Mr Sonko.

“I thank you for putting your faith in me to fill this role. I stand tall on the shoulders of women who have come before me and broken the glass ceiling,” she said.

“I wish to restate my commitment to serve you and to call upon all of you to join me in making Nairobi a great place to invest, live and work.”