Makadara MP famous as fugitive from the law and suspected drug lord is mobilising youth to rally behind Uhuru Kenyatta’s presidential
Hardly any parliamentarian in our history can match the notoriety of Makadara MP Gidion Mbuvi Kioko, alias Mike Sonko.
The MP, who was elected in a 2010 by-election, aged only 37, is many things to different people. He is a serial law breaker, a fugitive from the law, and a late bloomer in defence of public good.
In a country where the source of a man’s riches is hardly ever questioned, Sonko stormed city politics in style, literally splashing cash to bag the seat contested by city politicians Reuben Ndolo and Dick Wathika.
Sonko easily outspent the two in outdoor advertisement, and liberally doled out money to the public. At times, he would pay public service vehicle operators to have his constituents ferried around. They, in turn, gave him their votes, ensuring Sonko’s joyride to Parliament.
When he was eventually elected, details emerged of Sonko’s dark past. He had spent his earlier days immersed in crime, and had escaped from Coast General Hospital, Mombasa, where he had been taken by Shimo La Tewa prison authorities for treatment.
Prison records indicate that Sonko escaped from police custody in April 1998 with the help of police as well as hospital and prison officials, after which he fled to the neighbouring Tanzania. He broke out of prison disguised as a woman.
Apparently, Sonko, with the help of prison officers, feigned sickness to gain admission to the hospital. The officers, who are said to have been paid Sh2 million for the politician’s freedom, were later sacked.
The dramatic escape was published by The Standard on May 18, 1998, detailing that the Makadara MP had been charged before Magistrate Justin Kaburu for using forged documents to sell a beach property owned by former Police Commissioner Bernard Hinga. Sonko denied the charge and was set free on a Sh600,000 bond with surety of the same amount.
When Sonko’s past caught up with him, he offered a different explanation, alleging that he was arrested for assault and released on bond. Later, the bond was cancelled. But when his mother died, he escaped to bury her, only to be re-arrested. He was later “pardoned” by the court.
Since his election, more serious allegations have been made, linking Sonko to a cartel of powerful drug lords. On December 22, 2010, he was named by the late Internal Security Minister George Saitoti, alongside fellow lawmakers William Kabogo (Juja), John Harun Mwau (Kilome) and Ali Hassan Joho (Kisauni), as a drug kingpin.
Sonko was not deterred by the naming, and used his smokes-and-mirrors tactics to turn the heat away from himself. During a heated debate in Parliament, he would claim that the names of sons of senior Cabinet ministers had been omitted from Saitoti’s list.
Like his colleagues Mwau and Kabogo, Sonko presented himself as a victim and claimed during a political rally in Mombasa that Police Commissioner Mathew Iteere had hatched a plan to kill him. The allegations provoked the Police boss to declare he would sue the MP for defamation.
Sonko’s assertions mirror those made by Mwau, who claimed there had been an attempt on his life. In June 2011, Mwau said he feared for his life after his luxury Range Rover was sprayed with bullets, apparently by unknown assailants. Some people, including Police Commisioner Mathew Iteere, suspected Mwau’s attempted murder was stage-managed.
Since his election as Makadara MP, Sonko has made a name for himself with his garish dressing that resonates with the youth. Unsurprisingly, this has earned him a slot in Uhuru Kenyatta’s campaign machinery, where he is tasked with reaching out to the youth and getting them to support The National Alliance (TNA’s) presidential candidate’s bid.
And, like Mwau, who has been described as the most litigious businessman in Nairobi, Sonko has filed all manner of suits. Some people feel this is a smokescreen meant to temporarily divert public attention from Sonko’s not-so-clean dealings.
When he was invited by televangelist James Ng’ang’a at his church in Nairobi, Sonko caused the man of God some anxious moments as he narrated how he and the preacher had once been cellmates in Shimo La Tewa.
Sonko shared vivid detail of his—and Ng’ang’a’s—experiences as criminals in prison. Here, prison doors miraculously opened! Throughout Sonko’s narration, Nga’ng’a was ill at ease. He was visibly relieved when Sonko was done. Ng’ang’a concluded that once a man is “saved,” his criminal past is forgiven.
Earlier in April, Sonko appeared before a Nairobi court facing charges of assaulting a police officer, Chief Inspector Linus Shimoli, only to claim in May that there was a plan, hatched by the Police Commissioner, to kill him.
Acting a peacemaker who is above religion and tribe, Sonko stunned many when he offered his title deeds as surety for the arrested ringleaders of the Mombasa Republican Council (MRC). The outfit is linked with criminal activities at the Coast, where it has been agitating for cessation of the 10-mile coastal strip from the rest of Kenya. Sonko offered to stand surety for the MRC leaders on condition that they would drop their militant approach to articulating issues.
After his stint as MP, Sonko’s sights are now set on the Nairobi Senate.