Impeachment: Supreme Court hands Sonko a lifeline

Former Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko

Former Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko. In a letter to parties set to appear before the top court for the hearing of Mr Sonko’s appeal, the Registrar of the Supreme Court Letizia Wachira said the appeal was filed on April 4 and presented at the court’s registry on May 20.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

The Supreme Court has clarified that an appeal filed by former Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko challenging his impeachment was done within the stipulated timeframe.

In a letter to parties set to appear before the top court for the hearing of Mr Sonko’s appeal, the Registrar of the Supreme Court Letizia Wachira Wednesday said the appeal was filed on April 4 and presented at the court’s registry on May 20.

The said appeal is against the Court of Appeal’s judgment rendered on March 4, 2022 upholding Mr Sonko’s impeachment.

The registrar’s letter was prompted by an affidavit filed by Nairobi Governor Ann Kananu and a letter by the Nairobi County Assembly claiming the appeal was filed outside the stipulated time frame of 30 days.

They wanted the appeal struck out for being filed late and without the permission of the top court.

“Our ICT officers have checked our online filing system and confirmed that there has been no change or attempt to change the filing dates,” Ms Wachira said.

The county assembly, in a letter dated June 17, 2022, had claimed that there was “unlawful alteration made in the Judiciary’s electronic filing system” to backdate the filing of Mr Sonko’s appeal.

The assembly had alleged that the appeal was dated April 1, 2022 while the same was filed on May 20, 2022.

“It is very strange that all of a sudden, the date of the filing of the said appeal has changed now when there is a preliminary objection and an application based on the timelines of the appeal. Kindly note that the said alteration made raises serious issues on the reliability and the integrity of the Judiciary e-filing system,” said the assembly’s lawyer, Mr Duncan Okatch.

Position of Mombasa governor

Mr Sonko has since been barred by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission’s Dispute Resolution Committee from contesting for the position of Mombasa governor on the grounds that he was impeached.

However, the former governor maintains that he has a pending appeal before the Supreme Court, seeking to overturn the impeachment.

In the court papers filed at the Supreme Court, the electoral commission has also argued that the case was lodged outside the required timelines without the leave of the court.

Ms Kananu had stated in an affidavit that the failure to file the petition within 30 days showed that her predecessor was no longer interested in the appeal.

“That the will of the people of Nairobi exercised by the Senate by impeaching the appellant (Sonko) in 2020 should not be subverted by endless mutating litigation,” she said.

She also supports IEBC’s argument that the appeal at the Supreme Court was filed outside the prescribed time frame provided for in the Supreme Court rules and without the judges’ permission to file out of time.

“I agree that electoral disputes should have some degree of finality and certainty,” she said.

Mr Sonko moved to the Supreme Court after the Court of Appeal dismissed his case against the High Court’s judgment that endorsed his impeachment. The appellate judges said he was properly removed and there was a substantive governor in office.

The three-judge bench also said that the charges leveled against Mr Sonko were substantiated and proved to the required standard, and that the County Assembly and the Senate could not be faulted for impeaching him.

“In addition to the foregoing, the County Assembly, the Senate and the trial court were satisfied that Sonko grossly misconducted himself by repeatedly using abusive, embarrassing, inappropriate and unprintable language, which undermined the office of governor,” said judges Roselyn Nambuye, Hannah Okwengu and Imaana Laibuta.

The former governor has since maintained that his impeachment was illegal and the court should determine whether it was lawful.

He has further argued that his successor unlawfully and unconstitutionally assumed the position of the deputy governor, and her assumption to the governor’s office was against the law and the Constitution.

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