The Kenya School of Government in Mombasa on Tuesday evening became the theatre of an hours-long standoff between the electoral commission and Wiper governor aspirant Mike Sonko over his clearance.
Mr Sonko’s desire to be allowed to run for governor of the port city ran into headwinds after officials said they were yet to get communication from a court that had lifted earlier orders restraining the elections agency from blocking his bid to vie.
Mr Sonko and his legal team, led by lawyer Titus Kirui, pushed Mombasa Returning Officer Swalhah Yusuf to clear him. It was not until at 4:45pm that Ms Yusuf received the order from the Supreme Court informing her that Mr Sonko had a pending case, but she maintained it was past the working hours.
At 5:22pm, journalists and all supporters of the aspirant were ejected from the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) room where clearance of candidates was taking place as the commission officials consulted further with their seniors.
Mr Sonko, who was impeached as Nairobi governor on December 17, 2020, was accompanied by his running mate, Kisauni MP Ali Mbogo and Kwale Wiper governor candidate Chirau Ali Mwakwere, among other aspirants.
Mr Sonko arrived at Kenya School of Government at 2.15pm with his supporters, who were barred from entering the compound. Tens of police were positioned at strategic points in and outside the institution to contain his supporters.
Ms Yusuf received Mr Sonko and upon perusing his documents, ordered the documents be certified by the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (EACC). The official also said the commission did not receive any communication from the Supreme Court, informing it of any pending case, therefore it was assumed his impeachment was final, and he could not vie for any office.
“We have not received any communication informing us on pending cases, thus article 75 of Constitution is applicable to Mr Sonko, that is why we could not clear him to contest for the position,” said Ms Yusuf.
While still in the office, Mr Sonko’s team coordinated and submitted all the signed documents by EACC and communication from the Supreme Court informing the electoral commission of the pending court case a few minutes past 4pm. However, Ms Yusuf declined to clear Mr Sonko owing to the time.
“I am shocked with your decision of being time barred since even here some candidates were cleared by 7pm. What sin has my client done to deserve this?” asked Mr Kirui.
The IEBC county boss had maintained that she would not clear Mr Sonko because he had presented his papers past the official time, but his team said it was in the process of submitting the documents and was inside the clearance hall when the time lapsed. Ms Yusuf referred the matter to IEBC’s Dispute Resolution Committee (DRC).
“You are not yet locked out of contesting. If you feel I have acted outside the law, the dispute committee will be sitting between 10th and 19th this month, where you can lodge your complaint,” said Ms Yusuf before the media was ejected out of the hall.
On Monday, a bench appointed by Chief Justice Martha Koome to determine whether aspirants with integrity issues can vie for elective positions withdrew orders that restrained the electoral commission from allowing Mr Sonko to vie for the Mombasa gubernatorial seat.
Judges David Majanja, Enock Chacha Mwita and Mugure Thande also consolidated nine petitions regarding the matter.
However, Justice Majanja was quick to add: “The discharge of the orders must not be construed to mean that IEBC should accept nomination papers from the aggrieved candidates.”
The orders which the judges discharged had been granted by Justice John Mativo (Mombasa) and Justice Anthony Mrima in Nairobi.