In a dramatic fall from grace, the colourful former governor of Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, is now facing numerous criminal charges including money-laundering and terrorism. So who is Mike Sonko and how did he rise to become one of Kenya’s most high-profile politicians?
Known for his glitzy lifestyle, flashy clothes and expensive jewellery, Gidion Mbuvi Kioko earned the nickname Sonko – Swahili slang for a rich person – after publicly distributing cash to his supporters in Nairobi’s slums.
The name stuck.
Long before he entered politics and earned his nickname, he was imprisoned in the 1990s over a land fraud case. He managed to escape from jail by bribing his guards, before he was caught and sent back to prison.
After being freed, he set up successful businesses including a vibrant matatu (minibus taxi) firm, a real estate company and a night club in Nairobi, and he now had the money and guts to enter politics.
At the age of 35 he became an MP in 2010, rising to senator three years later before Mr Sonko was finally voted in as Nairobi’s governor in 2017.
It was a spectacular rise and there were high hopes that he would lead a transformation of the capital as he had promised, despite a modest educational background, having only studied up to secondary level.
He was a maverick who seemed to have defied the odds, and to understand the city’s many problems.
And for those who doubted his abilities, he had a former oil company chief executive as deputy governor to help him implement his big plans for the city.
But just as his rise was epic, his downfall was equally remarkable. He was impeached in December for gross misconduct and abuse of office.
Mr Sonko also faces numerous charges in the courts, including several corruption cases, assault and terrorism-linked offences. He denies them all.
He is alleged to have embezzled more than 300 million shillings ($2.7m; £1.9m) partly through the irregular awarding of contracts to friends’ companies that are said to have wired money to his personal accounts after receiving their payments from Nairobi county.
He was also recently accused of recruiting and arming a militia, procuring military clothing associated with terrorist groups and financing terrorism activities.
An image of him and his private security in full military uniform at a public forum, which he is said to have posted on his social media pages, is part of the case against him.
There is no indication when Mr Sonko will actually go on trial – he faces numerous charges, some of which date back to 2019.
He and his supporters say the charges are politically driven and meant to intimidate him.
His relationship with the ruling administration is a far cry from the person who had successfully asked President Uhuru Kenyatta to do his bidding, a few years earlier.
News Source: BBC News