The former Governor of Kenya’s Nairobi county, Mike Sonko, has been banned from setting foot in the United States of America.
Others barred from entering the US are Sonko’s wife Primrose Mbuvi, daughters Saumu Mbuvi and Salma Mbuvi. A child in the Sonko’s family was also added to the list.
Signing the Immigration documents halting the five from getting visas to the US, the US Secretary of State Antony Blinken cited alleged corruption during Sonko’s reign as the Governor of Nairobi County.
According to the US, it had obtained “credible information” that the ex-Nairobi County boss had a hand in graft, including bribery, irregular awarding of tenders, and undermining the rule of law.
However, the State Department in Washington did not reveal the amounts of money that Sonko allegedly obtained through graft.
“Corruption erodes public trust in government,” said the US in a statement released on Tuesday afternoon.
“The U.S. Department of State is designating former Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko Gidion Mbuvi Kioko due to his involvement in significant corruption. While in office, Governor Sonko solicited bribes and kickbacks in exchange for awarding government contracts to his associates,” the State Department said via its official website.
“His actions undermined the rule of law and the public’s faith in Kenya’s democratic institutions and public processes.
“The Department of State is also announcing the designation of the following members of Sonko’s immediate family: his wife Primrose Mwelu Nyamu Mbuvi; their daughters Saumu Agnes Mbuvi and Salma Wanjiru Mbuvi; and Sonko’s minor child.”
“These designations reaffirm the commitment of the United States to combatting corruption and supporting the rule of law while strengthening democratic institutions in Kenya. We will continue to use all available tools to promote accountability for corrupt actors in this region and globally.”
On whether the US had shared the same information with Kenya’s intelligence and relevant authorities, the State Department said: “We don’t discuss matters about our diplomatic relations publicly.”
The State agency revealed that it relied on “thorough investigations” to arrive at the decision to bar Sonko and his immediate family from the US.
Urged to disclose whether other Kenyan leaders tied to graft are also under US investigations, the State Department said: “Yes, but we won’t reveal much details.”
The Counsellor for Diplomacy at the US Embassy in Nairobi, Eric Watnik, said he “doesn’t know” whether Mike Sonko has any assets or business interests in the US.
On whether the former governor can appeal against the decision, Watnik said: “He’ll have to contact lawyers in the US to explore the legal avenues for his appeal. There must be a provision that allows one to challenge such a decision.”
The ex-governor has never been convicted of a corruption-related offence in Kenya. December 2020, the Senate impeached him on several grounds, including abuse of office.
Sonko has vowed to file an appeal at the Supreme Court against the High Court and Court of Appeal decisions that found his impeachment as justifiable.